Catawba College formally recognized the many contributions of Dean Smith by awarding him an honorary doctorate during its graduation exercises in May of 1985. Smith received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Catawba during that ceremony.
Longtime Catawba employee Curtis Montgomery remembers the occasion and shared his memory after Smith’s death on Feb. 7, 2015. Montgomery, who served for many years as Catawba’s registrar, before retiring in 1992 as director of elementary education, noted Smith’s passing by locating the citation he read at that commencement exercise and a photograph of Smith with Montgomery and Montgomery’s wife, Polly.
The May 12, 1985 citation reads:
I have the distinct honor to present for the degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, Dean Edwards Smith.
Dean Smith, as Head Basketball Coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the past 24 years, has established records, set precedents, and created standards of personal and professional conduct which will be lauded by fans and envied by colleagues for many years to come.
A native of Emporia, Kansas, he played intercollegiate basketball for the University of Kansas and was a member of the Jayhawks’ 1952 National Championship Team. After completing his studies with a mathematics and physical education major, Dean Smith served in the U.S. Air Force and was an assistant coach at the Air Force Academy before coming to North Carolina in 1958 as an assistant to Frank McGuire. Three years later, he was named Head Coach and his destiny began to take shape.
At Carolina, he has established a tradition of winning, but not one of “win at all costs.” It is more of winning with an individual’s and a team’s professional attitude and dignity intact. It is to win and “keep your head while those around you are losing theirs.” And when losses come, it is to lose with that same attitude and dignity.
Dean Smith has developed a program to which young men are drawn because it is an environment in which they can excel, are physically and mentally stretched to new heights of achievement, to new levels of personal ability and emotional development. It is for his humanity, his devotion to those qualities and actions which are best for his players and the team, for that concern and caring attitude which marks his program as unique, for demonstrating that in the hectic and pressure-filled world of intercollegiate basketball with all of its national and international attention, there is dignity, and that elusive quality called “class.” It is for these reasons that Catawba College wishes to bestow upon Dean Edwards Smith the honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.