Apr 09, 2020
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A group of people, including Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, break gound on the Smittcamp Alumni House in 1998. Photo courtesy of University Communications

Earl Smittcamp: philanthropist, entrepreneur, Bulldog

A group of people, including Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, break gound on the Smittcamp Alumni House in 1998. Photo courtesy of University Communications

A group of people, including Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, break gound on the Smittcamp Alumni House in 1998. Photo courtesy of University Communications

Earl Smittcamp, an alumnus who established the foundation of the Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State, passed away early Monday morning at the age of 96.

Smittcamp and his late wife, Muriel, who passed away in 2009, were both alumni of Fresno State and eventually created the Smittcamp Family Honors College and Smittcamp Scholarship in 1997. They donated $2 million to the university to create the program along with land for the Smittcamp Alumni House.

The program, now in its 16th year, enrolls talented students from the community and gives them a full four-year scholarship toward housing and tuition. Although part of Fresno State’s curriculum, Smittcamp students are in more specific and challenging courses than regular classes on campus.

“Without the scholarship program started by Earl Smittcamp, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” said April Cruz, a 2012 alumna in the business administration department who currently works at one of the largest accounting firms in the Bay Area.

“The kindness and generosity of Mr. Smittcamp and his family has provided me and countless other students with the opportunity to pursue a degree in higher education, as well as instill in me a desire to give back to the community,” Cruz said.

Jacquelyn Glasener, executive director of the Fresno State Alumni Association, said the construction of the Smittcamp Alumni House was one of the most defining moments of the association’s history.

“Earl and Muriel Smittcamp’s generous gift, coupled with additional private donations, led to building a beautiful on-campus presence for our 200,000 alumni,” she said. “The transformation it created for the alumni association has been remarkable to this day.”

Besides Smittcamp’s substantial contribution to the campus, he was also a business entrepreneur. After graduating from Fresno State in 1939, Smittcamp went on and founded Wawona Foods, an agricultural operation that grew into a multifaceted company in food processing and frozen packaging. He also attempted to run for public office.

“Although both he and Muriel were very busy people, they always found ways to help the people in Fresno and its surrounding communities, in general, and Fresno State students, in particular,” said Dr. Saheed Attar, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College. “It was an honor and a privilege for me to have met the Smittcamps on many occasions,” he added.

“Earl and Muriel Smittcamp touched countless lives in the Valley and beyond and changed them forever in the most positive way.  Today, as we remember them with fondness, we celebrate their lives and great contributions to the Smittcamp Family Honors College and to our community,” Attar said.

Earl Smittcamp is survived by two sons, Bob and Bill Smittcamp; daughters Carol Copeland and Betsy Kimball; 14 grandchildren; and 24 great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 12168 N. Willow Ave., Clovis.

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