He has spent virtually his entire career at Yale. After graduating from the Pingry School in 1950, he received his bachelor's degree from Yale College in 1954, where he served as chairman of the Yale Daily News. In 1961, he earned his PhD in history from Yale. In over forty years of teaching at the university, he chaired the Department of History, served as master of Pierson College and directed the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. He retired from his appointment in 2000.
Smith has spent more than fifteen years writing a history of the university. Yale in the 20th Century was to be published in August 2007, but it has yet to be released. He continues to teach the occasional seminar at Yale.
Smith received several awards from Yale College for his work there:
He is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been a member of the Acorn Club.
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