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Rodney Smith

Rodney Keith Smith

Thursday, May 10th, 1951 - Sunday, July 26th, 2020
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On Sunday July 26, 2020, at the age of 69, Rodney Keith Smith peacefully passed away sur-rounded (virtually) by his immediate family after a valiant 8-year battle with cancer.

Rod was born May 10, 1951 to Willis and Georgi Ana Smith in Bishop, California, where he spent much of his youth fishing and hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Due to his vora-cious work ethic and love of learning, Rod graduated top of his high-school class and played basketball at the University of California, Irvine. After graduating from law school at Brigham Young University, he practiced law with his father in Bishop for four years, which time he al-ways cherished.

After a profound personal experience, Rod understood his life’s professional work was to be fo-cused on legal scholarship and teaching. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with advanced law degrees, Rod began his career in academia, where he taught at numerous law schools before becoming the dean of various law schools, including Capital University (Ohio), the University of Montana, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Rod’s academ-ic and administrative background prepared him to become the President of Southern Virginia University (SVU), which were some of the best, most challenging years of his life. He loved SVU, its students, and those who taught and supported the students. After chairing the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State, the final chapter in Rod’s professional journey led him to Utah Valley University, where he served as the Director for the Center for Constitutional Studies. Rod knew the United States Constitution, which established religious freedom and the right of conscience, was one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. Rod authored 6 books, more than 30 academic articles, and was a consistent contributor to USA Today, the Deseret News, and Meridian Magazine on the topic on religious liberty, conscience, and the United States Constitution.

Second only to his personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Rod’s family was most important to him. Rod often shared that the two most important decisions of his life were joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and marrying Danielle Renee Reget. During their 45-year marriage, Rod and Danielle were blessed with 8 children, 8 in-laws (who they viewed as their own), and 28 grandchildren, all while also serving in various leadership roles at church. The world is a much better place because of Rod, his life’s work, and his consistent example that ‘perfect love casteth out all fear’.

Rod is preceded in death by his father, Willis, and his mother, Georgi Ana. He is survived by his wife Danielle and their 8 children, Will (Maryn), Hyrum (Melissa), Mary (Aaron), Heber (Mandy), Lacey (Ryan), Rod Jr (Jamie), Georgi Ana (Steven) and Charlie (Brittany), along with 28 grand- children, and his brother Fredrick and sister Cyndi (Dennis) Hoersting. His funeral service will be held at Nelson Mortuary in Provo Utah on Saturday August 1st, 2020 at 2pm MDT. Extended family and friends are invited to attend virtually. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in his name to Southern Virginia University or Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

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Service Details

  • Service

    Saturday, August 1st, 2020 | 2:00pm
    Saturday, August 1st, 2020 2:00pm
    Nelson Family Mortuary
    4780 N. University Ave.
    PROVO, UT 84604
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Interment

    Mapleton Cemetery
    620 W Maple St
    Mapleton, Utah 84664
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email

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Private Condolence

Scott Brennan

Posted at 11:13am
Dear Smith Family.
You all are in our thoughts and prayers. Our family had the privilege of knowing the Smith family in Dublin, OH in the early 90's when Hyrum and our son, Matt, played baseball together. Early on we didn't win many games as we had a very young Pony League team. I enjoyed working with Hyrum as I gained knowledge to make him encourage him to achieve whether pitching (which he excelled at) or in the field. The fun part was talking to Rod. He knew his son, the game of baseball and how to encourage Hyrum. Rod was a huge fan of our boys when he was able to attend our games with his busy schedule. Rod showed great caring and encouragement when boys were struggling and great enthusiasm when our boys were playing well. It was a privilege to know Rod. We will keep your family in our thoughts and prayers. God bless you all.

Jan Jackson

Posted at 05:32pm
Dear Smith Family -
Having just viewed Rod’s funeral service, we are uplifted from your remarks today. The messages were very beautiful and the music touched our hearts. What a wonderful family Rod and Danielle have created, nurtured and loved.
Many years ago in 1970 my husband was a college roommate at UCI. Rod & Jeff made memories for a year on Balboa Island. They inspired each other with discussions about God. Several years later in 1975 Rod had joined the church and married Danielle too.
We were newlyweds and BYU students when Rod & Danielle came to BYU for his law school studies. What a beautiful couple and I really enjoyed getting to know Danielle.
Our paths continued to cross over the years. We enjoyed driving to Bishop, Calif to visit them and their young family. Later we met at BYU again when one of our children and one of their children were graduating in the honors program. He congratulated us on our daughter receiving a Rhodes Scholarship and attending Oxford. This is a place that he liked to visit and work for his university there in England.
We congratulate Rod on his many accomplishments and enjoy his Facebook posts. He invited us to come visit in Utah. He has given the world a great legacy in his love of the constitution. We are inspired by his talent to be an author and also heard him give a speech about James Madison. Rod is a great scholar and writer.
Many best wishes to the extended Smith Family. We send our love. Thankful we could celebrate his life today. Jan & Jeff Jackson

Vladimir Antigua

Posted at 12:35am
I love President Smith he always has been an inspiration to me! I am grateful for the opportunity to have had him as my school president at SVU. I loved our friendship! When I guidance (professionals or personally) he was always availble. I will miss him dearly! I still have my svu green Chuck Taylors. I will wear them in his honor for the funeral tomorrow.

