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Civic leader. Fierce and effective advocate for women and minority rights and opportunity. Tough political advisor. Steward of the soil. Philanthropist.

Deb Smith honed these skills through excellent education and decades of service.  But she credits them to what she learned at her father’s knee.  “Growing up, I was charged by my Daddy that I am my brother’s keeper,” Deb remembers. “That I am keeper and steward of the soil.  That all are my brethren. You take care of people. You keep people safe and keep our food secure. This is why we are here.”

She also credits his training as foundational to her gift to Zamorano.  In response to the announcement of her gift at a brunch following the Zamoranos in the USA Symposium, she shared the following remarks:

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honor an institution that is called the Hope of Latin America. I believe it is a crown jewel of the region.

We are living in extraordinary times. National and community divisions dot the worldwide landscape. Climate change bears down harder with each passing day. And yet…there are places that provide hope and transformation, not only for great students, but likely, the globe. One of these places is Zamorano University.

My late father believed that the great land grant institutions, writ large, held the power and knowledge to save humanity.  In the United States, we think of such schools as Cornell, North Carolina State University, Auburn, Michigan State, to name a few. In our neighboring hemisphere and beyond, we have Zamorano.

I was aware of Zamorano; its existence, general mission, and so forth. Then I began to learn more. I listened. I researched. And I became rather transfixed by its beauty. I was amazed, and not merely as an ag producer myself, but as someone who understands that this earth can indeed be fragile. And I was moved to action. To stand in the breach, to find this next right thing. This is how our family predicates life.

I sought the opportunity to express my gratitude for the work of Zamorano University. I have created an endowment to be used for scholarships, physical plant, or those areas El Rector deems of greatest need.

This modest gift is made in honor of and in the name of my beloved sister, Claudia Elizabeth Dove.”

Deb was born to historic family farms in North Carolina. Her mother was a biologist, her father an innovative agricultural producer and businessman. He was also a United States Marine, keeper of a family tradition of U.S. military leadership that began in the First Continental Army.

Deb graduated from Meredith College with a B.A. in European history, and studied design history at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of the Smithsonian Institute and Colombia University.

Smith with fellow Meredith Trustee Carol Lancaster Milano

Highlights of her civic leadership include presidency of the Alumnae Association and service as an officer of the Meredith College Board of Trustees, where she played a key role in the establishment of the Alumnae Legacy Scholarship Endowment, enabling the college’s premier full scholarship program.  She was president, interim executive director, and interim director of development for the YWCA of the Greater Triangle and remains a champion of their mission of “Empowerment of Women. Elimination of Racism.” She served as trustee of the Salem College School of Music and the Clemmons and Margaret Sandresty Scholarship, and on the Board of Directors of the NC Center for Voter Education. Deb provides counsel to progressive Democratic candidates, including service as chief financial officer and treasurer for U.S Congressman Brad Miller’s campaign, and her current leadership as general counsel to Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley, candidate for Lieutenant Governor of the State of North Carolina. Yet even in an election year, she finds time to provide strategic direction to Zamorano’s U.S. fundraising team.

Deb lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband, C. Thomas (Tom) Smith III, a technology analyst and growth marketer and a Zamorano volunteer. As proprietor of JD Dove Farms, she continues to steward the soil through sustainable agricultural practices and collaborative research with Kansas State University.

Whatever Deb is doing, you can be sure it is the next right thing.

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