Born in 1859 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Henry Louis Smith led a life of leadership and served several institutions of higher learning.
Smith attended and graduated from Davidson College in 1881. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as Phi Delta Theta. Immediately after college, Smith served as principal of Selma Academy for five years. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Virginia. He came back to Davidson as a professor before becoming president of the college in 1901. Smith was the first president of the Davidson who was not an ordained Presbyterian minister.
During the years he was a professor at Davidson, Smith and his students created one of the first x-ray images. His presidency at Davidson saw the construction of numerous facilities and the implementation of infrastructure projects, including the addition of the first electric light plant in the community.
In 1912, Smith left Davidson and became the president of Washington and Lee University. He was serving as the institution’s leader at the time of the creation of Omicron Delta Kappa and was one of the original 15 founders of the Society. During his tenure as president, there was an increase in the number of academic departments, construction of educational and residential buildings, and growth of the school’s endowment to support faculty salaries.
Smith served W&L as president through 1929 and was named president emeritus. He retired and returned to Greensboro, where he died in 1951. He was 91 at the time of his death.
Nichols, Michael. (2014). The Laurel Crowned Circle: Omicron Delta Kappa and 100 Years of Leadership. Omicron Delta Kappa. Lexington, Va.
Omicron Delta Kappa. (1939). Commemorating the Silver Anniversary: Omicron Delta Kappa Fraternity 1914 – 1939.