posted May 16, 2006

California Hometown Honors Ray Smith

Ray Smith, who has spent more than 35 years teaching and coaching at Hope College, is being honored by his California hometown.

Smith, who is a professor of kinesiology and director of athletics for men at Hope, is being inducted into the Riverside Sport Hall of Fame in California on Monday, May 22.

Established four years ago, the Riverside Sport Hall of Fame was created to honor athletes, coaches, athletic administrators and community leaders who have brought fame and honor to the city of Riverside. The hall of fame offers recognition in four categories: pre-1960 athletes, post-1960 athletes, coaches and service to the community.

In addition to Smith, who is being recognized as a pre-1960 athlete, those being honored this year include Gary Adams, a Riverside native who coached baseball at UCLA for decades - and who happens to have been Smith's roommate when they were students at UCLA; Nate DeFrancisco, a longtime coach and administrator at Riverside Community College; Walker Evans, an off-road racing champion from Riverside; the late Jess Hill, a Riverside athlete who went on to coach and serve as athletic director at USC; Cheryl Miller, a Riverside athlete whose basketball career included a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics; and Jerry Tarkanian, who coached at Riverside Community College for five years before going on to schools including Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State.

Smith moved to Riverside with his family from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota when he was eight months old. He was a three-sport athlete at Riverside Poly High School, and as a senior was captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams. In football, playing fullback, he was chosen Most Valuable Player, all-Citrus Belt First Team and all-CIF (California Interscholastic Federation). He was also all-Citrus Belt in baseball, and in his senior year was named Best All-Around Athlete.

He went on to the University of California, Los Angeles on a full scholarship, lettering in baseball one year and in football for four. His honors at UCLA include in 1958 being named Best Blocker and Tackler, and in 1959 being elected captain, Best Blocker and Tackler, Outstanding Senior, All Pacific Coast First Team, Honorable Mention All American and UCLA Athlete of the Year. He participated in the East-West Shrine Game and the Hula Bowl. He was one of only 26 students to receive an Outstanding Graduating Senior Award, given "for leadership, scholarship, service, devotion to the University and promise for success." He is listed in the National Football College Hall of Fame, and was honored by the State of California for outstanding and exceptional work with youth.

After college he spent three seasons playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, which he chose over the NFL so he would not have to play on Sundays, before retiring in 1962 because of an injury. Immediately prior to coming to Hope, he was head football and baseball coach at Antelope Valley College in California for seven years.

Smith has been at Hope since 1970. He was football coach at Hope for 25 seasons, through the fall of 1994, and also served as golf coach, wrestling coach and assistant baseball coach. He has been director of athletics for men since 1980; during that 26-year span, Hope has won 21 Commissioner's Cup (All-Sports) awards.

Still holding the record as the longest-serving head football coach in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), Smith mentored hundreds of Hope students through his work in Hope football. His teams earned an overall record of 148-69-9, including nine MIAA championships.

In 1984, he was named the NCAA Division III co-coach of the year by "Football News." In 1999 he received a "Lifetime Achievement Award" during the West Michigan Sports Awards banquet.

In 2002, he was named co-recipient of the third annual "Vanderbush-Weller Development Fund" award at Hope, in recognition of "his integrity and the modeling of his Christian faith as he worked with students." In December 2005, the weight room in the college's new Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse was named the "Smith Weight Training Center" in honor of him and his wife Sue for their decades-long service to Hope.

Throughout the years he and Sue have been involved in the Young Life ministry, active in their church and highly invested with students. They have been married for 45 years, and their family consists of a son Randy and his wife Chris, and their children Brianna and Chandler; a son Jeff; and a daughter Jennifer and her husband Brian, who have a son Hezekiah and a newborn daughter Rebecca.

In addition to his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, Smith holds master's degrees from Pasadena College and Western Michigan University.