On the sun-kissed cool and breezy afternoon of March 1, the sons of FMU's first president Dr. Doug Smith unveiled an 6-foot-2 inch bronze sculpture of the man who launched the trajectory of it's 43 years of history.
Shortly before the unveiling of the statue, located in the rear of Stokes Administration Building, FMU President Dr. Fred Carter welcomed the large crowd assembled for the event.
“Many presidents will serve this university over the course of our history, but Doug Smith was the founding president. And what a terrific job he did with the first faculty, the curriculum, and the buildings,” said Carter. “We are all profoundly grateful for his contributions and this is our way of saying thanks for the legacy that he has provided us.”
Carved by Florence sculptor Alex Palkovich, the statue stands in the center of the rotunda at the rear of the building as a signpost for all who walk the campus.
“I appreciate the very successful efforts of all who were betting on Alex in this artistic endeavor. I know that some unwavering force had to be involved along the way,” said Smith. “I know that Fred Carter has a sense of history as he continues the dream for this institution.”
Just as momentous as the statue itself is the site chosen to display it, said Smith. He found the back of the administration building most fitting because it was there some 43 years ago that he met with prospective students to give the vision for his tenure.
“As I described, as best I could, the curriculum that would be offered and the building program that we would initiate. I would occasionally point there to the south to the acres that would become our new campus,” said Smith. “On that day, we imagined fine new buildings, playing fields, streets and sidewalks...dreaming. But today we can see they’ve become reality.”
In October 1969, Dr. Smith was chosen as the first president. A life-long educator, he had been a faculty member and administrator at Winthrop, and was serving as president of Salisbury State College in Maryland.
Dr. Smith’s team developed a master plan, which guided the campus development, resulting in the beautiful campus and landscaping enjoyed today. As the central component of an academic campus, the first new building constructed was the James A. Rogers Library in 1971 quickly followed by the Robert E. McNair Science building in 1972. By the end of 1974, the Walter Douglas Smith College (University) Center opened along with Founders Hall, and in 1977 both the John K. Cauthen Educational Media Center and the James E. Dooley Planetarium were completed.
FMU (C) received its full accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December 1972, a critical achievement for colleges.