Father Robert S. Smith, 78; Cornell chaplain

Catholic Courier    |    08.01.2010
Category: Obituaries


Father Robert S. Smith, a Catholic chaplain at Cornell University since 2002, died July 27, 2010, at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa. He was 78.

Father Smith was born in 1932 in New York City. He attended St. Francis Prep and Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in his native Queens and Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island. He was ordained in 1958 as a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

After ordination Father Smith completed graduate studies at the University of Louvain in Belgium before becoming associate pastor at St. Lawrence Martyr Parish in Sayville in 1961. Later that year he joined the faculty at Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, where he taught philosophy. In 1970 he became director of the Newman Apostolate in Brentwood, and in 1971 he became chaplain at Hofstra University.

In 1975 Father Smith became director of campus ministries and chaplaincy services at University Medical Center at Stony Brook University. In 1997, after 22 years at Stony Brook, he became director of The Sophia Center, an interfaith project based in Huntington.

In 2002 Father Smith moved to Ithaca, where he began serving at Cornell. His eight-year tenure saw him serve for two years as Cornell Catholic Community’s interim director (2003-05) and establish ministries and programs involving theology, philosophy and ecumenism. He also founded a Taize prayer group and a peer-ministry program.

"And he didn’t begin at Cornell until he was 70," remarked Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH, a Cornell campus minister who retired in June 2010 after 16 years.

"He loved being a priest, and he loved all aspects of campus life," Sister Fannon added. "He could be seen at a variety of sporting events, concerts, lectures and plays."

Father Daniel McMullin, director of Cornell Catholic Community, added in a column posted on the community's website that Father Smith often described his last assignment as "a cherished gift" at that stage of his life.

Father Smith's funeral Mass was held July 31 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. Interment was at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

A memorial Mass will be held at Cornell's Sage Chapel on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 10:30 a.m., followed by a service with selected speakers.

Contains reporting by Mike Latona.

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