Michel Smyth and Lisa Martin-Smyth, center, joyously recount stories about their family's love for languages with UNT CLASS Executive Dean Albert Bimper and others.

Michel Smyth and Lisa Martin-Smyth, center, joyously recount stories about their family's love for languages with UNT CLASS Executive Dean Albert Bimper and others.

In the corridors of the University of North Texas (UNT), the name Smyth resonates not only for its profound influence on language education and leadership but also for the family's remarkable generosity. Dr. Philip N. Smyth, a stalwart in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, led UNT through an era of unprecedented growth and modernization, setting the stage for a legacy that would shape the university for generations to come.

The family’s love of language was evident in their home, where Dutch — Anny Smyth’s native language — is all that was spoken in an effort to keep their sons, Raoul and Michel, connected to their maternal grandparents from Belgium. From the very beginning, the family’s love of language and commitment to developing an appreciation of other cultures was evident.

Dr. Smyth's visionary leadership at UNT was not only marked by his tenure as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures from 1957 to 1974 but also by his enduring commitment to advancing language education. Under his stewardship, UNT's language programs experienced unprecedented growth and modernization, with initiatives ranging from expanding course offerings to increasing enrollment.

Dr. Smyth's advocacy for cross-cultural understanding permeated every aspect of the department, fostering an inclusive environment where students from all backgrounds could thrive. His dedication to equity was further exemplified by his efforts to ensure accessibility to language programs for all students. Even after stepping down as department chair, Dr. Smyth continued to contribute significantly to UNT's academic community, eventually earning emeritus status in recognition of his lifelong dedication to the university's mission and values.

Alongside him, Raoul and Michel, and their spouses Marcia and Lisa, left an indelible mark on UNT's landscape, each making significant contributions that reflect a shared commitment to excellence, service and philanthropy. Raoul Smyth’s presidency of the Student Association during a transformative period of social change provided invaluable leadership and advocacy, shaping the university's culture. Marcia Blackburn-Smyth demonstrated meticulous dedication as a student secretary for the department, primarily working with the French program, but others as well. And both Michel and Lisa Smyth worked in the language laboratory as undergraduate students, enhancing the educational experience for countless students. Together, their collective efforts played a vital role in the university's growth and success.

Beyond their professional endeavors, Michel Smyth and Lisa Martin-Smyths’ generosity has left a lasting mark on UNT. Through funding endowed chairs and scholarships, they have ensured that future generations of students have the resources and opportunities to pursue their academic passions and make a meaningful impact on the world. The Dr. Philip Smyth Endowed Chair in Spanish, the Smyth Family Endowed Chair in World Languages, the Dr. Phillip Smyth Endowed Scholarship in Spanish for Graduate Students and the Smyth Family Endowed Scholarship programs for Spanish and World Languages stand as enduring testaments to their commitment to UNT's language programs and its students.

As UNT continues to thrive and evolve, the Smyth family's legacy remains a guiding light, reminding us of the transformative power of education, leadership and philanthropy. Theirs is a story of resilience, determination and unwavering commitment — a story that continues to inspire and uplift the entire UNT community.