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Smith Center History:
About Dr. Gary Soren Smith
- Gary Soren Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts

July 4, 1934 - February 4, 2008.

Dr. Gary Soren Smith passed away at his Healdsburg home Monday, February 4, 2008 from complications of Parkinson's disease. Dr. Smith was born to Louise (Brand) and George Smith on July 4, 1934 in Modesto, California. Gary was 7 when his mother died. Two years later his father married Natalie Jeanice (Jean) Perry. Jean owned a clarinet and soon Gary was taking lessons from Frank Mancini. In 1948, the family moved from Modesto to Healdsburg where they bought the Sanitary Dairy. In high school, Gary studied clarinet with Frealon Bibbins of the San Francisco Symphony.

In 1952, after graduating from Healdsburg High School, he entered Santa Rosa Junior College for one year, then transferred to UC Berkeley graduating with honors in 1956. From 1956 to 1959 he did a three year tour of duty in the Army, playing in the 6th Army Band as principal clarinet. His music teaching career began in the Oakland Public Schools in 1960 and in 1967 moved to Ohlone College, Fremont. That same year he completed a Master's Degree at Cal State Hayward. In 1971 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant and entered Stanford University, earning a doctorate in 1974. From 1962-1984 he was a professional musician performing with the Oakland Symphony Orchestra. During the summer months of 1969-1976, he conducted the shows at Woodminster Ampitheatre in Oakland.

At Ohlone he was professor of music, Dean of Fine and Performing Arts and acting Vice President. In addition to his college duties he was active in the community serving on the Boards of the Fremont Philharmonic and the Fremont Cultural Arts Council. He also served on a citizens committee assigned the task of designing a performing arts center for the city of Fremont.

Perhaps the proudest moment in his 33 years in education was the completion of the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts at Ohlone College. The project was started in 1988 and the GALA opening was October, 1995. After creating a Charitable Remainder Unitrust, the Center bears his name, GARY SOREN SMITH CENTER FOR THE FINE AND PERFORMING ARTS. He retired from Ohlone College in 1993 and returned to the family home in Healdsburg.

His involvement in the Arts continued in Sonoma County serving on the board of the Russian River Chamber Music and on the development committee of the Santa Rosa Symphony. In addition, Dr. and Mrs. Smith endowed the principal viola chair of the Santa Rosa Symphony, the first in the orchestra.

Dr. Smith is survived by his wife Faye and their Boston Terriers, Lucy, Winnie and Clementine and several cousins. Friends are invited to attend a memorial service at 10 am at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 209 Matheson St., Healdsburg on Saturday, February 9, 2008.

In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Dr. Smith may be made to the Gary Soren Smith Center, in care of the Ohlone College Foundation, P O Box 3909, Fremont, CA 94539.

The Chamber Singers' March 15 concert featuring the Requiems of Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé will be an homage concert celebrating the life of Dr. Gary Soren Smith. The concert will be at the Gary Soren Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, in the the Craig Jackson Theatre, starting at 8:00 pm.

Mrs. and Mr. Smith. Mrs. and Mr. Smith