Forever Gators …
Richard T. Smith
Richard T. Smith, M.D., was one of the founders of the UF College of Medicine. He and his wife, Jean Smith, moved to Gainesville during Labor Day weekend in 1958 because they were attracted to the challenge of starting a new medical college.
As the first chairman of pediatrics, Smith laid the foundation for the department. As a scientist, his research contributed widely and significantly to what is known about many diseases and conditions. As a physician, he treated countless numbers of critically ill children in his lifetime — including the first patient admitted to what was then called the University of Florida Teaching Hospital in 1958.
A recipient of the college’s 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award, Smith held many leadership positions throughout his career at UF. In addition to serving as the first chair of pediatrics, he also served as chair of the department of pathology for many years. He went on to become the first vice president of advancement and executive vice president of the UF Foundation, and also the first senior associate dean for research in the College of Medicine.
Smith passed away June 14 in Gainesville at the age of 90.
Edmund F. Ackell
Edmund F. Ackell, M.D., D.M.D., arrived at UF in 1966 as the first dean of the College of Dentistry. He helped lead development of the new college. In 1969, Ackell was appointed vice president for health affairs and helped lead planning for another college, the College of Veterinary Medicine. After his time at UF he went on to hold positions in academic leadership at the University of Southern California and Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as university president for 12 years.
Interestingly, he almost became a commercial pilot.
Ackell, who passed away May 16 at age 90 after an extended illness, joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving as a pilot. After the war, he thought about joining the airline industry, but instead chose to attend college, earning degrees in both dentistry and medicine. After stints at the University of Pennsylvania and Case Western Reserve University, Ackell found his way to UF. During his time at UF, he oversaw a multimillion-dollar expansion of the health center, including two new colleges and the Communicore Building.
Later in life, after Ackell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his wife chronicled the progression of the illness through photography, publishing a book in 2009 called “I Still Do.”