Nobel Laureate George P. Smith donates prize money to establish scholarship fund

The scholarship fund will be a part of the College of Arts and Science.
Nobel Prize winner George Smith announces that he is donating his prize money to the MU scholarship fund on March 12, 2019. Photo by Photographer Madeline Carter

George P. Smith, Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences and recipient of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry, decided along with his spouse, Marjorie Sable, that they would donate his Nobel Prize money to support students in the MU College of Arts and Science.

Smith’s undergraduate degree was a bachelor of arts, not a bachelor of science, he said.

“I consider my liberal arts education in college as a springboard toward a lifetime of learning and cultural engagement,” Smith said. “This is why I think it’s really important to support culture in general as exemplified by the liberal arts. That’s why we elected to give this award specifically to the College of Arts and Science.”

This gift of more than $243,000 marked the start of Mizzou Giving Day, an annual 24-hour campaign that raises money for MU’s schools and colleges. MU and the UM System contributed an additional $200,000 through the Missouri Compact Promise and Opportunity Scholarship program.

Chancellor Alexander Cartwright also has set aside $100,000 for student scholarships to make sure more students get the critical support they need, he said.

“We will make the same commitment for all future Nobel Prize winners,” Cartwright said. “I am confident that this is the beginning of our Nobel journey.”

At the same event where this news was announced, Pat Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Science, moderated a panel of Smith, Sable, Cartwright and two MU journalism students, Meg Cunningham and Savannah Rudicel, who traveled with the group to Stockholm, Sweden, to cover the Nobel Week events in December.

During this panel, Smith, Sable and Cartwright remembered their favorite memories throughout their stay in Stockholm, including Smith’s celebrity status as a Nobel laureate, seeing a warship from the 1600s, various lectures and the ceremony itself.

“My favorite event was a low-key event. It was a lecture I gave at Stockholm University,” Smith said. “The students had invited me and it was a very lively affair. As a professor, it was more engaging than giving a big lecture like the Nobel lecture. It wasn’t the most prominent event, it was the most engaging. The most pleasuring thing was being a professor again.”

Cunningham and Rudicel both said they learned a lot from their experience reporting in Stockholm.

“It was so hard to capture everything that was going on,” Rudicel said. “They were busy all week and we were just trying to keep up. Another big challenge that was a lot of fun to work with was working between all the newsrooms we have here. Working with all the news managers here across different time zones was another kind of challenge, but definitely taught us the importance of communication and clear expectations.”

Smith was the first MU professor to win a Nobel Prize.

“[The Nobel Prize] reflects on the quality of faculty we have at this institution,” Cartwright said. “It shows the type of groundbreaking research that happens at Mizzou. Being in an environment where you’re able to pursue your dreams, to think of ideas and knowing that you’re in an environment that values your creativity and values what you’re doing for society, that is something we can all be proud of.”

Edited by Emily Wolf | ewolf@themaneater.com

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