By Veronica Craker
Garry Rodney Smith was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed camping, hiking, hunting and fishing. He especially loved taking his bike out for a ride. The NNU alum graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. His love for both the physical and intellectual makes it fitting that a bench dedicated in his name sits outside the Thomas Family Health & Science Center next to the bike racks.
“It’s beautiful,” Anne Smith, Garry’s widow, said during a dedication ceremony in September. “He loved to bike, so it’s perfect by the bike rack and grass—it’s him.”
After Garry graduated from NNC, he met his wife Anne and lived in western Washington where he worked in the tech industry and raised three children, Caleb, Christian and Halle.
Garry’s bench was dedicated during a ceremony that also honored the late John E. Riley with a plaque nestled next to a Ponderosa Pine tree and Pastor Wendell Smith with another bench.
Born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1950, Wendell majored in Theology at NNC and graduated in 1972. NNC is also where he met his wife Virginia. Wendell pastored across the Pacific Northwest, ultimately planting a church in Seattle in the 1990s. The church grew significantly with 6,000 members attending one of several campuses in the area. In addition to being a beloved pastor, he was also an author who penned a number of books including “Great Faith” and “Prosperity with a Purpose.”
Wendell’s bench is located south of the Leah Peterson Learning Commons. The location is fitting, as Virginia once worked in the NNU Library.
“Wendell Smith is still pointing people to Jesus,” Joel Pearsall, NNU president, said.
“Loving and serving others was always a priority for Wendell,” Amy Shingler, associate director of legacy gifts, said during the dedication ceremony. “He was a gifted preacher and teacher, but what drew people to him was the way he cared for and about each individual.”
The benches that honor these two men are part of a memorial project designed to help supporters partner with NNU in a way that honors their loved one while simultaneously supporting the university and students.
“These benches create a tangible upgrade to our campus. They remind us of individuals who have impacted our university, personal lives, and community as a whole,” said Mark Wheeler, vice president for external relations. “They enhance the landscape of our campus as well as add a depth of remembrance.”
The funds for the benches cover the cost of the bench construction and installation. Any additional funds that are unused go toward the Profound Needs Scholarship to help students in need achieve their academic aspirations.
Anyone interested in partnering with NNU by sponsoring a bench can contact the University Advancement Office at 208-467-8423.