The Political Science Department has a scholarship fund in memory of Prof. J. Malcolm Smith, who passed away on April 26, 2003, at the age of 82. The scholarship was endowed in his memory by the Smith family, with an initial gift of $12,500. Thousands more dollars in donations have since been made by former colleagues and students. In June 2004, the department granted the first three scholarships, in the amount of $500 each, to four political science majors, each of whom had at least a 3.0 G.P.A.
J. Malcolm Smith, one of the most popular professors ever to teach at Cal State East Bay died of a stroke on April 26, 2003 at the age of 82. J. Malcolm Smith, an expert on the American presidency, was a member of the Political Science Department from 1965 until his retirement in 1989. He was so dedicated that he even came back and taught courses for the department on a volunteer basis during the budget crisis of the early 1990s.
Prof. Smith was born in Vancouver, B.C., and raised in Seattle, Washington. His undergraduate career at the University of Washington was interrupted by his service in the Army, as a first lieutenant, in the Second World War. After receiving his doctorate in political science from Stanford in 1951, he spent much of the next decade working actively in the field of politics. He organized the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in the early 1950s. He served as West Coast Chairman for Arts and Sciences in the 1956 Eisenhower/Nixon campaign; as a consultant to the Secretary of the Air Force and to the Civil Rights Commission in Washington, DC; and finally as special assistant to Sen. Thomas R. Kuchel (R-CA), who was then minority whip. Dr. Smith later became a fervent Democrat.
Before coming to Cal State, he taught at Columbia University, the University of California at Riverside, the University of South Dakota and Arizona State University. He also filled the Milton R. Merrill Chair in Political Science at Utah State University during the Summer of 1975, which was a great honor.
This wealth of experience served him well during his years at Cal State. Most of his classes had overflow enrollments, especially Political Science 3111, the American Presidency. Although Dr. Smith was the author of a number of articles in professional journals and co-author of two books, Powers of the President During Crisis (1961) and The President and National Security (1972), his first love was teaching. He once told a reporter from the Hayward Daily Review that “he considers himself a teacher first and everything else second.” He was named Best Faculty Lecturer of 1971-72. On several occasions, he accompanied students to symposia sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Presidency in Washington, DC.
Along with the American Presidency, Prof. Smith specialized in teaching law courses. He was quoted in the Daily Review as affirming his “genuinely profound respect for the law and its institutions.”
Louise Levi summarized numerous other letters from students when she wrote, “Professor Smith taught the class in a clear, comprehensive and enjoyable manner. But what impressed me the most was his sincere personal concern and interest in every individual student. He easily shares his experiences and as a result enriches every subject he teaches. He cannot help but to stimulate the entire class toward a high level of achievement. It is well known among political science majors that Professor Smith’s classes will always be challenging, interesting and rewarding.”
Bryant C. Turner wrote, “As a Black student, it is not very difficult to feel alienated, especially in classes where racial issues are discussed…by a white…person. Dr. Smith eliminated those feelings by presenting those issues from such a very human perspective that no one was left feeling as if they were on the outside looking in.”
Students also appreciated that he dressed for the role of leading professor. A 1974 Pioneer article described him as “resplendent in a spotless navy blue sport coat and navy and white striped seersucker trousers.”
Dr. Smith is survived by Connie Smith, his wife of 59 years; three daughters, Sheila Swiadon of Southern California, Nancy Leigh-Smith of Castro Valley and Pat Smith of Hayward; a grandson, Philip Swiadon of Southern California; a twin brother, George D. Smith of Seattle; and five nieces and nephews.
Contributions may be made to the J. Malcolm Smith Scholarship Fund by writing a check to the CSU East Bay Educational Foundation.