Gift from Skip Smith and sons to create Bird Garden in Arboretum

June 13, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Charles H. “Skip” Smith, the Penn State alumnus and philanthropist whose giving has fueled the creation and supported the growth of The Arboretum at Penn State, has made a major new gift to enrich this University resource. Smith and his sons, David, Jeffry and John, have committed more than $1.8 million to launch construction of the Bird Garden in the Arboretum, which will be designed to attract birds year-round and educate the Arboretum’s many visitors.

“This commitment from Skip and his sons, David, Jeffry and John, is an inspiring illustration of how philanthropy can quite literally transform the landscape of our campus,” said O. Richard Bundy III, vice president for development and alumni relations. “It is particularly inspiring to see Skip’s sons build on the legacy Skip has created as a champion of the Arboretum and everything this resource embodies, from natural beauty to cutting-edge research.”

To attract feathered visitors, the Bird Garden will feature bird-friendly plants, feeders, nesting boxes, water sources for drinking and bathing, and much more. For bird watchers, the garden will feature a roofed pavilion with a quiet, intimate view for relaxation.

“With the Bird Garden we hope to create a highly aesthetic garden setting that is purposefully designed to provide nesting habitats and a source of fruits, seeds, insects, and water as nourishment for birds,” said Kim Steiner, director of the Arboretum and professor of forest biology. “I am deeply grateful to Skip and his sons, David, Jeffry and John, for enabling us to create this beautiful and enriching addition to the Arboretum.”

Construction of the Bird Garden is expected to begin in 2019.

A resident of State College, Skip Smith is the son of Harry O. “H.O.” Smith, who graduated from Penn State in 1918 with a degree in architectural engineering. In 1851, H.O Smith incorporated his construction, real estate development, and rental company into H.O. Smith & Sons Inc. After Skip Smith graduated from Penn State in 1948 with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering, he worked at his father’s company along with his brothers and fellow Penn State graduates James B. Smith (class of 1950) and Thomas L. Smith (class of 1954). In 1950, Skip Smith founded State College Television Co., which is now known as State College Audio-Visual Supply and is owned by one of his sons, John Smith. In addition to his sustained and significant support for the Arboretum, Skip Smith has given $5 million to support brain repair research in the Eberly College of Science. He stands among the most generous donors in Penn State’s history.

“With spring in full bloom and summer approaching, the Arboretum is showcasing the beauty and life of the season,” said Skip Smith. “It's fun to play a role in creating such a wonderful haven for birds, bees, plants and trees — all of which make central Pennsylvania a great place to call home. Dave, Jeff, John and I are pleased to be a part of something so special.”

The Arboretum is continuing to seek gifts from alumni and friends who wish to name a space within the Bird Garden. To discuss how you can become involved, contact Patrick Williams, director of development for the Arboretum, at or 814-865-0441.

This gift from Skip, David, Jeffry and John Smith will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

  • A photo of Skip Smith with his sons

    Pictured from left to right: David Smith, Brad Smith (Skip Smith's grandson and Jeffry Smith's son), Skip Smith, John Smith, and Jeffry Smith. 

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated June 27, 2018