“I never thought a poor ol’ boy from Seneca would ever go to college,” Jerry Smith ’50 said.
Smith served in World War II and was eligible to have his college tuition covered through the GI Bill. He was determined to go.
“I wrote everybody in the Southeast that I knew of,” Smith said. “Everybody said, ‘We can’t accept you; we’re full.'”
Smith wrote a letter to PC and heard back a month later that he’d been accepted. It was January of 1947.
“The Good Lord was watching over me because PC was the perfect fit for me,” Smith said. “Everybody was friendly and worked together. It was a family atmosphere that this ol’ South Carolina boy liked. I just loved it.”
Smith majored in economics and received his commission when he graduated from PC in three years.
“I got a college education and a life experience education,” Smith said about going to PC and serving in World War II.
Smith served more than 20 years in the Army and the Army National Guard and enjoyed a 30-year career with All-State insurance after graduating from PC. He married Lillis Brown, of Seneca, S.C., shortly before graduating from PC. Although she graduated from Winthrop College, Lillis always treated PC as her own.
“She would talk to people all the time about going to PC,” Jerry said. The Smiths served together on the PC Board of Visitors.
Last year, Lillis posthumously received the 2019 Honorary Alumnus Award. Jerry and Lillis were the first to receive the Mike Turner Scotsman Club Award for faithfully supporting the Scotsman Club. They supported student-athletes with their gifts and their presence for more than 40 years. The Lillis B. and Thomas G. Smith, Sr. Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to student-athletes.
“I started giving, and I enjoy being able to do it,” Jerry said. “In my mind and in my heart, I feel good about it.”
The Smiths have also supported the PC Fund over the years and also gave to the Neville Renewed campaign. A classroom in Neville Hall is named in their honor. Jerry remembers taking classes in Neville.
“I can tell you where I took biology. I can tell you where I took English. I can tell you where I took Spanish. I can tell you where I almost failed analytical geometry,” Jerry said.
“It’s an honor to see my name on a plaque, and it’ll be there for years to come,” Jerry said. “It made me feel good, especially with Lillis’s name on it because she deserves so much recognition for what she did for PC.”