Ethel Mae Smeak

June 27, 1931September 7, 2021

Dr. Ethel Mae Smeak, 90, of Staunton, Virginia, passed away on September 7, 2021 at Augusta Heath Hospital in Fishersville, Va. Ethel was born in Greenville, South Carolina, to John Duffy Smeak and Theresa Hazel McIntosh Smeak on June 27, 1931. Ethel is preceded in death by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. John D. Smeak, her sister and brother-in-law, Hilma Ann Smeak Lamont and Colo. (USAF retired) Maximilian Lamont and her brother and sister-in-law John Milton and Georgia Knox Bailey Smeak. Ethel is survived by her nieces, Hilma Irene Lamont and her children, Adam Christopher Tambor and Heather Anne Kidd; Hannah Elizabeth Lamont and her husband, Dr. William Frederick Messner and daughter, Janet Marie Rawlinson Wright; Charlotte Rigby Smeak Verreault and her husband, John Francis Verreault lll and their children, Margaret Bailey Verreault; her nephew, John Milton Smeak, Jr. and his children Elizabeth Marshal Smeak and John Milton Smeak lll. She attended Greenville High School and graduated in 1953 from Mary Baldwin College (now University), where she served as President of the Student Government Association. She received her Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy Degrees in English Literature from Vanderbilt University. In 1965, after teaching at Greenbrier College in Lewisburg, West Virginia, and Madison College (now James Madison University) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, she joined the English Department at Mary Baldwin, where she taught until her retirement in 1995. Her specialty was Elizabethan and 17th Century poetry and drama. From 1974 to 1976 she served the College as Dean of Students, and in 1990, she was appointed to the Margaret Hunt Hill Distinguished Chair in the Humanities. She served as the American Director of the Virginia Program in Oxford, was a member of the Modern Language Association, served on the Executive Committee of the Virginia Province of the American Association of University Professors. Because of her outstanding service to Mary Baldwin, its students and alumni, she was named a Life Member of the Alumni Association. Ethel was quite a character; lively, witty, interesting and fun. She had many interest including tennis, theater, books, bridge and she traveled extensively through Europe (especially England and Italy). Her love for her Boston Terriers was legendary. She also loved her time on Sherwood Ave where she lived for many years until she moved to Baldwin Park. Ethel’s calling was teaching and she devoted her life to Mary Baldwin College and her beloved students. She never married, or had children of her own, but it can be said she had many that she taught and mentored through her life. She was a role model for all the women that came after her. She was a pioneer in the women’s movement and paved a way for all of her students by setting an example of what they could achieve. She fought for equal footing in the workplace and achieved her goals with patience and perseverance. She was also very involved and played a big part in the lives of her siblings and their families. She was there at every milestone, wedding, funeral or reunion. There were always gifts under the tree from “Aunt Ethel”. She always did her best to give to her brother and sister’s children her love and attention. We will miss her tremendously. The family of Ethel Smeak wishes to extend our sincere thanks to Ethel’s dear friends, Beverly S. Moran (Cheri), and her husband Philip Wesley Moran, who have been there for her in all facets of her life, Dr. James Lott who has visited and helped whenever asked, all the great staff at Baldwin Park, her assistant, Linda Frye for helping Ethel daily and being our eyes and ears through the last few months. Also, a special thanks to Dr. Patrick Baroco and Dr. Robert Ginsberg for calling and keeping us informed and all the wonderful nurses at Augusta Health Hospital. Due to the COVID pandemic, a memorial service will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts may be given to Mary Baldwin University. Relatives and friends may share condolences and memories with the family online by visiting


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Ethel Mae Smeak

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Hannah Byram

September 18, 2021

I was privileged to have met Ethel during her time at Baldwin Park. From the moment she arrived, I knew she would become someone very important to me. She came to be one of my best friends and my biggest cheerleader. One of my fondest memories is when Ethel asked to see me privately. I closed the door to my office and we talked when she began crying. She was so upset that I'd never went to college and felt that my intelligence was being "wasted". She wanted more for me. I was gobsmacked at her tears but eventually hugged her crying too. In 2019, I gave her my acceptance letter to Mary Baldwin University and yes there were more tears. I cried too the day I received the call of her passing. I wanted to see her just one more time to tell her how much I loved her and I do. I loved Ethel with all my heart and I'll carry her with me for the rest of my life. "To know her was to love her" they say and in Ethel's case they couldn't be more right. I'm so thankful she was in my life as long as she was and I'll be forever grateful for all our memories.

benjamin roe

September 18, 2021

We celebrate Ethel's life, and mourn the passing of one of the Heifetz Institute's most ardent supporters and concert attendees . Ethel was an intrepid attendee at Heifetz concerts, with a discerning ear to match her keen intellect. We're thankful for her presence, and for the wonderful fellow patrons who made the effort to bring her to our concerts!

Martha Mawson

September 11, 2021

Ethel was a cherished friend to my parents and then, as I grew up, she became my dear friend, too. She was also my teacher and mentor. As a professor, she recognised abilities in me that I didn’t recognise until she encouraged me to find them. I will forever be grateful for her presence in my life. I called her not long ago and we had a good long talk. I’m so glad we did. She was an amazing woman and I loved her dearly. Rest in peace, Ethel.