One of my favorite memories about Pres Smith was seeing him at the SVU GYM working out. It was a good example to me to see that he took time from his busy schedule to take care of his body. One day I went to work out on the same "Bench Chest Press Machine" he was working out on. When he finished, I decided to not pay attention to the weight he was using during his workout thinking the amount of weight should be light because it looks like he was pressing the weight with such a ease. I was so wrong! I could barely push the weight forward. I was very impressed by his physical strength and I thought when I get to be his age I want to press like that too. Pres Smith was strong physically and spiritually. He could inspire all the students at SVU to be better by the way he lived his life.

Love and prayers to the Smith family!

Vladimir and Rebecca Antigua

Dan Kobil

Posted at 06:54pm
Rod Smith came to Capital University Law School to serve as our Dean in 1989 and in four fantastic years, his talents and vision changed Capital—and me as a young law professor—profoundly. Capital was Rod’s first deanship and he was exactly who we needed. Rod’s humility, his passion for scholarship, and his emphasis on caring for law students with all of our hearts and minds, made Capital a wonderful, stimulating place for decades to come.
Rod was known in those years as “the Yes Dean.” Anyone with an idea for an article or for a program that would advance learning could count on Rod to help make the idea a reality. I still remember visiting him in the Dean’s office, discouraged by what I considered the weakness of my thoughts for a law review article that I was trying to write. Rod got so excited when I described what I was thinking about that I got tremendously excited as well. In the course of that conversation, Rod said something that has stayed with me for the rest of my career: “just contribute to the dialogue.” He was, in his kind way, saying, “don’t worry about creating the perfect article—just add your two cents and start a conversation.” The inspiration that Rod provided helped me to finish that article, get it published, and then go on to get tenure. This was typical of what Rod did for so many of us in the legal academy, as a Dean, as a colleague, as a mentor, or simply as a friend.
And Rod had so many friends. In part, that is because Rod had a passion for connecting people with each other across the country and the world. One of the programs that he helped to create at Capital brought in international scholars to teach at Capital Law School for the summer. Through this program, Rod made connections with scholars and jurists in Poland, China, Nigeria, Israel, and many other countries. It is no surprise to me that Rod at the end of his life was still passionate about collaborating with Oxford University to create a groundbreaking constitutional database with the Quill Project. One of my fondest memories, professional or otherwise, is of a trip to Warsaw, Poland, that Rod and several of us on the Capital faculty took shortly after the fall of communism. Rod was so inspired by the possibilities that these changes offered—the world that was opening up—that it was truly a joy to be with him, sharing ideas and making friends.
There is so much I will miss about Rod, but what I will miss most is his marvelous, caring heart. I have never worked with anyone as generous, compassionate, kind, and loving. To me, Rod embodied the best of what a scholar and a lawyer should be. I am thankful that when he was back in Columbus in February, we were able to spend several hours together over lunch reminiscing--and laughing a lot--about our shared history, our friends, and our families.
And did anyone ever love his family more than Rod? I doubt it. My heart goes out to you all.
Fare well dear friend. I know you are not gone—just percolating in the curious mind of the universe like a wonderful, inspiring idea.

W. Cole Durham, Jr.

Posted at 04:03pm
I have shared a professional lifetime of memories with Rod. He was in one of the first Law School classes I ever taught, and his greatest love in legal academia—religious freedom—was also a shared interest. We spent some time together in the early 1990's trying to set up an exchange program with a university in Warsaw and on other comparative constitutional law projects as part of the high adventure of working with emerging legal systems in Central and Eastern Europe after the collapse of communism. We invited each other to conferences, and did what we could to foster the field of comparative constitutional law in general, and religious freedom in particular.
Rod had a particularly deep personal stake in freedom of conscience. I remember him giving moving talks on several occasions describing the day he received a letter from a draft board recognizing his claim to be a conscientious objector to military service. In this sense, his conscientious sensibilities went beyond the typical demands of a believer in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he was always grateful that both his country and his church could respect the dictates of his personal conscience.
From his research as a law student at BYU, to his doctoral thesis at Penn, to his latest book on Madison, Rod was always a profound constitutional scholar. He had a great love for Southern Virginia University, but in truth, he had a great love for every university he worked at during his career, and even more, for everyone he ever taught (which included countless people in formal and informal settings).
In addition to all of these things, he was always a deeply spiritual person, and was exemplary both in his sensitivity and responses to spiritual promptings. This made him a great leader in countless settings, a great father, and an exemplary friend. He will be deeply missed by those who have known him and been blessed by him in this life, and he is one of those persons who will make reunions on the other side particularly joyful.
Cole Durham

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