Joan T. Smith "fell in love with the U" upon a high school visit and joined the ranks of the University of Minnesota freshman class after finishing high school at the young age of 16. Her father, an accomplished accountant who passed away that year, would have been proud to see her earn a bachelor of science in economics and a master's in accounting. Her mother, an artist at heart who favored watercolor and piano over working in business, knew the importance of following what you love, if only from her own diversion from her passions. Even after her father's death, Joan's mother found a way to put Joan through college.
After college, Joan brought that same strong work ethic and determination, not to mention a more advanced degree than most of her colleagues, to a position at a local bank. Today that would give a person a huge edge.
However, being a woman from a middle class family on the East Side of St. Paul in an era when her male co-workers smoked in the office, went for drinks mid-day, and expected her to do only the menial tasks, every day seemed an uphill battle.
"These were all men from money. And, I used to say, 'money doesn't talk in this department, it screams.'" she explained. But, nothing stopped her. She worked late, brought work home, took challenging assignments, and worked her way up to vice president.
Throughout it all, always inquisitive and interested in the larger world, she traveled - first Europe then Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, Egypt, India, China, and beyond.
Today her curiosity and tenacity shows in her relentless schedule of learning and experiencing life - attending opera performances, U of M lectures, public radio events, and museum functions.
It was at one of those events, a 2005 College of Continuing Education program, where she met human rights advocate and former first lady of Mozambique Graça Machel and was inspired to endow a scholarship that supports undergraduate women who are citizens of African countries who are now living in the United States and attending school through the College.
This year, she made another generous gift to the College and established the new Centennial Scholarship Fund so that future students can have a place in the classrooms, online learning communities, and futuristic virtual forums that the NEXT 100 years hold.
If you would like to make a lifetime of difference for today's determined students, please join Joan - make a contribution to the Centennial Fund. Visit www.cce.umn.edu/centennial, or contact Kathleen Davoli at 612-625-1253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.