Dr. Harold Morrison Smith
         1888 – 1971

BMI - President and Headmaster

         1932 – 1968


People from the outside called him the “dean of secondary school educators in NJ” and “a living legend” known for “distinguished educational leadership and public service,” but BMI cadets remember Harold Morrison Smith more fundamentally as the teacher, counselor, dean, headmaster, and father figure who saw their potential, showed them the importance of education, and gave them a future. And that, perhaps, is the greatest compliment that could be paid a man who retired at age 80 after 63 years teaching and guiding young people to become decent, God fearing, and productive citizens. Thirty-six of those years were spent at BMI, where he began his tenure in 1932 as dean and retired in 1968 as president and headmaster. Acutely aware of how his own life had been shaped by teachers in settings ranging from a one-room New Hampshire schoolhouse to the hallowed classrooms of his undergraduate and graduate institutions, Bates College and Teachers College at Columbia University, he viewed as his educational mission not so much to transmit book learning as to convey what had been taught to him—to lead by example and live on in the lives of his students. Along the way, he became an avid champion of military schools. For many cadets in Bordentown, he was the embodiment of all that Bordentown Military Institute stood for.

Dr. Smith’s influence was not confined to
BMI, however, nor was his life circumscribed by his duties as a school head. His unique, almost magical personality, his ready wit juxtaposed with profound wisdom, the twinkle in his eye that signaled the start of another limerick tripping from his agile tongue, the pranks pulled in order to teach a lesson (witness the occasion when a returning AWOL cadet found the dean asleep in his dormitory bed) all belied what, at times, could be a stern, unyielding personality when confronted with an act of dishonesty or ungentlemanly behavior. But Dr. Smith’s firmness was also balanced by untold compassion and his influence enhanced by prodigious knowledge. How could students or others not be awed and captivated by his ability effortlessly to quote Milton, Shakespeare, or Keats? Or to launch into his interpretation of the Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington? Or to provide a detailed background of a Chippendale chair, gold Spanish doubloon, silver tankard, scrimshawed whale’s tooth, Indian arrowhead, or distinctly crafted pitcher of South Jersey glass?


Dr. Smith’s talents and passions did not end with his many extensive collections, however. He was also a compelling storyteller and a highly sought-after public speaker. Deeply committed to his faith, he was active in his church as well as in numerous academic and service organizations and the Masonic community, which had granted him the venerated 33rd degree. Above all, he was devoted to his family and his “boys.” Although recognition came during his life in various forms, including receipt of three honorary doctoral degrees, his greatest rewards were derived from the students whose lives he helped mold. “The career of a schoolmaster has not been for me an easy life,” he once wrote. “But…the constant satisfaction of seeing many young people grow in achievement and, subsequently, into mature strength and good citizenship, makes me feel beyond any doubt that if I had to do it all over again, I would still be a schoolmaster.” He believed that “happiness comes when you know that the best attributes of your heart and mind can go on living in your pupils long after you are dead.” He must have found happiness, for his spirit permeates the lives of hundreds of productive, upstanding, caring, and grateful graduates.


Jeanette Smith Cureton, granddaughter




Eulogy at the Memorial Service



Saturday, January 11, 1972

First Baptist Church of Bordentown


This morning as I was trying to get my thoughts in order, I gradually came to the conclusion that I would come here today to participate in an act of audacity.  Audacity, because it is audacious in the extreme for me, Eugene Guazzo, M.D., sometime country doctor, one time student at Bordentown, to have the temerity to say a few words about the life of Harold Morrison Smith.


I am reminded of a chapel talk by Dean Smith some twenty-five years ago in which he admonished us to do those things which we fear.  In so doing, whether we won or failed, he said we would build character.  I listened to him that day, wrestling with an urge and a fear.  I wanted to enter the annual forensic competitions but was scared.  I had never spoken before people; I was terrified at the thought.  But I did what he said to do and won top honors.  Later, when I proudly walked to the podium to accept the Isaac Barclay Thorn medal, I wondered if he knew that he was talking to me that day in the chapel.  Of course, he was talking to us all.


He said one time, "Gene, no matter who you are, where you are, what you are, always be mindful of what you say and the manner in which you behave because everyone to someone is a beacon."


Harold Morrison Smith was my beacon.  I say this unabashedly.  Now, in one sense, his light is out.  But until my beacon is out, his is the light that I shall always remember and by which I shall be guided.


Dean Smith, thank God I said it to you while you were alive.  And now I say it to you again.  Thank you for that light; thank you from the bottom of my heart.


                                                                                                Eugene Guazzo, M.D.

                                                                                                Class of 1947




Dr. Harold Morrison Smith
         1888 – 1971



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