Adell Y. Smith

Helping Others to “Dream Bigger”

By Carol Olechowski
Adell Smith poses for a photo wtih a UAlbany tote bag
  Neka Dyrmishi/HANYS

Adell Y. Smith often thinks about where life might have taken her had she “dreamed bigger” as a teenager. To help others “dream bigger,” she’s established an endowment at UAlbany’s School of Public Health (SPH).

Raised on a dairy farm in New York’s Hudson Valley, Smith graduated from high school in 1963, then attended Mildred Elley Secretarial School in Albany. She subsequently held high-level executive-secretarial positions at Conrail, New York State United Teachers, First Albany Corporation, Infosearch, and State Bank of Albany, as well as at the University at Albany, where she worked for about a year as assistant to O. William Perlmutter, then dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1988, she accepted a position with the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), where she is now an executive assistant.

“I’ve always wondered where I might have gone [professionally] if I had gotten additional education,” Smith says, adding that when she visits friends at hospitals now,
“I ask the nurses about their career aspirations.” Often, they respond by citing other financial obligations – child care, the need for a new car – that take precedence over setting aside money for their own schooling.

Last year, inspired by the appointment of M. Beatrice Grause, R.N., J.D., as the first female HANYS president in the association’s 90-year history, Smith pondered aloud, “What if there was an African-American version of Bea?” The notion, she recalls, “took on a life I never expected” as her colleagues cheered her idea of starting a scholarship endowment to support her first preference: African-American graduate students seeking to prepare for careers as leaders in healthcare policy, management, and administration. Grause herself told Smith, “I want in!” and HANYS made a matching donation.

Thus was born The Adell Y. Smith HANYS Healthcare Leadership Scholarship at SPH. Smith is eager to promote diversity within healthcare leadership, and she views the endowment as a great opportunity to impact the community positively. “I really feel blessed,” she says.

“I think God had a plan for me. It all fell into place.”