Local Entrepreneur and Industrialist Leaves Nearly $29 Million to Five Worcester-area Organizations More Than 60 Years After his Death
October 28, 2015
Worcester, Mass. The estate of William Binns Smith, a local entrepreneur and 20th century industrialist who passed away in 1952, has left nearly $29 million to five Worcester-area organizations. With the recent passing of Smith’s last surviving daughter, the organizations—Children’s Friend, Inc. (formerly Worcester Children’s Friend Society); Eastern Orthodox Management Corporation (Holy Trinity Nursing and Rehabilitation Center); UMass Memorial Medical Center (formerly Memorial Hospital); Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Care Network; and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)—will receive the distribution of the remaining estate.
Smith, who was among the leading Worcester industrialists of the early 20th century, was dedicated to the community and was known as a civic leader and philanthropist. Born in Philadelphia, he moved to Worcester at a young age and graduated from Worcester’s South High School in 1904. He entered WPI as a member of the graduating Class of 1908 but left the school in 1907 to co-found, with his father, the James Smith & Son company, a manufacturer of textile machinery.
At the time of his death at age 62 at his home in Shrewsbury, Smith was president and treasurer of James Smith & Son; a director of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Worcester; and a trustee of Memorial Hospital (now UMass Memorial Medical Center). He had also served for more than 20 years as president and director of the Southwell Wool Combing Company of North Chelmsford, Mass., and was an investor in several other textile mills in the region. On a more personal level, Smith and his family were engaged with Children’s Friend, the VNA Care Network, and Eastern Orthodox Management Corporation through adoption and the care of elderly family members.
Applauding Smith’s decision to support numerous organizations across the city, WPI’s vice president for university advancement William McAvoy said, “Worcester is very fortunate to have such generous leaders in its community, past and present, who support the city’s educational and nonprofit institutions.”
“Gifts made through bequest designations are extremely important to non-profit organizations, as they help to respond to needs and challenges that impact people in the community,” said Jane Woodbury, vice president of fund development for VNA Care Network. “We are extremely grateful for this very generous gift that will go a long way towards helping the people in our communities.”
“Assistance to elderly people has long been the objective of the Washburn Fund,” said Ted Robbins, chair of the Washburn Fund of the Eastern Orthodox Management Corporation, the parent company of Holy Trinity Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Worcester. “This gift will give added opportunity to Holy Trinity Nursing to provide services to the elderly. We are most appreciative of this support for Holy Trinity’s work in the nursing and rehabilitation fields.”
The Washburn House, located at 1183 Main Street in Worcester, was founded by Ichabod Washburn, another very successful industrialist in the city (and a founder of WPI). Opened in 1869, it was known as the Home for Aged Females and was originally established through Washburn’s will as a home for “aged indigent unmarried females.” It was one of the earliest assisted living communities established in the country and, over time, provided services to many people, including men who needed support in their old age. It is believed that Smith had family members who used Washburn House as an assisted living facility in the mid-twentieth century.
According to Karen Ludington, president of Children’s Friend, Inc., the gift was the largest the organization has ever received. “We are touched and thrilled that the work our agency did many years ago to bring a family together has resulted in a contribution that will enable us to help so many more children grow into happy and stable adults in loving families,” she said. “It will strengthen our ability to provide all our services, including outpatient mental health at the Ellsworth Center, adoption services, our Carriage House grief support center, and our newly renovated early education and care program, The Children’s Friend Early Learning Center. I believe Mr. Smith would be proud of how his legacy will benefit children and families in our community.”
UMass Memorial Medical Center will receive nearly $10 million from the trust to establish a permanent fund, the income from which will be used to benefit patients at the medical center’s four Worcester campuses.
“On behalf of the physicians and staff at UMass Memorial Medical Center, I would like to express our deep gratitude to the William B. Smith Trust for this momentous gift that will positively impact our patients and their families for years to come,” said Patrick Muldoon, FACHE, president of UMass Memorial Medical Center. “In keeping with Mr. Smith’s wishes, the Medical Center will use the funds to support our palliative and end-of-life care, and explore additional opportunities that meet the needs of our patients and families in Central Massachusetts. The legacy of William B. Smith, a former member of the board of Memorial Hospital, continues at UMass Memorial Medical Center with this generous gift in support of our mission.”
Smith was a trustee at Memorial Hospital, which merged with the clinical system of the University of Massachusetts in 1998 to form UMass Memorial Medical Center. Today the medical center is a part of UMass Memorial Health Care, the leading health care system in Central Massachusetts. UMass Memorial Medical Center is also the area’s safety-net hospital and primary trauma center, and the largest employer in the city of Worcester.
At WPI, Smith’s gift of $7 million will provide funds for endowed professorships and endowed graduate fellowships; per Smith’s request, preference will be given in support of mechanical engineering.
“William Smith represents the ideal WPI graduate: interested and involved in the life of his alma mater, and someone who understood the importance of giving back,” said McAvoy. In 1949, WPI awarded Smith an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in recognition of his industrial and business leadership, citing his contributions to the development and manufacture of the Noble Comb, used in the textile industry to card wool in preparation for spinning into yarn. Smith contributed regularly to the school’s annual fund and was a lifelong season ticket holder to WPI sporting events. In the 1950s, Smith’s widow, Isabel Hood Smith, funded an electronic carillon, a musical instrument composed of bells that are played by keyboard; the carillon is housed in the tower of Alden Memorial on the WPI campus and is still played, several times a day.