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Columbia Missourian

Ernest Thomas Smerdon devoted life to education, global environmental issues

By Joyce Peng
August 15, 2014 | 5:39 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Dr. Ernest "Ernie" Thomas Smerdon, of Tucson, Ariz., died Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. He was 84.

He was born Jan. 19, 1930, and raised on a farm in Ritchey, Mo. He married Joanne Duck.

Mr. Smerdon was committed to advances in higher education and engineering, and he strove to advance environmental causes. He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in engineering from MU, and served in the Air Force for four years between his bachelor's and master's degrees. He also earned the honorary degree of Doctor of Science for Distinguished Service in Engineering from MU .

He spearheaded research that tackled water and environmental global issues and worked at Texas A&M, the University of Florida, the University of Texas and the University of Arizona. He was Vice Provost and Dean of Engineering at the University of Arizona and Vice-Chancellor for the University of Texas System in Austin. He was also a senior education associate in the Engineering Doctorate of the National Science Foundation.

Various professional organizations honored and recognized Mr. Smerdon. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) gave him its highest award and he served as president of the organization. The National Academy of Engineering elected him, and he earned the OPAL Lifetime Achievement Award for Education from the American Society of Civil Engineers. He was also named engineer of the year by both the Arizona and Florida professional engineering societies.

The University of Arizona also named an academic center after him.

Mr. Smerdon's family and friends loved and respected him, and his values of family, hard work and dedication will leave a long-lasting legacy.

Mr. Smerdon is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joanne Duck Smerdon; three children, Tom, Kathy and Gary; sister and brother; his son-in-law and daughters-in-law, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He donated his body toward education and research to the University of Arizona Medical School.

A memorial celebrating his life will be in Tuscon, Ariz. 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 scholarship's website: