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SCAN"College of St. CatherineThe College of St. Catherine

January 2008

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Mission Driven: Seeds of Philanthropy

Tom and Kori Frics Smith '64 cultivate a spirit of giving with their generous planned gift to the College.


WHEN her three boys were young, Kori Frics Smith '64 took them all Christmas shopping with her. Each of them got to pick out a gift to give away. It was her way of planting the seeds of philanthropy. "You have to cultivate the spirit of giving," Smith says. "It has to be inculcated in the family, that it's good to do good, and that it feels good too."

Smith, who studied food and nutrition at St. Kate's, continues to set an example for her now-grown children and for her fellow College of St. Catherine graduates as well. Earlier this year, she and her husband, Tom, decided to give St. Kate's a $1 million gift in their will. "I hope our gift helps other people think about giving as well," she says.

"Our number one priority is education. It's the only way to get along in this world that we live in."

Giving has long been part of Smith's life. Planning ahead to give through her estate takes that to the next level. Her husband, who is CFO of a real estate company in Ohio, helped her recognize the value of designating financial gifts in their will. "There was enough money," she says, and the couple wanted to support education. "That's our number one priority. It's the only way to get along in this world that we live in. We feel like we have been given a lot through our educations, and now we have to give it forward."

By designating the gift for the dietetics department, Smith hopes to help women be better decision makers about healthful eating and living. Feeding a family well is essential, she says, and the effects trickle down from generation to generation. "It's a big responsibility to bring the right foods for your family into your home," Smith says. "But if your kids grow up with the right foods, then that's what they'll like when they get older as well."

Smith's own family struggled to keep food on the table. She was only 2 years old when her parents packed up their belongings and three children and left Hungary in the dead of night. It was 1945, and communists had just stormed into their homeland. So they moved to Germany for six years, waiting for an opportunity to finally move to the United States. In 1951, they got their chance, sponsored by a rich rancher in South Dakota who wanted a private veterinarian (her father's profession in Hungary) on his property.

It was a struggle to assimilate in a new land, especially since none of them spoke English. Nonetheless, Smith's parents insisted that she and her brothers become educated. "My parents were adamant about education," she remembers. "They wanted the best education they could get for us."

It was on a trip to visit the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul with her older brother that Smith first saw St. Kate's. "It was beautiful," she recalls. "It just spoke to me. I just knew that was where I would go."

Smith used the degree she earned at St. Kate's in 1964 to work as a dietitian for 22 years in local hospitals and nursing homes. "That was the key thing about education," she says. "I wanted to be able to stand on my own, and what better way than to have a college degree?"

Both Smith and her husband know that they owe the successes they've enjoyed in their lives to their educations. That's why both of them set up scholarships at their alma maters several years ago. (Tom Smith graduated from the University of Vermillion in South Dakota.) The Frics Family Scholarship, named in honor of her parents, supports young women studying food and nutrition at the College of St. Catherine.

The Smiths supported their own children's educational pursuits as well. Their oldest son works for AT&T in Milwaukee; their middle son has a master's degree and lives in Chicago, and their youngest is a general surgeon in Concord, New Hampshire. Smith is confident that they will support the decision to leave a gift to St. Kate's.

"They'll have plenty," Smith says happily. "We educated them, too, and we're sure that they'll be able to stand on their own feet."

Kim Paulsen '86

Tom and Kori Frics Smith ’64

Learn how you can play a role in the future of St. Catherine's students with a planned gift. For more information, contact 651.690.6812 or 1.800.945.4599, Ext. 6812, or visit stkate.edu

Sara Gilbert is a freelancer based in
Mankato, Minn.