Hill philanthropist Lewis duPont Smith dies at 54

Obituaries August 17, 2011 0 Comments

by Valerie Lynch

Lewis duPont Smith, 54, of Chestnut Hill, a teacher, political organizer and philanthropist who sat on the boards of Vox Ama Deus and the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, and was an active alumnus of Avon Old Farms, died Aug. 12 in Jefferson Hospital after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

 

Lewis duPont Smith (Photo by Ron Petrou)

“As a board member, Lewis served with spirited presence and unwavering support,” said Valentin Radu, artistic director and conductor of Vox Ama Deus.

A true renaissance man, Smith was a passionate student of history, art, music, literature and philosophy. At their home in Chestnut Hill, Smith and his wife, Andrea, regularly hosted salons where friends were invited to hear classical music and opera, discuss political philosophy and share good food.

Smith often joined his wife in performing operatic excerpts from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” He often entertained his guests with his recitations of Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller, the legendary German poet and philosopher.

Smith was a founding member of the Philadelphia Forum for Anthroposophy, an organization dedicated to the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), founder of the movement known as Anthroposophy, which he described as “a path of knowledge to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe” and from which biodynamic farming, the Camphill Movement and Waldorf education developed.

As a young man growing up in Paoli, Smith attended the Haverford School, and later the Rectory School and Avon Old Farms where he distinguished himself as a two-time Connecticut state champion, two-time New England state champion and a national prep heavyweight wrestling champion in 1975.

According to Jorge Consuegra, a former teammate from the Avon Old Farms Class of 1977, “It was the finals of our Western New England Prep School Tournament at Taft School, and Lewis got caught in a move by the Taft heavyweight in the finals. Lew was the defending champion. As a young kid on the team, I was devastated that Lew could lose, but he handled the loss with grace and sportsmanship and later came back to win the national championship that same year. And then we found out that Lew had a serious neck injury that he had fought through. He was so tough and determined. He was an inspiration to us all.”

“Big Lew,” as he was known at Avon, went on to earn a full football scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1979. Smith also attended Camp Tecumseh in Moultonboro, N.H. Throughout his life, Smith fondly recalled stories of his days at Avon and Tecumseh, regaling friends and family with tales of athleticism and adventure.

“The world is a lesser place without Lewis,” said George Trautman, former headmaster at Avon Old Farms.

After college, Smith taught English and history at the Hill School in Pottstown and Friends Central in Wynnewood. In the early 1980s, he became actively involved in political organizing. His work led to his association with Lyndon LaRouche Jr.

After meeting his future wife in Philadelphia in 1985, Smith and Andrea married in Rome and later moved to New Hampshire, where Smith ran for Congress.

Although he lost the election, he was not deterred and ran again in 1990 as a candidate from Pennsylvania. After a second unsuccessful attempt, Smith chose not to run again.

In recent years, Smith was lecturing on the life of Friedrich Schiller and was scheduled to teach a philosophy course at Eastern University in the fall.

A consummate competitor, Smith trained daily as a cyclist, riding his bike up to 50 miles a day. His dream was to shadow the Tour de France. Most recently, he said that being sick had one advantage. At 6-foot-4, he finally attained his competitive weight of 210 pounds.

A devoted father, Smith was fiercely proud of his three daughters, Martha, Claire and Sarah, who all attend the Waldorf School in Mt. Airy. He often took them on long hikes along the mountain trails of Mt. Desert Island, Maine, where his family has a summer home in Northeast Harbor.
He encouraged his daughters’ love of music and art, having recently taken them to Europe to experience the beauty and ancient culture of Rome. His conversion to Catholicism was a deeply transformative experience, which compelled him to actively take part in his children’s religious instruction and Catholic traditions.

In addition to his wife and daughters, Smith is survived by his father, E. Newbold Smith; a sister, Eleuthera Grassi, and brothers Stockton and Henry. Smith’s mother, Margaret duPont Smith, preceded him in death.

A funeral Mass was held Aug. 17 at St. Katherine of Siena Church, 104 S. Aberdeen Ave. in Wayne. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be sent to Vox Ama Deus, P.O. Box 203, Gladwyne, PA 19035.

 

Edit: The initial post and print version of this story credited Ron Petrou as the author. That credit was a misunderstanding on our part. The author, Valerie Lynch, is Smith’s sister.

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