Dr. Greg Smith 1955-2014
Dr. Gregory James Smith, 58, passed away on April 11, 2014, while on business in Beijing, China. Greg was working in China on the effects of avian influenza and the effects of global climate change. He will be greatly missed by his wife, Kathy Hart, with whom he spent 26 wonderful years of marriage together. Both Greg and Kathy were born and raised in Marquette, Michigan, where they attended the same schools. Together they raised two children, Jennifer Lynn Hart Chander and Andrew Gregory Hart Smith. Jennifer and Suneil Chander gave Greg his first grandson Bennett Gregory Hart Chander.
Born November 6, 1955, in Marquette, Greg had an active childhood and fondly remembered attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. He was the president of his high school class and was a member of a popular jazz band in his youth.
Greg loved the sea and was an avid sailor, building boats and chartering trips around the Caribbean during his college days. Greg continued this love throughout his life, racing sailboats in the Chesapeake Bay and around the world. He shared his love of the sea with his family, getting married to Kathy on their boat and spending weekends with his children on the water.
Greg enrolled in Northern Michigan University and received his bachelor’s in biology in 1978. He went on to obtain his master’s in wildlife ecology and Ph.D. in wildlife ecology and veterinary science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1984. Greg’s passion for the environment directed his entire career path.
Having more than 35 years of ecological research and management experience, Greg spearheaded many environmental initiatives. His career began with post-doctoral studies at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and came full circle when he became the director at Patuxent in 2009. During his career he was also appointed director of the National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana, in 2004 and the Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1996, making him the first person to direct three different U.S. Geological Survey centers.
He felt privileged to work in partnership with scientists and friends in Russia and Southeast Asia. He was particularly proud of projects on the Mekong River and his relationships with the many partners who live and work there. Greg was honored to serve on the board of the National Wildlife Federation and devoted time and energy to the mission of his beloved organization.
In his first year as director of the National Wetlands Research Center, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Greg rushed to action, using the center’s boats as life-saving vessels for New Orleans victims, personally rescuing families in dire trouble during the aftermath. For these efforts, his team was awarded the Service to America Medal, by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service to honor excellence in federal civil service.
Greg not only had a passion for his work, but also a passion for life. During his time he travelled to over 65 countries, making friends and adventure with every step. From hiking through the Tibetan Himalayas to diving the oceans to treks through jungles and savannahs, Greg lived life to the utmost. His love of life led him to look to his heritage, reconnecting with his Scottish past and relatives. Greg loved to visit his family and son who studied in Scotland. Even in the past year he took his wife and sister-in-law, Claudia Hart, to the nation he loved.
He was gregarious in both name and life. He meant so much to so many and the number of lives he touched spans the world. Greg is survived by his wife, Kathy; daughter and son-in-law, Jenn and Suneil Chander; son, Andrew; grandson, Bennett Gregory; mother-in-law, Barbara Hart; and lifelong friend Ben Pagac. He was preceded in death by his father, James Smith and father-in-law William Hart.