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Published: Friday, 2/9/2007

Speech professor became dean of students at BGSU

Elden T. Smith, 96, a former president of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, who was a professor of speech and theater and dean of students during 21 years at Bowling Green State University, died Monday in Seminole, Fla. The cause was not reported.

Mr. Smith was hired in 1961 as provost of Ohio Wesleyan, his alma mater. He later became vice president for academic affairs and, in 1962, was elected president of the university, a post he held until 1969.

A native of Elyria, Ohio, Mr. Smith had master's and doctoral degrees from the then-Western Reserve University. He joined the BGSU faculty in 1940. He was chairman of the speech and theater department from 1942 to 1955, when he became dean of students.

He received several honorary degrees for his achievements. Unsung, though, was his role in film history.

Eva Marie Saint, the BGSU alumna and Oscar-winning actress, told The Blade in 2001 that she'd planned to be a third-grade teacher. She was less sure after appearing in a play and wrote Mr. Smith. He listed the pros and cons of teaching in a three-page response and concluded that she could handle the rejection of show business.

The letter gave her confidence, she told The Blade, and her parents told her to do whatever made her happy. She and Mr. Smith remained in touch, and she even introduced him to the audience when he attended a performance of hers in 2000.

Surviving are his son, Hugh Nilson Smith; six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. today in Anona Methodist Church, Largo, Fla.

The family suggests tributes to the Elden T. Smith Memorial Fund at Ohio Wesleyan University.

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