Ernest Thomas Smerdon, Jan. 1, 1930 — Aug. 11, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014 | 5:46 p.m. CDT

Dr. Ernest Thomas Smerdon “Ernie”, age 84, of Tucson, Arizona died August 11, 2014 at the Cleveland Clinic due to heart disease. His dedication and significant contributions to higher education and global environmental issues is widely recognized and will be missed.  Ernie was proud of his country heritage having been raised on a farm in Ritchey, Missouri.  He went on to receive four Degrees from the University of Missouri in Columbia, including the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science for Distinguished Service in Engineering.

Ernie dedicated his life to continued improvement in higher education and engineering. He graduated from the University of Missouri with B.S. in Engineering in 1951 and immediately served four years in the Air Force. Afterwards, he returned to his alma mater for his M.S. and Ph.D. in Engineering.  Ernie pioneered research to address critical global issues in the areas of water and the environment.  During his career he worked at Texas A&M, the University of Florida, the University of Texas, and then the University of Arizona. He held numerous senior positions including Vice Provost and Dean of Engineering at the University of Arizona, Vice-Chancellor for the University of Texas System in Austin and Senior Education Associate in the Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation. 

Ernie received many professional honors. He was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Engineering and served as President of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Both Arizona and Florida professional engineering societies named him as Engineer of the Year.  The University of Arizona established the Ernest T. Smerdon Academic Center. He received the highest award from ASEE and was also recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers with the OPAL Lifetime Achievement Award for Education.

Ernie was well loved and respected by his family and friends. His strong focus on family and life-long values of hard work and dedication leave a legacy that will continue.  His loving wife of 63 years, Joanne Duck Smerdon and three children, Tom, Kathy and Gary, survive him. He is also survived by his son and daughter-in-laws, ten grandchildren, two great grandchildren, sister and brother.

As his final gift to education, Ernest donated his body to the University of Arizona Medical School for education and research. His life will be celebrated at a Memorial in Tucson Arizona this Fall. 

Donations can be made in his memory to the Ernest and Joanne Smerdon Endowed Scholarship to support outstanding undergraduate students at the University of Arizona College of Engineering. Details can be found on the website

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