J. Walter Smith, the man who had the vision of creating GCC’s Athletic Hall of Fame, died May 31 in San Clemente.
Smith was such an integral part of Glendale College that a building was named after him: the very structure that houses the Athletic Hall of Fame.
The J. Walter Smith Student Center earned its name because Smith was so instrumental in making the building project possible.
Because of his management of the funds generated by students for more than 35 years, the Associated Students were able to pay $1.5 million of the Student Center’s $4 million price tag with the rest coming in annual payments from Bookstore proceeds. The center was completed in 2002 and was officially launched with the inaugural induction ceremony on Feb. 10, 2002.
“Walt probably meant more to students in his 40 years of service than anybody else I know,” said Jim Sartoris, GCC’s Athletic Director.
“He was a special person, easy going with a great sense of humor.” said Sartoris.
Walt was born in Taft, Calif., in 1920. He was a student at Glendale College in 1939 and also attended Santa Ana Junior College.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USC where he was admitted on a track scholarship. While at USC, he became a two-time national champion in the 400-meter hurdles. He was an Amateur Athletic Union Selection for the All-America Track and Field Team in 1942 and again in 1947.
He served his country as a paratrooper instructor in the United States Army Airborne Division from 1943 to 1946.
He returned to GCC to teach and coach track in 1947. The man who would later be referred to as “Mr. Glendale College” was vice principal at Glendale High School for a year, and then became Dean of Men and Student Activities in 1955.
Jeff Prugh, a former executive editor at the Glendale News Press, wrote a 1992 editorial praising Smith in which he said, “Walt Smith has been a fixture at GCC for so long, you’d think they would make his life story a required course of study.”
“He’s a dean for all students, for all seasons,” wrote Prugh.
Along with his many accomplishments, Smith served as an Olympic track and field judge and was named Track Official of the Year in 1993. He was the chief track recall starter during the 1984 Olympics.
“He left a legacy at the college,” said Alen Andriassian, GCC’s Student Affairs Coordinator.
“He stayed active and supportive for the students; he was an icon.” said Andriassin.
Smith’s vision of a tribute, GCC’s Athletic Hall of Fame, honors former athletes and teams who achieved excellence through competition and coaches who have made a difference in the lives of their athletes.
With all of his achievements the J. Walter Smith Center the is a fitting name for the place that houses all who have accomplished plenty in their lives.
J. Walter Smith was 85 and is survived by his daughter.