URI honors child development pioneer
Plaque ceremony honors late head of Human Development, Family Studies
KINGSTON, R.I. -- December 20, 2000 -- To say that the late Russell Cook Smart and his widow Mollie wrote the book on child development is no exaggeration.
"When I took my very first child development course, my first book was written by the Smarts," said Diane Horm-Wingerd, professor of Human Development and Family Studies and director of the URI Child Development Centers. "One of the exciting things about being at URI is that this is where the Smarts were, and they were, without a doubt, among the national leaders in the field."
In fact, Russell Cook Smart was the chairman of the former URI Department of Child Development and Family Relations from 1953 to 1976. During his tenure, the University built the Child Development Center on the Kingston Campus, which has now seen hundreds of children pass through its doors for pre-school and kindergarten programs. In addition, hundreds of University students and researchers have completed project there.
Earlier this fall, members of Smart's family, former colleagues and current members of the department gathered to honor Smart by hanging a poster-sized plaque at the Child Development Center on URI's Kingston campus. Mollie Smart, a URI professor emerita, her daughters, Ellen, Susan, Laura and her grandchildren, were among the 60 in attendance. Mollie Smart now lives in San Diego with her daughter Ellen.
"Both Mollie and Russell were in the vanguard, both as educators and as a two-career couple," Horm-Wingerd said of the former Saunderstown, R.I. residents.
The plaque, which was made by Ellen Smart, features a large photo of her father and text written by George Fitzelle, a URI professor emeritus and student of Russell Smart's at Cornell.
The plaque reads:
"In loving memory of Russell Cook Smart, chairman of the Department of Child Development and Family Relations from 1953 to 1976. Dr. Smart's scholarly and humane dedication to the interests of children and families was the essential factor in the construction of this innovative center, with its unending significance for generations of children, families, and students as well as the University and state of Rhode Island.
"This opening to the possibilities of a wide and wonderful world, received long planning and effort before it was finally unfurled. Children's joy and growth was the main consideration. Needs of students, parents and academia added to deliberation. In gratitude for these, and the many gifts of Russell Cook Smart, for generosity in giving his all to his calling, mind and heart."
In addition to the plaque ceremony, the University has established the Russell and Mollie Smart Foundation to benefit the Child Development Center. Those wishing to make a contribution may contact the University of Rhode Island Foundation at 401-874-5836.
For Information: Diane Horm-Wingerd 401-874-2403,
Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116