Albert J. Smith

[Age 75] The career Army officer led the growth of a Virginia community college.

October 14, 2007

Albert John Smith, an Army officer for 25 years who went on to shepherd the growth of a Virginia community college, died Oct. 9 of congestive heart failure. He was 75.

Mr. Smith grew up in North Baltimore near Clifton Park, the son of a firefighter and teacher, and graduated from City College in 1951. He went on to train as a cadet at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., and graduated in 1955, commissioned as a second lieutenant. That August, he married his high school sweetheart, Constance Crossley.

They had three children and moved 17 times in the 25 years that her husband was in service, Mrs. Smith said. Throughout his Army tenure, education was a priority for her husband, she said. While he was a young lieutenant, he earned a master's degree in political science from Emory University in Atlanta. Later, he earned his master's in business administration at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

After he retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1980, he joined Virginia's community college system, ultimately becoming dean of finance and business administration at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, Va.

During Mr. Smith's tenure, the college became one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the region, ultimately becoming the seventh-largest of Virginia's 23 community colleges. As director of finance, Mr. Smith helped guide the college's expansion to Fauquier County.

"Community college was so important to him because it offered students who couldn't afford four-year colleges such great opportunities," Mrs. Smith said. "I think he was very proud to work there."

He retired from the community college system in 1999. The next year, he and his wife decided to spend their retirement in Bel Air. He became an active member of the Bel Air Rotary Club and spent 2002-2003 as the group's president. During his tenure as president, Mr. Smith was recognized for recruiting the most new members in the district.

His health began failing in January.

"His biggest disappointment was not being able to attend the Rotary meetings," Mrs. Smith said. "The Rotary Club members would actually come visit us, so he felt like he was still a part of that."

A funeral service was held Friday at Christ Church, 2100 Rock Spring Road, Forest Hill, followed by burial at Bel Air Memorial Gardens.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Smith is survived by a brother, Warren E. Smith, of Perry Hall; two sons, Michael A. Smith of Alameda, Calif., and Kenneth W. Smith of El Dorado Hills, Calif.; a daughter, Kathleen Noble Fike of Forest Hill; and four grandchildren.

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