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Vale Dr Phillip Noel Hartley Smith

11 May 2020
A man of steel with warm heart
Emigrating to the Unites States during the 1950s to forge his metallurgical engineering career, Dr Phillip N.H. Smith founded the University of Sydney USA Foundation so he and others could support teaching and learning from the other side of the world.
Dr Phillip Noel Hartley Smith

Engineering alumnus Dr Phillip N.H. Smith

It is with great sadness that we record the passing of alumnus Dr Phillip Noel Hartley Smith (BE(Mining&Metallurgy) ’50 DEng ’97) who died peacefully in his Pennsylvania home on Friday 20 March 2020, aged 94.

Born in Sydney in 1926, Dr Smith served in the Merchant Navy in World War II before beginning his studies in Mining and Metallurgy at the University of Sydney in the late 1940s.

A rower for Wesley College, his love of serving his community also saw him heavily involved in the Palm Beach Lifesaving Club during his student days.

After graduating with First Class Honours, he travelled Australia surveying mine sites before receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to complete graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From there, Dr Smith moved to Illinois to work at Inland Steel in Chicago. It was at this point he was awarded the US National Steel Award for an academic paper he co-wrote.

His career in steel subsequently went from strength to strength as he moved into business and executive roles, eventually becoming President and CEO of the Ohio-based Copperweld Corporation in 1967 and President of North American operations of the Bekaert Group in 1977.

Having taken some management studies in his student days, Dr Smith continued to display his trademark generosity serving as guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member at various US and Chinese universities.

In recognition of his significant contributions to engineering, Dr Smith was awarded with a Doctor of Engineering (honoris causa) from the University in 1997.

In presenting Dr Smith for admission to this honorary degree, the then Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Donald McNicol said: “He is one of those rare people who reverse Parkinson's Law that work expands to fill the time available by making time expand to accommodate a great number of worthwhile activities.

"He has a great concern for the welfare of society and ethical activities. For good causes he gives generously of his time and skills in raising funds.”

Combining his generosity and strong connection to his alma mater, Dr Smith founded the University of Sydney USA Foundation so alumni and friends could make philanthropic contributions to the University from the US and devoted his time readily to the Sydney University Graduates Union of North America (SUGUNA).

The Phillip Noel Hartley Smith Distinguished Honours Scholarship in the Business School will continue his legacy of support. A kind and keen member of the University community, he will be missed by many.

Dr Smith is survived by his wife, Martha; five daughters; 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a son and grandson.

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