Beth Singer and Howard Smith

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Beth Singer and Howard Smith aren’t RIT alumni, but in the four years since their son, Lee Smith BS ’24, BS ’24, began his undergraduate studies, they have become closely intertwined with the university's students, faculty, and staff. 

“We were impressed with RIT from day one,” comments Howard and Beth. “When there were only a few days left to select which college Lee would attend, we asked the Admissions department to let Lee know why they felt it was such a good fit. They really understood what Lee was about from his application and arranged to have students and professors reach out to him in response to our requests that were narrowly threaded to his interests. That made a huge difference.”

Beth and Howard remember visiting the campus for the first time. Lee was very interested in finding a unique college landscape that would promote flexibility and creativity, and the family was assured that Lee would have an opportunity to invent his own major. This helped steer all three of them toward RIT. As Lee began coursework and participating in programs toward his degree, Beth and Howard started to develop relationships within the university with faculty, staff, administration, and students. Working as student mentors, Beth and Howard have hosted several co-op students at their marketing and design agency, Beth Singer Design, and have guest-lectured in RIT classes three times. They joined the Sentinel Society in 2022 to support students' academic journey and pay forward their experiences. 

“The biggest reason we choose to give back to RIT is everything they have done for our son. We feel like it’s the least we can do to have alumni and parents for dinner, host students in our office, and come to Rochester and lecture. It’s an honor to talk to these bright, intelligent, exciting students about their lives and their work, to really feel like a part of this, and to be able to contribute to the future and the college going forward. We have felt so welcomed by RIT on all fronts. We feel very much a part of the RIT community,” comments Howard. 

Beth adds, “We would like to see our Sentinel gift help foster the innovation and collaboration that takes place everywhere here. RIT is a place of breakthroughs. When we come up here, being around the students is very exciting. Giving back, inspiring them, and providing them with insights and ideas they can take into their careers—into their future—makes you feel really special…and excited for them.”

Howard and Beth also hope to engage other students’ parents and build a sense of community and communication for others. 

“It’s emotional for parents when your child is going to college. You want to make sure they are in the right environment and thriving,” says Beth. “Connecting with other parents and asking questions can be very helpful, especially when looking at schools with your child.”

Lee will graduate in May 2024 with a degree in sociology and anthropology, along with having completed an individualized major through the School of Individualized Study. His experiences as a senior orientation supervisor on campus, participating in a number of musical performing arts programs, a fellowship, and starting an all-gender Frisbee team are just a few accomplishments that Beth and Howard note they are most proud of. They plan to stay engaged and involved with the university even after Lee advances into a career.

Beth shares, “The spirit of innovation is so omnipresent here. At RIT, it’s clear that collaboration is very important, cooperation is strongly encouraged, and assembling multidisciplinary teams yields the rich results they consistently get. We need more creative thinkers that are going to help the world be a better place. RIT is definitely one of those places that’s a pathway for improving and repairing the world.”

Read more stories from other donors like Howard and Beth