Distinguished Alum Awards

Distinguished Alum 1991

Robert C. Smith

Robert C. Smith, who earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1946, has been a consultant for the UM Committee on Relief (UMCOR) of the General Board of Global Ministries since his retirement in 1983. In that capacity he traveled thousands of miles to more than 15 countries on behalf of UMCOR. With his wife Helen he writes, edits and distributes the newsletter, UMCOR Update. In accepting his Alma Mater’s award Smith said, “You who are graduating today are going out into a world that is sick, hungry, maladjusted, and dying. In fact, 40,000 children will die today, they died yesterday, they will die tomorrow- and they don’t have to die. That’s why, in my retirement, I’m going around telling United Methodists that for $5, they can save a child’s life. My only regret today is that I can’t take an offering!” Smith was a member of the team that visited the Soviet Union and other European nations in search of a basis for peace and understanding. The Smiths have led mission tours to Puerto Rico and Haiti. As director of the Council on Ministries for the West Michigan Conference from 1977-83, he oversaw the program of 447 churches. This conference has led the UM in per-capita giving to UMCOR and World Hunger projects for the past several years. From 1971-77 he was Superintendent of the Grand Rapids District with pastoral supervision of 78 churches in the area. Other positions have included Chair of the Camp Commission, member of the Board of Education, conference, and Jurisdictional Chair of the Boards of Ministry, and Trustee of Adrian College. For several years he taught time management seminars for pastors. Smith helped develop the conference world hunger program and was active in the peace program. In Grand Rapids he was one of the organizers and directors of Project Plant Hope, an ecumenical group that raised money for world and domestic hunger. He has been active in a variety of community groups. From 1946-71 he held several Michigan pastorates, including churches in Middleville, Mt. Pleasant, and Jackson. Smith was born in Grand Rapids, where he attended the public schools and earned a BA from the university. Following his seminary education, he completed graduate work at Boston University and Union Seminary of New York.