Donors Make a Difference: Stephanie Bennett-Smith


Photo­graphy by
Thomas Winter

Stephanie Bennett-Smith at her home in Florida

American University trustee Stephanie Bennett-Smith hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but claims higher education as her hometown. “It’s all I’ve ever done and all I ever wanted to do,” says the president emerita of Centenary University in New Jersey. 

Bennett-Smith’s connections to AU run deep. She helped shape the American Studies program in the College of Arts and Sciences and has served on the university’s Board of Trustees since 2006. She has also left an indelible mark on the Department of Athletics and Recreation, making a significant gift to establish the Stephanie M. Bennett-Smith AU Eagles Life Skills and Leadership Academy to prepare student-athletes for life after graduation. Founded in 2018 as the AU Eagles Leadership Academy, the renamed program helps student-athletes hone their leadership skills, deepen their networks, and embrace lifelong learning. 

A signature component of the academy is the Orin R. Smith Life Skills Etiquette Dinner, an annual business and networking skills event that honors Bennett-Smith’s late husband. Smith played football at Brown University—an experience that instilled in him the discipline, initiative, and drive that helped him build a successful career as a Fortune 200 CEO. Bennett-Smith—who splits her time between Taos, New Mexico, and Vero Beach, Florida—also helped support the inaugural Eagles in Service trip to Paraguay, where 17 student-athletes worked alongside community members in rural Tercera Linea to build a multipurpose sports court.  

Through a combination of outright support and an estate provision, Bennett-Smith’s gift will “put into practice another set of skills for student-athletes to share with the AU community and the world.” We are grateful for her generosity, which ensures that generations of AU student-athletes will continue to nurture their leadership skills, tackle new experiences, and find opportunities to thrive.

For information on how your charitable estate planning can create a legacy at American University, contact Seth Speyer, executive director of planned giving, at 202-885-3411 or; or visit