Suffolk University Acting President Marisa Kelly has announced a $3 million commitment to the University from Michael Smith, BSBA ’61, and Larry Smith, BSBA ’65 – the latest in the Smith brothers’ history of philanthropy to the University. The $3 million pledge brings their lifetime commitment to Suffolk to $5.2 million.
The gift will support athletics programs and facilities and student scholarships.
“This extraordinarily generous and important gift from Michael and Larry Smith will allow us to continue to enhance our strong focus on athletics, which are central to fostering community and leadership among our students,” Kelly said. “And, with their continuing support for student scholarships, the Smiths are helping students access an education that opens doors to exceptional opportunities. We are deeply grateful for the Smiths’ generosity and their longstanding commitment to this University.”
Kelly also announced that the University’s 150 Tremont St. residence hall will be renamed in honor of Michael Smith and Larry Smith, in recognition of that extraordinary history of philanthropy to the University. The residence hall opened in 1996 and houses more than 400 students in traditional rooms and suites. Nearly half of incoming new students live in this residence hall and enjoy its unparalleled views of the Boston Common and incredible access to the city.
Part of the Smiths’ latest gift will be used to fund construction of new locker rooms for the University’s growing number of student-athletes and new seating in its basketball gymnasium. It also will be used to build greater awareness for Suffolk athletics teams, including by wrapping a team bus with Ram graphics.
A portion of the gift will go to the continued funding of the Smiths' endowed scholarship, which was established in 1987 in memory of their friend, Pvt. Sheldon R. Cohen, who lost his life while serving in Vietnam. This scholarship offers financial assistance to Chelsea High School graduates who attend Suffolk University. Chelsea, Mass., is the Smiths’ hometown, and they are graduates of its high school.
Solid business foundation
“We have great confidence in Suffolk University, its students, and the upward direction of the University,” said Larry Smith, who was elected to the Suffolk Board of Trustees in October 2016. “The business education we received at Suffolk University gave us the tools we needed to start our own firms and to make them succeed, and we want to extend those opportunities to new generations of students.”
The Smiths founded the Brookfield Insurance Agency in 1962, a year after Michael Smith graduated and while Larry Smith was still a Suffolk student. It grew from a Brockton storefront to seven offices in Massachusetts before they sold it 18 years later. The Smiths then moved to Florida, where they cofounded the Nation Safe Drivers Group in Boca Raton. The company was sold to its employees in 2014 through an employee stock ownership plan, a trust that makes employees the beneficiaries.
Focus on athletics
“Athletics teaches students leadership, respect, and honor,” said Michael Smith, a longtime fan of Suffolk athletics. “Sports build character, and they build pride in the University. Suffolk has great student-athletes, and we want to help them attract even more. We’re proud to support Suffolk as it brings its athletics programs to higher levels.”
Larry Smith is a former Rams basketball player, and the two brothers are members of the Suffolk University Athletics Hall of Fame. Their past gifts enabled the creation of the Michael S. Smith & Larry E. Smith Fitness Center on campus, subsidized travel and uniform costs for Suffolk athletes, and supported the 20 Somerset academic building.
“Suffolk University will be more successful from a philanthropic perspective because of the leadership of Larry and Michael Smith,” said Bob Lamb, chairman of the Suffolk University Board of Trustees. “This major gift sends a strong signal of confidence in the future of this University to others who care deeply about Suffolk. Michael and Larry’s desire to make a difference at an institution that made a difference in their own lives is what Suffolk is all about, and we are exceedingly grateful for their generosity.”