Rock-Solid Generosity

Gene Smith with Rachael Johnsen

Gene Smith in the field with Ph.D. candidate Rachael Johnsen

Professor emeritus Gene Smith is used to delving beneath the surface to find answers. The recently retired geoscience professor spent 35 years at UNLV studying the earth, with a primary interest in volcanoes. His research has led him from Antarctica to South Africa and will soon take him to Manchuria. But you don't have to dig too deep to find out why Smith chose to include a gift to UNLV in his estate plan.

"The geosciences department and UNLV have been good to me, and it's important for me to give back," he readily explains. "I had a hand in building the master's and Ph.D. programs at UNLV, but it took help and cooperation from many other people.

"In order for the graduate program to be a great program, you have to attract top students and the best faculty," Smith says. "To be great, you need to invest in resources." His gift backs his words. The Eugene Smith Fellowship Endowment Fund will provide support to doctoral students in the geosciences program.

Smith came to UNLV in 1978 for a year as a visiting professor and returned in 1980. He has been here ever since, and is now professor emeritus. When he retired on June 30, 2013, along with his wife, UNLV astronomy professor Diane Smith, they had been teaching and conducting research at the university for nearly 70 years combined. In that time, Gene Smith's fascination with the geology of the desert Southwest has never dulled. "Nevada has some of the most spectacular geology of any place on earth," he beams. "It is like a Disneyland for geologists."

Read more at Heaven and Earth: A conversation with Gene Smith and Diane Smith at