The Life of David Chadwick Smith

The son of Baptist missionaries, David Chadwick Smith was born in Ootacamund, in southeastern India, on August 12, 1931. His family moved back to Simcoe, Ontario when he was eight years old, where he attended public and high school. David then went to McMaster University, graduating in 1953 with an Honours Degree in Economics, and winning a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a Master's Degree. It was at McMaster that he met his wife Mary Taylor, who is now an ordained United Church minister. They married in 1955. After completing his studies at Oxford, David Smith moved to Harvard, where in 1959 he received a PhD, specializing in open-economy fiscal policy.

A brief stint as an Assistant Professor at Berkeley ended in July 1960, after which he began a long career at Queen's. Dr. Smith was promoted to Associate in 1963 and to Full Professor in 1966, just three years later. In 1968, he was named Head of the Department of Economics, a position he held until 1981. In 1984, he was appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen's, serving two five-year terms. Dr. Smith turned 65 in 1996 and received the title Emeritus Principal and Professor. From July 1997 to June 1998, he served as Interim President and Vice-Chancellor of Trent University. David Smith died on May 22, 2000 at the age of 68, after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Mary, two children, Monica and Geoffrey, and three grandchildren.

During David Smith's years as Head of the Department of Economics at Queen's, he transformed a small but distinguished department into a major, internationally-recognized centre for economic research and teaching. The list of economists he recruited to Queen's reads like a who's who of the profession. They include no less than six presidents of the Canadian Economics Association and three Fellows of the Econometric Society. The graduate program in Economics flourished under David's guidance, becoming the largest in the country at the Ph.D. level. Many former graduate students are among the country's leading policy-makers, and there is hardly an economics department in Canada that does not include a Queen's graduate on its masthead. Those who were at Queen's during David Smith's tenure, which includes regular faculty and the many visitors that he attracted, were drawn in by the friendly and collegial atmosphere, an atmosphere that has been one of his enduring legacies.

As Principal of Queen's from 1984 to 1994, a period of increasingly severe financial constraints and social change, David Smith enhanced the university's standing as one of the premier academic institutions in Canada. Among his many achievements were the Stauffer Library, the Biosciences Complex, the National Scholars program, the International Study Centre at Herstmonceux, and the University's first women's studies program. As well, Dr. Smith was instrumental in the formation of the School of Policy Studies and, prior to becoming Principal, the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy. His gentle, patient style and unwaveringly high standards, which had helped transform the Economics Department, became the hallmarks of his time as Principal.

David Smith was widely sought out as an advisor by both governments and universities over his more than 40-year career. He was a member of the Ontario Economic Council for ten years, including three as Deputy Chair, Vice-Chair of the Ontario Royal Commission on Workers' Compensation, and Director of Research (Economics) for the highly influential MacDonald Royal Commission. More recently, David was senior policy advisor to the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and Chair of the advisory panel on postsecondary education in Ontario. In fact, he completed the last two of three major reports on the financing of postsecondary education shortly before his death.

David Smith received many honours. In 1976, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and, in 1994, he became a Member of the Order of Canada. As well, Dr. Smith was awarded honourary degrees by McMaster University, Queen's University at Belfast, the University of Western Ontario, Queen's University, and Loyalist College of Applied Arts and Technology. But it is the honour that he brought to his friends and those he worked with that will be most remembered. "He was such a wonderful human being," said Queen's benefactor Alfred Bader after hearing of David Smith's death. It was his selfless desire to serve, combined with his extraordinary ability, that led Tom Courchene to describe him as "a national treasure." Although David Smith was a private man, those who were his colleagues in the Economics Department, and later in the broader university community, felt close to him. It was this feeling of affection and admiration that allowed David to bring out the best in the people, and it may have been the true source of his success.

The Department of Economics has raised the money to establish a chair in memory of David Smith.  Click here for some information about the chair.