Smith Donor Story

Chris (left) and Dale (right) Smith

The H.D. Smith Foundation, led by brothers (Henry) Dale and (James) Chris Smith, has been one of the most loyal supporters of University of Illinois in general and Carle Illinois College of Medicine in particular. The Smith family – which previously owned a large pharmaceutical wholesale business -- gifted Carle Illinois $2 million in 2018 to fuel innovation through support of Capstone Innovations developed by fourth-year medical students and other innovations related to sports medicine. It was part of a $20 million donation that also funded the construction of the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center, in honor of their parents. We talked with Dale and Chris Smith about their family’s investment in Carle Illinois’ unique mission to educate physician-innovators.

Why was it important to you to invest in the mission of Carle Illinois College of Medicine?

Dale: We were excited by the prospect of a different kind of medical school -- one that took the unique strength of Illinois’ engineering program and married it with medical expertise. We knew it would be something unique that would distinguish Illinois’ program from any other.

Chris: This was a medical school established with the intention of collaborating with the engineering school in a way that was truly unprecedented. With this medical school starting with collaboration as a tenet of its existence, the potential was really exciting, and we were very excited to participate in it.

Our first class just graduated after presenting 13 Capstone Innovations, which your family’s gift supported. What impact do you expect these innovations to have on health care and in the lives of patients?

Dale: A number of the projects have significant long-term applications, and some are very well-targeted to have shorter-term implications. Regardless, they expand knowledge and the research base to develop other advances, even beyond these actual projects.

Chris: I think this fusion of medicine and engineering represented in these innovations has tremendous potential for augmenting the lives of people who are impaired or injured in some way and allowing them to have much more robust and active life.

What roles do you see Carle Illinois graduates playing in the future of medicine? What do you hope for them?

Chris: I hope they go out into the communities that they serve and become champions for innovation in the kinds of break-through bioengineering that they’re part of here. Having come up through this discipline, I think they will be much more open to innovation and change, and they will need to champion that to change the structure of health care.

Dale: I see them as apostles of this approach to medical education. They may start off at Illinois and go anywhere in the country and have an impact in promoting this style of medical education.

If you were talking to someone about investing in mission of Carle Illinois College of Medicine, what would you say to them?

Dale: This is an opportunity to be a part of the future, because there are some unique approaches to education, a unique approach to working with all the different dimensions of the University of Illinois. I think it that should be something to get people excited.

Chris: If you are trying to figure out how to invest your philanthropic dollar to create returns for society, this is one that will return tenfold, a hundredfold. It’s just incredible the potential it has.