One of the enjoyable things about working on a college campus is the energy that emanates from the various activities surrounding a college football game. This weekend is another example with numerous events adding to the campus atmosphere as Arkansas prepares to take on Southern Mississippi at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday morning.
On Thursday, a campus landmark, Vol Walker Hall, will be re-dedicated and as will the new Steven L. Anderson Design Center. On Friday night, Arkansas native and country music star Justin Moore will help kickoff Family Weekend at the University of Arkansas campus with a free concert on campus.
However, the signature special event of the weekend, at least as it relates to Razorback Athletics, will be on Friday evening just south of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Fred W. Smith Football Center, the new home of Razorback Football will be dedicated. The $40 million dollar facility is the first major project of the Razorback Athletic Facilities Master Plan.
By now the name Fred W. Smith is familiar to most Razorback fans. Smith was a longtime CEO of Donrey Media, a media conglomerate, and now serves as the chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The Reynolds Foundation made a gift of $21 million to expand what was prior to 2001 simply Razorback Stadium. Most recently, under Smith’s leadership, the Donald W .Reynolds Foundation made a $10 million challenge grant to jump start support for the now completed football center bearing his name.
Smith will be in Fayetteville this weekend surrounded by family members including his son Wes, daughter Debby and grandchildren Katie and Geoffrey. Katie is a freshman at the University of Arkansas, something that would have made this weekend extra special for the biggest Razorback fan in the Smith family.
To say the late Mary Smith loved the Razorbacks would be like saying Frank Broyles has just a touch of a Georgia drawl. In both cases, the reality is a lot more pronounced.
Fred and Mary Smith met for the first time in Fort Smith in 1960. The couple married and spent nearly 49 years together spending time in Oklahoma and Arkansas before finally landing in Las Vegas where they raised their family.
Mary was known for owning easily one of the world’s largest pig collections. While no one can pinpoint exactly when and where her extensive collection began, there is no questioning Mary’s zeal for collecting all things swine. From figurines to statues, bath towel holders to commissioned Razorback art, few if any collections can even come close to rivaling the full complement or diversity of the collectables.
After Mary passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 2, 2010, family members who had traveled to Memphis to watch the Razorbacks play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl instead boarded a flight home to grieve the loss of the irreplaceable matriarch of the family. Even in the depths of their grief, the Smiths found comfort in their memories of Mary and her love of family and the Razorbacks.
Shortly after her passing, Fred asked their grandchildren to compile an official tally of her pig collection. By the time the count was complete, more than 1,416 Razorback or pig collectables had been accounted for, including 703 alone in the couple’s primary residence in Las Vegas.
The crown jewel of Mary’s extraordinary collection, however, was always her Christmas tree adorned with Razorbacks. In a tradition that spanned more than 20 years, Mary meticulously placed each pig ornament in its assigned place often performing the task single handedly.
But to Mary the Razorbacks were more than just a collecting hobby. It was something that brought the family together. Games on television were opportunities to spend time with family and friends and enjoy each other’s company that is as long as you abided by a few non-negotiable rules. You see if you were at one of Mary’s watch parties and were sitting or standing somewhere when the Razorbacks scored a touchdown, you better hope you were comfortable. If the Razorbacks scored, you didn’t move. Those were the rules.
Mary wore her allegiance on her sleeve and was known to "Call the Hogs," just about anywhere. In fact, she once started the signature call in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. She was unabashed about her love for two things – the Razorbacks and her family.
So as this special weekend begins to unfold, including the dedication of the Fred W. Smith Football Center, there is no question that Mary Smith will be on the minds of many. After all, this is the type of Razorback weekend she would have treasured.
Razorback Road is a weekly column published on Thursdays by Associate Athletic Director for Public Relations Kevin Trainor. Trainor is a graduate of the University of Arkansas and has worked for Razorback Athletics for more than 20 years.