Robert Smail

Robert W. Smail, 88, died at his home in Manhattan, KS on February 15, 2015. Bob was born in Aberdeen, SD to Leola (LaSalle) and William C. Smail. He attended local schools, graduating from Aberdeen’s Central High School in 1945. In high school, he played the tuba and sousaphone in the band and was on the football and basketball teams. He joined the army on VE day, before his high school graduation (an American flag was placed on his empty chair), and he served for two years, mostly in Germany. After discharge he returned to Aberdeen and graduated from Northern State Teachers College (now Northern State University) in 1950. Later Bob would continue his education at the University of South Dakota (Vermillion), receiving a master’s degree in education in 1952 and a Doctor 0f Education degree in 1959, the first doctoral degree awarded by the University. Dr. Smail was selected to be the USAID fellow at the Center of International Affairs, Harvard University in 1971-72.

Bob’s entire career was in the field of education and human resources, beginning with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cheyenne River Reservation, SD, where he taught grades K-6 for 4 years at Iron Lighting Day School , a one-room school house. After earning his doctoral degree, he went to Clarion State College in Pennsylvania as Professor of Education and Director of the Laboratory School from 1959-1962.

In 1962 he joined the US Agency for International Development. With USAID, he managed and supervised contractual groups for all phases of education development and training programs in fields such as irrigation and agricultural development and public administration programs in seven countries. His first assignment was as Teacher Education Advisor in Cambodia from 1962 to 1964 where he developed the education program and physical specifications for a new teacher training college to be built at Siem Reap. Between 1964 and 1970, he worked closely with the governments of the Philippines, Mali, Liberia and Nigeria supervising USAID contractors in the fields of education, university development, public administration, and various agricultural and irrigation programs.

Following assignment in Washington D.C. where he was responsible for policy and programs for Human Resources Development in the African Region and following his time as a Fellow at Harvard, he served in Nepal (1972-73) where he supervised various development programs at Tribhuvan University and the establishment of a management program for the Office of the Prime minister. From Nepal, he went to Bangkok as Chief of Human Resources Development. In the Southeast Asian Regional Economic Development Office, he served as consultant to SEAMEO and was involved in several programs, including public administration and agricultural development projects in Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Returning to Washington, DC in 1978, he was Chief of the Office of Human Resources for the Latin American Bureau, overseeing program policy development in twenty countries in Latin America and the Caribbean until his retirement in 1980.

Following retirement, he consulted extensively on USAID and foreign development projects in several countries, including Indonesia, Grenada, Thailand, Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan. He also had short-term assignments including Education Officer for the Cuban-Haitian Boat Lift project at Ft. McCoy, WI and the worldwide evaluation of the World Scouting Movement. Dr. Smail’s strengths were in the areas of being able to see the “big picture” of a project’s development, identifying the key players, and devising appropriate training paths that would produce results. He worked well with both local and expatriate personnel. Mrs. Smail and their children accompanied him on his assignments.

Bob and wife Lois moved to Manhattan, KS in 1996 to be near their son’s family. They enjoyed many years of their grandchildren’s elementary, middle school, and high school activities. Bob was active in community services, including Bread Basket, Red Cross, Kiwanis, the Men’s Garden Club, and the Senior Center. He particularly enjoyed working with the Library of Congress Veterans’ Oral History Project. He was a voracious reader, an avid golfer, a gentle man, and a gentleman.

He is survived by his wife of over 66 years, Lois; two children, Robin Dietrich (married to Richard Dietrich, D.Min., Ph.D.) of Staunton, VA and Virgil Smail,Ph.D. (married to Nan) of Manhattan, KS; four grandchildren, Christopher Dietrich, Ph.D. (married to Veronica) and Nathanael Dietrich, and Robert Smail and Tyler Smail (married to Vera); and three great grandchildren.*

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