Amherst Magazine

Robert E. Smith ’68

Robert E. Smith ’68 died February 26, 2010.
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Bob Smith, 63, died of brain cancer on Feb. 26, 2010, inBoca Raton,Fla., surrounded by family and friends. Bob was a beloved personality with a keen sense of humor who lived his life fully. He was a licensed private pilot, professional scuba diver, avid boater, oldies buff and natural athlete who excelled at any sport he tried. An all-league quarterback, he starred for his father, the coach atLindenHigh SchoolinLinden,N.J.AtAmhersthe played lacrosse and rugby in addition to his laborious academic pursuits. With his powerful right arm but soft touch, Bob guided the Beta Bombers to perennial intramural football championships. He was proud to be a member of the legendary Iota chapter of Beta Theta Pi, where he dominated the dance floor with his moves and entertained the brotherhood from his post at the bar. His friendships extended well pastBoltwood Avenue, as he was readily recognized everywhere on campus.

After teaching high school in New Jerseyfor five years, Bob went to SetonHallLawSchooland graduated cum laude as editor of its Law Review. Following a federal judicial clerkship, Bob worked for a largeNew York law firm and as litigation counsel for a Fortune 500 corporation. In 1983, Bob founded a legal search firm inWashington,D.C., becoming one of D.C.’s most successful headhunters. From 1994-2003, he was career services dean at Duke University School of Law, and for the last seven years, he ran his own legal search firm inBoca Raton,Fla. A devoted family man, Bob is survived by his wife, Sarah; his daughters, Rachael and Molly; his son, Michael; his mother, Jean of Chicago; and his sisters, Pat of Chicago and Kathy of Dallas. He also leaves countless friends.

—Monk Koch ’68

 
 
 
From the 25th Reunion Book
 
 
   
Freshman photo and 25th reunion book submission photo
 
Submission:
 

December 10, 1992

Dear David,

 

I enjoyed your November 17th letter. Its comments and suggestions inspired me to spend time reflecting on where I've been for the past twenty-five years, where I think I am now and to where I might go. Fortunately, you caught me at a time when I am probably in the best place I've been since Amherst, not only from a physical point of view (I live on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and am probably in the best shape I've been in since college) but also from an emotional and spiritual perspective. My journey to the Caribbean really started almost tvventy-five ‘years ago. I got my first taste of island living in 1968.'.vhile on Bermuda with the Amherst rugby team. Ever since then I've daydreamed about living in the tropics. Many Caribbean vacations over the years further fueled this fire. Finally, in February of 1992, following a year of debate and planning, I put my "stuff" in storage and

moved to the Virgin Islands. I'd like to share a bit of this journey to paradise with my fellow travelers.

 

Following Amherst, I did the typical five year "don't want to serve but don't want to flee" routine and worked as a math and German teacher in a New Jersey prep school. After the draft ended, law school beckoned. Some graduate degree was necessary in order that I restore the academic self-esteem which was taken away from me so swiftly during the third week of September of 1964. Unlike at Amherst, I was a very serious student and, also unlike at Amherst, I distinguished myself academically (summa and Law Review). My legal career took off with a prestigious federal clerkship, followed by five years with a major New York City law firm and then a couple of years as litigation counsel for a Fortune 500. So far so good, right? In 1984 I became a founding partner of an executive search firm in Washington D.C., specializing in nationwide attorney placement for large law firms and corporate legal departments. Business was great. Our firm enjoyed a reputation for excellence and, as managing partner, I enjoyed what I thought were the fruits of success -- money, prestige and power in my own little world. I mention these accomplishments for two reasons: (1) if l don't, who will ?; and (2) to dramatize my fall from this seemingly invulnerable, lofty place. In October of 1989 my world crumbled as my business dissolved, and I wound up in a rehab in Bethesda, Maryland to overcome a habit I developed and refined at Amherst -- alcohol abuse.

 

I have been clean and sober for over three years. I'm now in the scuba diving business on St. John, an island which has 4,000 residents and among the world's most beautiful beaches and weather. I live in a house on top of a mountain with a view that goes on forever, a great woman, four dogs and a battered old jeep. Although I came to St. John for the diving, I've come to realize that the true reason I am here is to develop a perspective on my life, to get in touch with my inner self and to refine my game plan for the second half. I am making significant progress. My tools include a lot of reading and writing, prayer and meditation and a twelve step recovery program. I must say that engaging in this pursuit is by far life's greatest gift to me. I really have the freedom to do whatever I want to do here. It's very similar to the Freedom we enjoyed at Amherst, a Freedom some of us were better able to handle than others.

 

Most importantly, I have learned that a life which defines success in external terms such as money, possessions, and self-absorbed performance and achievement often carries with it a tremendous emptiness. I lament often that if only I could have figured this out in 1964 or I965, life would have been so much easier. Through my work on myself, I am finding fulfillment in pursuits of the spirit, the mind and the body as opposed to the job, the car and the wallet. I am developing a life with new values and where service plays a fundamental role in my purpose. I'm trying to compose my life as a work in progress which unfolds and improves every day.

I look forward to seeing everyone in May.

 

 

 

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