Florence L. Smith

Florence L. Smith

Florence L. Smith was a Norfolk, Virginia physician’s daughter. Before her death in 1952 she arranged to create scholarships to honor her late father, Dr. Hy Smith. