Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone College educator dies at 73

Performing arts center named after Gary Smith

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Friday, February 8, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.


Fremont—Gary Smith, the namesake of Ohlone College's Gary Soren Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, died Monday in Healdsburg of complications from Parkinson's disease, college staff said. He was 73.

Smith retired from Ohlone in

1993 after serving as music professor, dean of fine and performing arts and acting vice president, according to his biography from the college.

He served on a citizens committee charged with designing a Fremont arts center that began construction in 1993 on Ohlone's Mission Boulevard campus. It had a gala opening two years later with actor and Concord native Tom Hanks on hand.

Smith was born in 1934 in Modesto and was 7 when his mother died, according to the biography and an e-mail from Ohlone music professor Dean Keller.

Smith's father later married a woman who had a clarinet, and Smith took lessons on the instrument from Frank Mancini, founderof the Modesto Symphony Orchestra.

In 1948, the family moved to Healdsburg and took over a dairy. Smith studied with a member of the San Francisco Symphony in high school and attended Santa Rosa Junior College, transferring to the University of California, Berkeley. He then played in a touring Army band in the late 1950s.

He taught music in Oakland schools starting in 1960 and played with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra from 1962 to 1984. He started teaching music at Ohlone in Fremont in 1967, when he earned a master's degree at California State University, Hayward.

"He was the seventh full-time faculty member hired by Ohlone College," Keller said, and "was responsible for purchasing the first piece of music for the college. It was his leadership that built the music department."

In the 1970s, Smith won a National Endowment for the Arts grant and earned a music doctorate from Stanford University, while Ohlone relocated from Washington Boulevard to its current hillside campus in Fremont.

In the late 1980s, he became involved in the effort to build the Ohlone arts center.

Doug Treadway, Ohlone's president and superintendent, said the center was named for Smith because he set up a $1 million trust for the building.

Smith also served on the boards of the Fremont Philharmonic and the Fremont Cultural Arts Council.

After he retired and returned to Healdsburg, Smith was on the board of the Russian River Chamber Music Society and on the Santa Rosa Symphony's development committee, according to The Healdsburg Tribune.

He is survived by his wife, Faye, and several cousins, the Tribune reported. A memorial service is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 209 Matheson St., Healdsburg.

Donations may be made to the Gary Soren Smith Center, care of the Ohlone College Foundation, P.O. Box 3909, Fremont 94539.

The Ohlone Chamber Singers plan a memorial concert at 8 p.m. March 15 at the center, according to the Ohlone College Monitor newspaper.

Reach Todd R. Brown at 510-353-7004 or

[ View Articles Index. ]

Related Links at Ohlone College