UNLV Mourns the Passing of Dr. Ronald W. Smith

Jun. 23, 2012

It is with profound sadness that UNLV announces the passing of Dr. Ronald W. Smith, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate College. Dr. Smith passed away June 23 following a long illness.

Dr. Smith arrived at UNLV in 1972 as an assistant professor in the sociology department and just recently completed his 40th year at UNLV. During his time at UNLV, Smith was a prodigious scholar, an excellent teacher and mentor to his students, and one known for always stepping up to serve the UNLV community when called upon.

He served the university in many administrative capacities, including department chair, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Letters, dean of the Graduate College, interim senior vice president and provost, interim president, and most recently vice president for research and graduate dean. During his long career at UNLV, he directed several research centers, served as the president of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi Chapter 100, and won numerous teaching and community awards.

"Ron was a close friend and mentor. He had the highest aspirations for UNLV and Las Vegas and his vision changed our campus in deep and abiding ways," said UNLV President Neal Smatresk. "This is a loss for UNLV and our community. We all miss him, and extend our sympathies to his wife, Susan, and his family."

It was Dr. Smith's dedication to advanced studies that enabled the Graduate College to flourish. Under his stewardship as dean of the Graduate College, UNLV established more than 60 doctoral and master's degrees to serve the community. He created the office of research integrity and was a champion for graduate students, fighting to increase graduate scholarships, fellowships, and stipends.

Long before sustainability was a fashionable concept, Dr. Smith recognized its significance. He realized the importance of building connections and creating a sense of community, which he did admirably. His academic specializations were community and urban sociology, community sustainability, architectural sociology, and organizational performance. He was the founding executive director of UNLV's Urban Sustainability Initiative, which focuses on the Las Vegas metropolitan area, Nevada, and the Southwest.

Dr. Smith had a long and distinguished publication record. He published three books and more than 30 journal articles and book chapters. He also presented more than 50 papers at professional conferences, received numerous grants, and was a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Dr. Smith is survived by his wife, Susan Thompson; his sister, Eleanor; his daughter, Kelleen Pelligrino, and her husband, Paul; and his granddaughters Zoe and Kate.

A memorial service will be held at UNLV Sept. 28 at 4 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom.

Scholarship Fund Established

The family has established the Ron Smith and Susan Thompson Scholarship Fund through the UNLV Foundation. The fund will support students in sociology, anthropology, and foreign languages.

  • Make a gift online to the¬†Ron Smith and Susan Thompson Scholarship Fund.
  • Send a check to UNLV Foundation, 4505 S. Maryland Pkwy., Box 451006, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1006. Make the check payable to the UNLV Foundation with "Ron Smith and Susan Thomspon Scholarship Fund" in the memo line.

To see a photo of Dr. Smith, please visit the UNLV News Center.