Val Houston Smith

Val Houston Smith, professor at the University of Kansas for 23 years, passed away April 2 at his home in Lawrence. He was 65. Memorial visitation for Dr. Smith will be held from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. April 9, 2016 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence.

Val was born in 1950 in Lubbock, Texas, the son of Fray and Marcia (Dunn) Smith. He met his wife of 43 years, Marilyn Smith, on the KU campus. After receiving bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Chemistry, the couple went to Rutgers Univ. for Masters studies. From there, they went to the Univ. of Minnesota, where Val received his Ph.D., followed by a postdoc at McGill Univ. in Montreal. He was a faculty member at UNC and a visiting scientist at the Univ. of Montreal, before returning to Lawrence in 1993 as a faculty member in the KU Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Val leaves behind an important scientific legacy, with many impactful papers in aquatic ecology, biofuels and the ecology of infectious diseases. He was an engaging speaker and was honored with teaching awards during his years of service.

In addition to his amazing intellect, Val was dedicated to his family. His wife Marilyn and daughters Niki Smith of Germany and Rosie Smith of Salt Lake City, UT, were by his side this week. Also with him were his sister and brother-in-law, Bridget and John Wilson of Albuquerque, NM.

Val truly made a difference in people’s lives, particularly his huge extended “family” (students, trainees and collaborators). He was an exceptionally kind man, dedicated to the health of Planet Earth. His huge heart, bright wit, and generous spirit will be greatly missed.

Memorials may be made in his name to the American Cancer Society, KUMC Cancer Center, or to a charity of donor’s choice and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.

Online condolences may be sent to

13 Condolences

  1. Mary Anne Phillips on April 3, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Dear Marilyn and Girls,
    I am so sorry to learn of Val’s passing. He was a wonderful Man and a great friend to those who knew him.

    I am praying for him and for you and the girls.

    Mary Anne

  2. Michael Parmely on April 4, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Dear Marilyn and family,

    We were so sorry to hear of your loss and hope that all of the memories you have of Val will soon begin to replace the grief you must feel at this time. Our thoughts are with you.

    Michael Parmely

  3. Sarah Hein on April 4, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Dear Marilyn, Niki and Rosie,
    My deepest condolences. Val was a wonderful man, a beautiful gift to this world with his kind heart and brilliant intellect. I have him and you in my thoughts.

  4. LeMyra Allen on April 4, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    I met Val when Rosie was at Sunflower Elementary School in Lawrence and we visited about his concerns about Rosie. I had visited with Rosie when I was a counselor at the school and she had some concerns also about how the students treated her.
    My thoughts and prayers be with you during this time and I know how the loss hurts. Would like to see Rosie again and visit with her.
    Ms Allen

  5. Kim Brook on April 5, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Dear Marilyn and family,
    I remember Val’s kindness to me when I had accidentally missed my plane flight by a full day. I felt stupid for making such a mistake and there was Val, trying to figure out how I could still get home in time for Christmas.
    I remember Val and Marilyn leaving a note on my door to call them so we could go out to dinner.
    I remember Val leaving movies at the Arts Center that he thought I would enjoy watching.
    All of these acts were so generous in spirit and so genuinely Val.
    I am so sorry for this loss to your family, but may all your memories and more cover you in a blanket of love during this time.
    Love, Kim

  6. Carolyn and Ron Crawford on April 6, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Dearest Marilyn, Niki and Rosie,

    Our hearts are broken for you. Val’s love for you will keep shining. It was always a joy to run into each other and catch up on everyone’s lives. We will be there Saturday evening to see you.

    Prayers for comfort,
    Carolyn and Ron

  7. Helen Alexander on April 6, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Dear Marilyn, Niki, and Rosie,

    I’m glad we could visit today. We have known each other a long time! As you know, Val was someone who really cared about people, and he went out of his way to do things to help others. That is a wonderful attribute of a person and will be long remembered. Best wishes, Helen and Dave Alexander

  8. David Fowle on April 7, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Dear Marilyn, Niki and Rosie,

    My deepest to sympathy to you and your families in this difficult time. We have lost a very special member of the KU family.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you.


  9. Stacey White on April 7, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Dear Marilyn, Niki and Rosie,

    In 1998, I was a new faculty member at KU, feeling rather discombobulated about the whole transition to academia. I will never forget Val’s kindness and warmth, and the way he extended his care and concern to others. Whenever I ran into him, he always talked about you, his cherished family. My prayers and thoughts are with you, and I am truly sorry for your loss.
    Stacey White

  10. Sharon P. Bunton on April 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    To Marilyn, Niki and Rosie, Fray and Bridgette,

    My heart and prayers go out to all. I’m so very sorry for your loss.
    Recently Val reached out to me just to remind me that I wasn’t alone. He wanted me to know that he remembered and he cared.
    His contact during those times meant so much to me and always will. You are in my prayers, and I’m asking God to remember you during your time of sorrow.
    Sharon Bunton (Minnie 0la Bunton)

  11. Dorothy Daley on April 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Dear Marilyn and family,

    I am so sorry for your loss. Val’s kindness and dedication to his students and colleagues is something that I will always remember. Over the years, I have appreciated his integrity and admired his dedication to rigorous teaching and research. My thoughts are with you and your family.

    Dorothy Daley

  12. Laurel Nattress on June 9, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Dear Smith & Wilson family. I am so sorry for your loss. I enjoyed working with Val on Dunn family history and hope to connect with my cousins again.

    He was generous and kind with his time and lived an amazing life.

    Best regards, Laurel Nattress

  13. Barbara Dunn Long on June 10, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Dear Smith and Wilson family,
    So sorry to here about the loss of Val. Though we only corresponded by phone and letters I can see what a wonderful man he was. His grandfather my father would of been very proud of him.
    Best Regards, Barbara

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