WFU Life Trustee and former Board Chair dies

WFU Life Trustee and former Board Chair K. Wayne Smith (’60)

K. Wayne Smith (’60), a political and economic strategist, businessman, professor, community leader and Wake Forest University Trustee, died on October 13, 2020, in Newton. He was 82.

Smith was named to the University’s board of trustees in 1991 and named a Life Trustee in 2010. He was chair of the board from 2007 to 2009 and chair of the Presidential Search Committee that hired Nathan O. Hatch in 2005. He also served on the trustee’s Health Affairs Committee and helped integrate Health Sciences and the North Carolina Baptist Hospital. He received Wake Forest’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1973 and the Medallion of Merit, the University’s highest award for service, in 2011.

“Wake Forest was a university that took a chance on me when I was a very young man,” Smith once said of his allegiance to Wake Forest. “It allowed me to have a few more windows on the world than I would have had and gave me a system of values that have stood me in good stead.”

Smith is survived by his wife of nearly 62 years, Audrey, and their son, Stuart.

“Wayne was an enormously helpful partner, mentor and friend,” said Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch. “He was a strong judge of people and understood university life and how best to steer a clear course amidst treacherous cross currents.”

 Smith grew up on a farm in Newton, N.C. He received a Hankins Scholarship to attend Wake Forest. He graduated from Wake Forest summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in political science. He earned a master’s and Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University and also did postgraduate work at the University of Southern California.

To fulfill his ROTC commitment, Smith was offered a position at West Point teaching social sciences. His fellow faculty members included Alexander Haig, who would become President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, and Norman Schwarzkopf, who would become the United States Army General and known for leading the American coalition in the Gulf War.

In 1969, Smith moved to the West Coast to work for RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization, where he was responsible for managing a multi-million dollar research program dealing with national security. A few months later, mutual acquaintances led Smith to Henry Kissinger, then the National Security Advisor.

At the age of 31, Smith was a senior staff member with the National Security Council, a position that made him the civilian equivalent of an Army major general. As the director of program analysis, he reported directly to Kissinger on matters regarding military force and financial planning, arms control, security assistance plans and intelligence programs. Smith helped Kissinger develop U.S. foreign policy on Vietnam, address the issue of arms control with the Soviets during the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and resume diplomatic relations with China. 

After logging his fair share of long hours and stressful situations, Smith left the National Security Council and returned to the West Coast as vice president of planning for Dart Industries, a Los Angeles-based conglomerate that included Tupperware and West Bend. He then spent a handful of years as the group managing partner for Coopers & Lybrand, now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 1983, he was named chairman and CEO of World Book Inc., publisher of World Book Encyclopedia and Childcraft.

In 1986, he attempted to retire, but soon found himself consulting and teaching. Giving back to the place that opened so many doors for him, Smith began teaching a planning and leadership seminar in Wake Forest’s business school and a course on national security policy in the political science department. From 1989 until retiring in 1998, he was president and CEO of Online Computer Library Center, at the time the country’s most widely used computer bibliographic database.

There will be a private graveside service to be followed at a later time with an event on campus.

In lieu of flowers, please make any memorial gifts or donations to The Trinity Scholarship from K. Wayne Smith and Family c/o Wake Forest University, P. O. 7227, Winston Salem, NC 27109.

Read more at Wake Forest Magazine, “Remembering K. Wayne Smith” (’60)