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Hunter J. Smith gives $10 million to W&M for freshman seminars

  • Expanding their universe
    Expanding their universe  Bob Vold, director of the university's Thomas Harriott Observatory, assembles members of his astrophotography freshman seminar on Barksdale Field for an introduction to telescope operation. A recent gift from the Hunter Smith Family Foundation will support these important introductory experiences at William & Mary.  Photo by Joseph McClain
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The Hunter Smith Family Foundation, located in Charlottesville, Va., has established the Hunter J. Smith Endowment for Freshman Seminars with a gift of $10 million to William & Mary. The gift strengthens one of the core characteristics of a William & Mary undergraduate education — the freshman seminars.

“This magnificent gift from an alumna of the College, Hunter Jones Smith, provides vital support to a cornerstone of undergraduate education at William & Mary — our freshman seminars,” said President Taylor Reveley. “They have an essential role in teaching our new students to think rigorously and critically, develop a breadth of perspective, and write effectively. Hunter’s gift will do enormous good at the College for generations to come.”

Providing support for freshman seminars was particularly attractive to Hunter Smith, a member of William & Mary’s Class of 1951 and a native of Martinsville, Va. “The idea of making a gift in support of freshman seminars appealed to me on many levels,” she said. “The seminars fit the profile of William & Mary very well and give freshmen important experiences that develop independent thinking and writing skills.”

Freshman seminars began at William & Mary in 1993. Class size is limited to 15 students, enhancing the interaction between professor and student.

“Freshman seminars are so important to the liberal arts,” said Kate Conley, dean of William & Mary’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “They introduce students to in-depth topics, teach them to think and write analytically, teach them how to write at the college level, and teach research methods in a particular field.

“They often can form the basis of a mentoring relationship between faculty and students and are foundational to a student’s introduction to the academic experience,” Conley added. “I join our faculty in applauding Hunter Smith’s decision to sustain the fundamental academic mission at the heart of William & Mary.”

About 100 Freshman Seminars are offered at William & Mary each year, across the full range of Arts and Sciences. During the spring 2013 semester, freshman seminars include such topics as “From Cavemen to Kings,” “Anthropology of Food,” “Astrophotography,” and “Emerging Diseases.”

A member of Pi Beta Phi Sorority, Hunter Smith majored in philosophy at William & Mary.

“Hunter Smith’s support of the liberal arts at her alma mater is a wonderful tribute to her relationship with William & Mary,” said Earl Granger, interim vice president for development. “I believe that her dedication will inspire others to consider how they, too, may make a difference at the College.”