Obituary: Roland Mark Smith

Roland Mark Smith, 78, of Rogers, Arkansas, passed away in restful peace at Circle of Life Legacy Village in Bentonville, Arkansas, attended by his wife, son and pastor. He was born Jan. 29, 1938, in Chicago Heights, Illinois, to Robert Elmer and Mary Elizabeth Sanders Smith.

Roland enthusiastically pursued four passions—his awe and love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the joy of his wife and family, a lifelong devotion to teaching and learning, and his celebration of hearing and performing music.

Roland was an only child, born to a household with little financial means, but rich in love and faith. His mother, a schoolteacher, and his father, a die and tool maker, shared a deep belief in the power of education to transform lives, a value that shaped Roland’s entire life.

Mindful of the sacrifices of his parents, Roland considered it an aspirational privilege to attend Wheaton College in Illinois, home to the Billy Graham Center, where he graduated from the Conservatory of Music. He went on to earn a masters degree at the University of Illinois, and a doctorate degree in educational administration at the University of Northern Colorado.

Much of his career, Roland served in school leadership in the suburban Chicago area, including 15 years as superintendent of Plainfield schools. Roland was passionate about ensuring strong learning opportunities for all students regardless of background, and he worked tirelessly as their advocate. He did not seek recognition, but the fruits of his labor were celebrated as Executive Educator of the Month by that periodical, Honored Alumnus Award from the University of Northern Colorado, and recognition of school board excellence by the U.S. Senate, which allowed him a short visit by sitting President Ronald Reagan.

Upon his retirement in Illinois, Roland was delighted to be immersed in warm community hospitality in moving to Arkansas. Roland served as superintendent of schools of Rogers from 1993-99 and then appointed to serve in Greenland by the State Commissioner of Education from 2008-10.  He also served as interim superintendent in Pea Ridge. Serving the students in these wonderful communities energized him, and he spoke highly of the families he came to know and love.

Following a narrow escape from a powerful tornado in 1990, Roland shifted his focus from master educator to teaching mentor.  He taught leadership classes for principals and future superintendents at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and then served as the founding Dean of Education at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith.  In these roles, he felt blessed to present leadership papers to fellow educators around the world, including presentations in Japan, South Africa, Greece, and Wales.  In his last years, Roland took great pleasure in mentoring younger superintendents one-on-one.

Roland was active throughout his life in service organizations, including Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary Club.  He was also an accomplished trumpeter, playing the lead part in Handel’s Messiah more than 20 years for the Illiana Oratorio Society.  He also enjoyed touring with the vocal group Singing Men of Arkansas, where the prison outreach program especially touched him. Young at heart, Roland enjoyed sunrise walks on the beach and occasional visits to Disney World, with or without grandchildren.

Roland is survived by his wife of 53 years, Bernice Annette De Vries Smith of Rogers, a retired schoolteacher; two sons, David Smith and wife, Heidi, of Bentonville, Daniel Smith and wife, Demra, of Fayetteville; two daughters, Debra Smith of Glen Ellyn, Denise Smith of Rogers, Arkansas; five grandchildren, Nora, Hope, Gabriel, Janel and Eliana Smith and many colleagues and friends. 

Roland often said all our days on this earth are a precious gift, and he held dearly to a Kingdom vision of bringing glory only to our Lord. Remembering his days at Wheaton, Roland often recalled two phrases as a source of encouragement and focus: Doing all things “For Christ and His Kingdom”; and that as Christians we carry ourselves “Not Somehow, but Triumphantly.” 

Visitation was 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 14, at the BiLD Training Center at Fellowship Bible Church. 

Funeral services were 11 a.m. Feb. 15 at the BiLD Training Center at Fellowship Bible Church with Pastor John Barclay officiating.  Private burial will be in Pinnacle Memorial Gardens.

Memorials may be made in memory of Dr. Roland Smith to Wheaton College, 501 College Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187; the missionary funds of Fellowship Bible Church, 1051 W. Pleasant Grove Rd, Rogers, AR 72758; or Rehoboth Christian School, P.O. Box 41, Rehoboth, NM 87322.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Stockdale-Moody Funeral Services of Rogers. Words of comfort may be shared at stockdalefuneral.com.

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