J. Walter Smith is such an integral part of Glendale Community College a building was named after him-- the very building that houses the Athletic Hall of Fame.
Walt was born in Taft, California in 1920. He was a student at Glendale College in 1939 and also attended Santa Ana Junior College.
He earned a bachelor's and master's degrees at USC where he was admitted on a track scholarship. While at USC he became a two time national champion in the 400-meter hurdles. He was made an Amateur Athletic Union Selection for the All-America Track and Field Team in 1942 and again in 1947.
He served his country as a paratrooper instructor in the United States Army Airborne Division from 1943 to 1946.
He returned to Glendale College to teach and coach track in 1947. The man who would later be referred to as "Mr. Glendale College" was vice principal at Glendale High School for a year and then became Dean of Men and Student Activities in 1955. People often referred to him as "Dean Smith" as if dean were his first name. He was Dean Smith through a few decades and all the cultural and political changes that came along until his retirement in 1992.
He had accomplishments outside GCC as well. Walt served as an Olympic track and field judge and was named Track Official of the Year in 1993. He was the chief track recall starter during the 1984 Olympics.
Jeff Prugh, a former executive editor at the Glendale News Press wrote a 1992 editorial praising Walt in which he said, "Walt Smith has been a fixture at GCC for so long you'd think they would make his life story a required course of study. He's a dean for all students, for all seasons."
The J. Walter Smith Student Center earned its name because Walt was so instrumental in making the building project possible. Because of his management of the funds generated by students for more than 35 years, the Associated Students were able to pay $1.5 million of the Student Center's $4 million price tag with the rest coming in annual payments from Bookstore proceeds. The center was completed last year with a dedication ceremony held to honor the retired dean. Among the more than 500 in attendance were many of the previous presidents of the Associated Students.
Walt now resides in San Clemente with his wife Doris.