Virginia W. Smith, retired chief executive officer and president of Union National Bank in Westminster, died Sunday of cancer at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. She was 51 and lived in Stevenson.
Miss Smith, who was known as Jenny, headed the Carroll County bank for five years until retiring last year because of failing health.
The bank, which has been a Westminster institution since its founding in 1816, is 21 years older than Carroll County. When appointed president of Union National in 1995, she was one of four women in the state to lead a bank.
A former executive with the Bank of Baltimore and Signet Bank, Miss Smith brought a diverse banking background to the job and a solid reputation as a problem solver.
Last year, Miss Smith helped complete the sale of the 184-year-old bank to Mercantile Bankshares Corp. for about $70 million.
"In her time there, we grew from seven branches to nine, and the bank's assets also grew very profitably. She was a great leader and mentor on every level of the institution," said K. Wayne Lockard, former Union National board chairman.
Mr. Lockard recalled her selection from a pool of 60 candidates.
"When Jenny presented herself, she significantly impressed our search committee with her knowledge of the institution and her plans. She awed us and immediately gained the respect of our customers, shareholders and employees. She just blew our socks off," he said.
Immersed in Carroll County affairs, she had been fund-raising chairwoman for United Way in Carroll County and had been a member of the board of the Carroll County Foundation, which oversees Carroll County General Hospital.
Other board memberships included the Greater Westminster Development Corp., Carroll County Children's Fund, Westminster Main Street Revitalization Committee, Villa Julie College and the Westminster Rotary Club.
"She was gutsy and full of fire," said Mr. Lockard. "And she had a wonderful run, but a short one due to her health," he said.
Miss Smith was born and raised in the Green Spring Valley and graduated from Bryn Mawr School in 1967. She graduated summa cum laude from Skidmore College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1971. She also earned a master's degree from the National Association of Credit Management's school at Dartmouth College.
She began her career in 1972 as a teller and credit trainee at Union Trust Co., and was ultimately named senior vice president of investment services. In 1987, the bank merged with Signet Bank, and she was named president of Signet Management Corp.
After leaving Signet in 1992, she joined First Fidelity Bank as senior vice president of small-business lending, until being named to the Union National post.
"Jenny was versatile and could just do it all. She could talk intelligently about all areas of the bank," said Alan M. Leberknight, who worked with her at Signet Bank and Union Trust and is now dean of Towson University's School of Business and Economics.
She also had been elected to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Baltimore.
In her leisure, Miss Smith enjoyed visiting vacation homes in Fenwick Island, Del., and the Bahamas, where she snorkeled, collected shells and surf fished.
She also was an avid bird-watcher, gardener, biker and photographer.
"Her mission was always to serve others and to make things better. Her tools were honesty, commitment and passion," said Mary Burrows of Baltimore, a longtime friend.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 22 St. Thomas Lane in Owings Mills.
Miss Smith is survived by her mother, Elizabeth C. Smith of Stevenson; a brother, Francis W. Smith of Bel Air; a sister, Margaret S. Smith of Stevenson; and several nephews and nieces.