Recent graduate's connection to Smeal has deep roots

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- At this year’s Penn State Smeal College of Business commencement ceremony, one Smeal grad found out she had an even deeper connection to the college than she’d realized.

Charise McClure, a finance grad now working with Johnson & Johnson, was walking across the stage when her grandmother, Janet Beezer, leaned over to Charise’s mother Diane McClure — also a Penn State alumna — and said that she used to be a classmate of Frank Smeal, Smeal College’s namesake, at Penn State’s DuBois campus.

“He was so quiet in our classes together; I guess we didn’t recognize he was a genius. He turned out to be a real success story.”

Frank P. Smeal, who made numerous contributions to the University along with his wife, Mary Jean, made a generous gift to the business college in 1990 to form The Mary Jean and Frank P. Smeal College of Business.

At the time, the Smeals’ gift of the college was the largest individual donation in the University’s history. It created five endowed chairs as well as a separate endowment for program excellence. Smeal was also instrumental in creating the Goldman Sachs & Co. and Frank P. Smeal University Endowed Fellowship in Business Administration.

Smeal had a successful career on Wall Street, beginning at the Guaranty Trust Co., which later became part of Morgan Guaranty Trust. During his 30-year career with the Wall Street firm, he advanced to executive vice president and treasurer, and was instrumental in counseling New York City through its financial crises in the mid-1970s.

In 1977, Smeal left his post at Morgan Guaranty Trust for Goldman Sachs & Co., where he became partner and member of the company’s senior management committee, as well as managing director of the fixed-income department.

Smeal studied at the DuBois campus during interesting times, said Beezer. There during World War II, she remembers armed guards being stationed on a hill nearby the campus to watch for enemy airplanes.

She adds, “At night, we were supposed to have all our lights out, so we would put clothes over our light bulbs so we could still read.”

Beezer, who was born and raised in DuBois, shared a classroom with Smeal for English and psychology classes.

According to Beezer, though the men in those days typically dressed casually for class, Smeal wore a black suit, white shirt and black tie every day.

“He came from an exceptionally poor family,” said Beezer, “and he had to hitchhike every day from Sykesville to DuBois to get to class.”

Smeal’s dedication paid off. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Penn State’s main campus in 1942 and went on to earn an master of business administration from Harvard and a law degree from New York University.

“He was so quiet in our classes together; I guess we didn’t recognize he was a genius,” Beezer said with a laugh. “He turned out to be a real success story.”

After a year and a half at the DuBois campus, Beezer was issued a temporary emergency teacher certification to teach business education at Luthersburg High School. Her teaching career continued, first at public schools for six years, then onto the DuBois Business College; she then retired after 25 years of teaching. Beezer still resides in DuBois.

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Last Updated September 10, 2013