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Giving a Spark

Retired electrical contractor and wife supporting scholarships, illuminating athletics

DL and Suzy Smith

From Athletics Spotlight - Fall 2019

DL Smith believes an athletic department is the window to a university through which most people see. He and his wife, Suzy, are proud to support Washburn student-athletes and enhance the visibility and pride Washburn Athletics brings.

“If indeed I’m going to advocate for the University, then I'll strengthen the program that helps bring some of those people to the University,” DL said. “We, as friends of the University – and I'm also a trustee – think it's our responsibility to advocate for Washburn. Supporting athletics is one effective way we could advocate for the University and try to enhance what they can provide for generations to come to young folks getting higher education.”

DL attended Washburn in the 1960s and was going to transfer to Kansas State University to get an engineering degree when the chance to take over an electrical business arose. He turned that opportunity into DL Smith Electrical Construction in 1972 and was owner and president for 32 years. He never forgot his time at Washburn and the experiences and relationships he built as a student and member of Phi Delta Theta.

Since retiring from the business, he and Suzy have grown even closer to Washburn. This year, DL received the Washburn Alumni Association Honorary Ichabod Award and he and Suzy were named the Ichabod Club People of the Year.

“Suzy loves basketball, and we’ve had great times here with Coach (Bob) Chipman and now Brett Ballard following the team,” he said.

Their attention has turned more toward football since their grandson, Austen Hubert, started playing. He’s now a senior wide receiver.

“That has really encouraged us to be involved and participate with time, talent and treasure to support the University,” Smith said.

They support both the Excellence in Athletics fund and the Ichabod Athletics Scholarship Fund with annual gifts. They have also supported individual teams and are regular attendees of athletics, alumni and donor events.

His connection to the electrical industry also sparked the creation of a scholarship for students seeking technical certificates and then a college degree. Smith said highly trained employees were the lifeblood of his business and still are in the industry. He has seen the kind of training Washburn University Institute of Technology offers in electrical systems installations and other fields, and he knows how critical it is to continue.

When he and Suzy heard about a Washburn Tech graduate who went on to get an associate’s degree and eventually a law degree, they were inspired to help other students bridge their technical education with a university degree. In 2013, they created the DL and Suzy Smith Scholarship Fund for Washburn Tech students pursuing an associate’s degree.

“We thought we could help at least somebody take that next step,” he said. “Maybe they can't take the step into college right out of high school, but they wanted to learn a trade or something. Maybe it will eventually become a full degree at some point in time.”

If athletics are the window to a university, the Smiths are providing a spark that brightens the entire structure.

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