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Services held for Lebanon's Dr. R. Gene Smith, 76

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From Post staff reports COLLIERVILLE Funeral services were held Monday morning, July 25 at Covenant Baptist Church, Collierville for Lebanon High graduate Dr. R. Eugene Gene Smith, 76.

Dr. Smith, a longtime administrator at the University of Memphis, and former Interim President of Middle Tennessee State University, died Thursday evening, July 21 at Baptist Hospital in Memphis.

Associated with the University of Memphis from 1963 until his retirement in 2000, he served in the administrations of five presidents.

U of Ms current president, Shirley Raines, called him legendary.

Gene Smith, as most people knew him, was born in Rutherford Countys Walter Hill community, but his family moved to Lebanon when he was 5 years old. His father operated a popcorn stand on Lebanons Public Square.

He was a 1953 graduate of Lebanon High where he was a manager on the football teams coached by the late Joe G. Atkinson.

Dr. Smith earned his bachelors degree in business at Middle Tennessee State University in 1957. After graduation from college, he worked as a state auditor. In 1963, he joined the administration at Memphis State University.

Within five years, he had been named MSUs Business Manager. In 1971, he was promoted to Vice President of Business & Finance and served faithfully in that role until his retirement in 2000.

In 1997 Dr. Smith was honored by MTSU, which awarded him the Professional Achievement Award.  That same year, his colleagues at the University of Memphis nominated him to be Tennessees Educator of the Year.

In support of his nomination, they cited his being an out of the box thinker, somebody never happy with the status quo, but constantly challenging his employees and himself to try new ideas and new ways to solve problems, all the while, assuring his co-workers that they had his permission to fail, just as long as they at least tried.

Dr. Smith had active committee roles with the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

After an almost 40-year career at the University of Memphis, when many people would have long since retired from active work, Gene Smith did retire from the University of Memphis, but only to take on the task of Interim President at Middle Tennessee State University, a job he held for one year, to help his alma mater make the transition from one full-time leader to another. He retired from that post in August 2001.

An outstanding alumnus of MTSU, Dr. Smith was a strong supporter of our university and provided great leadership during his tenure, said Middle Tennessee States current President Sidney McPhee.

Survivors include: Dr. Smiths wife of 50 years Anne; his children Daniel Eugene, David Lynn and Genie Anne Williams; grandchildren October Williams, Sedona Williams, and Grace Smith; and step-granddaughter Cassidy Teague.

Memorial gifts may be made to the R. Eugene Smith Assistantship in Higher and Adult Education.  Checks in honor of Dr. Smith may be payable to the University of Memphis Foundation and mailed to Department 238, U of M Foundation, P.O. Box 1000, Memphis, TN 38148-0001.

Include instructions to designate your gift to the R. Eugene Smith Assistantship in Higher and Adult Education.

Collierville Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

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