A local man who has generously given to Moultrie Technical College was honored by the institution and its Tifton Campus Tuesday morning during a naming ceremony and celebration for the campus’ Conference Center. Clarence Smith was recognized for his support and donations made to the MTC Foundation Inc. The ceremony was held in the lobby of the Conference Center.
Prior to the unveiling of the school’s Conference Center signage bearing Smith’s name, comments were made by Jim Glass, MTC acting president; Lynn Lovett, board member; and Dr. Shawn Utley, vice president, MTC economic development.
Glass thanked everyone for attending, including guests Sen. John Crosby, former Tift County Commission Chairman Grady Thompson, Tift County Sheriff Gene Scarbrough, Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce members, Kiwanis members and Dr. Tina Anderson, who was the former president of MTC and is now the president of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College in Valdosta.
Glass said Smith is a very special friend. He turned to him and said, “Everyone who walks into this building is going to see your legacy. I’m looking forward to the thousands of lives you’re going to change through your generosity. Thank you.”
Lovett said Smith is being recognized for what he’s done for the community and school. She said his generosity to the foundation makes a difference in whether or not some students are able to come to college.
According to MTC, on record as giving the single largest donation that MTC has received in the school’s 49-year history, Smith presented the college with an unparalleled gift in December 2007 — a tract of 107 acres of wooded property on Perdue Road in Tifton, appraised at close to $700,000. Later that academic year, he served as the keynote speaker for the college’s semi-annual commencement ceremonies.
Moultrie Tech’s Tifton Campus currently uses the donated land as an on-site laboratory environment for the college’s Fish and Wildlife Management program and as a special event site with the addition of Smith Lodge. The donation is also a gift that will keep on giving, providing money to the MTC Foundation for years to come as the land produces pine straw and timber that can be harvested for sales.
“It’s a great honor and signifies what we’re doing here,” Lovett said, noting they will be celebrating 50 years at MTC next year. She said Tuesday’s celebration was to thank Smith for “the legacy he has demonstrated for our school.”
Utley said just as much as they’re proud of Smith, he’s proud of being a part of MTC.
“That’s what makes him special,” he said.
He also mentioned Smith’s family members who were at the ceremony, including his son Roger Smith of Tifton and his granddaughter.
Utley said Smith has been a dear friend to his family. Also, he said he’s heard some nurses in their profession say they wouldn’t have been able to continue their education if it had not been for the foundation. He commented on a particular young woman with children whose life changed due to the foundation.
Utley thanked Smith for his generosity, willingness to give and the impact he’s made on students’ lives and the lives he will change for many years to come.
Smith thanked MTC for their generosity to the community as well. He also commented on the late Dr. Philip Utley, who he called a “great friend.”
“Dr. Phil accomplished a lot for this college,” he said, adding he would like to pay tribute to Dr. Phil for his contribution to MTC.
Smith thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and MTC for honoring him. He told the media that he was humbled and overwhelmed by the ceremony honoring him.
“I don’t feel deserving of it,” he said. He thanked MTC and said he will continue to support them.
“I think more people should support their local institution,” he said. He said any time you take an unproductive person off the streets and make them productive, you’re doing the community a favor, as well as that person. He said this makes a better community, and for that, he’s grateful.
Smith said he’s had his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren go through MTC to get some training. For the last 15 years, he’s been trying to help the institution. He said it’s very important for students to get an education.
“I’m proud of the programs they have installed,” Smith said.
Smith said he’s surprised more people haven’t contributed more. He encourages more people to help their local schools.
Also, The Gazette reported in April that he donated $25,000 to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch in Hahira.
According to MTC, Smith was honored as the TCFA Benefactor of the Year in 2011 by The Georgia Technical College Foundation Association, which recognizes outstanding contributions that individuals and corporations have made on behalf of their Technical College System of Georgia colleges. Specifically, the annual TCFA Benefactor of the Year award winners are individuals and companies that view their donations as investments in their local workforce and the future of their communities.
Born in 1929, Smith left home at the age of 13 to begin a lifetime of work. With only an eighth grade education, he went on to graduate from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College with an associate degree in agriculture. Before attending ABAC, he served in the U.S. Army from 1948 to 1952 and is a veteran of the Korean War. During his years of service to the country, he received many unit citations as well as a Purple Heart.
After Smith returned home to Tifton from his military service, he enjoyed a long and successful career working for Tri-County Gas while also farming and raising livestock. Married to the late Eloise Arrington for 50 years, Smith and his wife raised three children: Roger, Faye Simpson of Adel and Jean Ivey of Rebecca. He has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Smith has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Tifton for more than 35 years and a Mason and member of the American Legion for more than 50 years each. He is also a long-time member and supporter of Zion Hope Baptist Church.
To contact reporter Latasha Everson, call 382-4321.