Stephanie Smith, a three-time Colorado State University alumna of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, had a lifelong passion for healthy living and nutrition. Tragically, Smith’s life was cut short when she passed away from cancer. But her incredible passion for nutrition and her positive impact on colleagues and students at CSU is being memorialized in a scholarship for nutrition students sponsored by her parents, Carl and Laine Smith.
Finding a passion for nutrition
When it was time to embark on her college career, Smith quickly set her sights on CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.
Between 1985 and 2015, Smith earned a B.A. in nutrition and food science (1989), her M.S. in nutrition and exercise science (1993) and her Ph.D. in community nutrition (2015). During her undergraduate years, Smith took a Nutrition and Lifecycle class from now retired Professor Mary Harris. Harris and Smith became fast friends, and Harris encouraged Smith to pursue a graduate degree in nutrition. While in graduate school, Harris was Smith’s academic adviser, and she helped Smith secure an internship at the Western Dairy Council. Smith was a highly valued intern. After graduating with her master’s, she was offered a full-time position as their nutrition communicator. As a Western Dairy Council employee, Smith remained a strong advocate for CSU nutrition students and took on several students as dietetic interns.
After several years at Western Dairy, Smith was promoted to the National Dairy Council in Chicago. In this new role, she helped develop a nutrition and weight management program for children sponsored by the National Football League. The program was called “Fuel up to Play 60,” and her nutrition curriculum is still used today.
Following her time at the National Dairy Council, Smith decided to come back to CSU to pursue her Ph.D. in community nutrition. Smith’s dissertation project “Eat Well to Excel” revolved around improving the food choices and nutrition education of school-aged children. After Smith completed her Ph.D. studies, she became an assistant professor in the College of Natural and Health Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado.
Although Smith was only on the UNC faculty for two years, she made a huge impact. She had a true passion for teaching and was deeply dedicated to her students. Smith’s former students describe her as being an excellent teacher who was a leader in her field, always prepared, approachable, and kind.
When reflecting on their daughter’s time in the classroom, Carl and Laine Smith explained “Stephanie loved to teach. Her job as a professor at UNC was her dream. When she realized that medical science could do no more for her, she said that her greatest regret was that she didn’t get to teach longer.”
After a valiant battle with cancer, Smith passed away peacefully in April 2019 surrounded by her husband, family, friends, and loved ones. As a way to honor and celebrate Smith’s incredible life, career and impact, her parents, Carl and Laine Smith, created a new endowed scholarship fund at CSU – the Stephanie Smith Memorial Scholarship in Food Science and Human Nutrition. “Our family hopes that this scholarship will enable other students to realize their dreams and have a career that they love as much as Stephanie loved hers,” the Smiths said. The scholarship is meant to support undergraduate (sophomore or higher) or graduate students studying nutrition, who are Colorado residents, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
As Smith’s long-time friend and mentor, Harris was incredibly moved when she learned about the new scholarship.
“I am thrilled that this scholarship in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition will honor Stephanie, my dear friend and one of the most passionate nutrition educators I have had the privilege to know,” she said. “Her charm and wit and creativity are very much missed. Not a week goes by that I’m not reminded of her in some way, and I am so thankful to Laine and Carl Smith for establishing a scholarship as a lasting memorial to her contributions to our students, the community, and the profession.”