UVa-Wise rededicates Lila Vicars Smith House


UVa-Wise rededicates Lila Vicars Smith House

Following a yearlong renovation and construction, the Lila Vicars Smith House, the official residence of the Chancellor of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, was rededicated Saturday, Oct. 20.


Mrs. Hunter SmithOriginally constructed in 1990, the residence was dedicated as the Lila Vicars Smith House in 1998 thanks to a major gift made by the Smith family. Now, thanks to the generous support of Hunter J. Smith –- daughter-in-law of Lila Vicars Smith and wife of the late Carl William Smith –- the house has undergone a major renovation to accommodate the increase in special events, dinners and receptions now expected of UVa-Wise Chancellor David J. Prior and his wife, Merry Lu Prior.


“We thank Hunter Smith, whose generosity made this beautiful renovation possible,” Prior said. “This house has and will continue to be the welcoming home for the campus.”


The most prominent addition to the residence is a new pavilion for entertaining guests where natural light pours through both the skylight and triple-hung windows to illuminate the space. Also included in the construction are a new serving area and a new deck for indoor/outdoor functions.


“The Lila Vicars Smith House is the College’s living room,” said James M. Gott, chair of the College Board and a 1972 alumnus of the College. “Hunter Smith has generously made for Chancellor and Mrs. Prior a place to enjoy and entertain that is gracious, beautiful and welcoming.”


Chancellor Prior and Mrs. SmithThe family of the house’s namesake has a long history of service to both UVa-Wise and Southwest Virginia. Born in 1899, Lila Vicars Smith was the daughter of Mecca Dotson Vicars and O. M. Vicars, a prominent Wise County lawyer and businessman. Smith’s maternal grandfather was one of the first residents of Gladeville, later known as Wise, and helped plan the layout of the young town.


Smith married Dr. Carl W. Smith in 1925 and moved to Princeton, West Virginia. Widowed when her son Carl was only four years old, Smith moved back to Wise to raise her young child.


 “Lila Vicars Smith believed in the value of education,” said Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the University of Virginia. “She encouraged her son to work hard in school and to excel in all that he undertook. Perhaps above all, she taught him the importance of public service and concern for community.”


Hunter Smith not only provided the gift to make the renovation possible, but she also took an active role in guiding the project. Smith provided guidance and advice on the building, landscape and interior design.


“The magnificent building we celebrate today is named for a magnificent lady, and today we celebrate with you the perfect leadership and the generous heart of another magnificent lady: Hunter Smith,” said Don R. Pippin, chair of the College at Wise Committee for the U.Va. Board of Visitors and a 1958 alumnus of the College.


In addition to the Lila Vicars Smith House, Hunter Smith and her late husband, Carl William Smith, also provided generously for the College’s Carl Smith Stadium and UVa-Wise athletic scholarships, among other philanthropic interests.


Because of her generosity and guidance throughout the Lila Vicars Smith House renovation and construction, Hunter Smith was named Benefactor of the Year during the Annual Benefactors Celebration, also held Oct. 20.

The Lila Vicars Smith House was designed by Thompson + Litton of Wise. Quesenberry’s, Inc., of Big Stone Gap performed the renovation and construction work, and David Hill with Hill Studio of Roanoke was the landscape architect.


This renovation project was the first of nine announced construction projects at UVa-Wise. Coinciding with the College’s $50 million “Fulfilling the Dream” campaign, the current construction phase, when completed, will be the longest in the school’s history. By 2010, UVa-Wise will have experienced a dramatic transformation of its campus, including a new entrance, five major renovations and three new buildings.