For Terry Smith, volunteering is both selfish and selfless

Terry Smith, a member of the University Retirees Volunteer Center (URVC) Council, used to wake up thinking of technical problems that needed solving. These days his thoughts still involve science and engineering, but also revolve around food and health issues, a commitment to language, and a lifelong love of horses.

“I’ve always enjoyed being around horses,” he said in a recent interview. So, it seemed a natural fit when he had the opportunity to volunteer with River Valley Riders in Afton, Minnesota. They provide a supportive community where people with special needs can connect with horses and experience life-changing benefits. Smith explained that one friend’s daughter “would get on the horse and turn into a cowgirl and … just really come out of her shell. It was the highlight of her life.”

A graduate of Cornell University, this small-town guy didn’t feel like he fit into the Ivy League. But his little high school (68 graduates) in Columbia Station, Ohio, provided big benefits. His math teacher taught Smith calculus on the side; and caring English and French teachers introduced him to a love of language and liberal arts, ultimately steering him towards that liberal arts university where he studied physics and comparative literature. A PhD in physics from the University of Illinois preceded his move to 3M and, later, he continued to study Italian and German at the University of Minnesota.

After 40 years at 3M, Smith retired and put his science and language talents to work as a volunteer tutor. He has worked with a student completing a dissertation on health issues of children in Estonia in the 1300s. He's also been tutoring a postdoc student from Italy with a PhD in Physics, working in magnetic resonance spectroscopy. “I continued working with this student because he wants to improve his speaking and writing, especially on technical topics,” Smith said. They’ve had 179 meetings.

Smith, and his wife, Linda Lorenz, both members of UMRA, are avid gardeners and grow nearly all their own vegetables. Smith also volunteers at Second Harvest Heartland, The Good Acre, and a free farmers market, helping to feed his other passions: cooking, food availability, and food waste. He has even volunteered as "a church lady” at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, helping prepare a weekly pay-if-you-can lunch.

For Smith, volunteering is both selfish and selfless. “My mission from here out is service," he said. "That’s how this phase of life is best spent.”

To learn about volunteer opportunities available through URVC, please call 612-625-8016 or visit urvc.umn.edu where you can register to receive information related to your areas of interest.

—Peggy Mann Rinehart



The election of UMRA officers and new board members for 2024–25 will be conducted via an online poll from May 13 to 19, with the results to be announced at our annual meeting on May 21. Look for the ballot in your email inbox on May 13. Diane Young has been nominated to be president-elect.