Skip to Content
The best public universities have the strongest private support.

UB Alumnus Honors Father With Engineering Scholarship

James Smist

James Smist

An annual scholarship that a UB graduate and his wife established in 2005 has already changed the lives of 18 students in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Now, James and Mary Smist have pledged a major gift through a bequest to ensure the Felix Smist Scholarship continues in perpetuity.

The scholarship, which each year pays the full tuition for a part-time engineering student, is named for James' father, who spent 16 years in night classes to earn a BS in mechanical engineering from UB. It took that long because Felix was a full-time worker with a wife and children to support.

James remembers the pride he and his siblings felt when his father graduated.

"His example made me realize that education is a precious thing," says James, who later graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemical engineering from UB in 1980. James is president of Dean & Company in Vienna, Virginia.

"The goal of the gift is to allow the example of Felix Smist's commitment to education, as represented by this scholarship, to go on forever," says James, who received the UB Alumni Association's Samuel P. Capen Award in 2017.

Liesl Folks, dean of the engineering school, thanked the Smists for their longtime generosity, and for the recent bequest gift that will maintain an important scholarship opportunity for SEAS students.

"The Felix Smist Scholarship is, without a doubt, one of the most inspirational awards in the history of UB. As a loving tribute to Felix's life and memory, it reminds us every day that anything is possible with determination and perseverance," Liesl says.

"Jim and Mary recognize that our students—like Jim's father—arrive from a variety of circumstances, and many can't be here full time. Their gift offers hope to hardworking people who want to improve their skills and careers through a degree but can't do so by traditional means."

Charles Wiechec, a Smist Scholarship recipient, says the award has helped him complete a BS in computer science and engineering, which he is scheduled to receive later this year.

"The scholarship helped my family by alleviating the stress of having to find the funds to cover my education," says Charles, who worked full time off campus when he was first at UB. In the past several years, he has worked as a research and teaching assistant in the engineering school, in addition to doing community outreach for the university.

Charles hopes to work in computer research and networking and to "use the experience I gain professionally to give back to the community."

The Smists' bequest gift was made during Boldly Buffalo: The Campaign for UB—the largest fundraising campaign by a SUNY school and the largest in UB's history. It will raise $650 million to transform student experiences, empower faculty research and discovery, and improve local and global communities.

Learn more about ways you, like the Smists, can make an impact on UB students. Contact Ms. Wendy M. Irving at (716) 881-7484 or today.

eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to the University at Buffalo a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

'I give, devise, and bequeath to the University at Buffalo Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit education corporation, headquartered in Buffalo, New York, the (sum of $_____) or (_____% of my estate) or (the property described herein) or (the remainder of my estate) to benefit the University at Buffalo."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to the University at Buffalo or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the University at Buffalo as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to the University at Buffalo as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and the University at Buffalo where you agree to make a gift to the University at Buffalo and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.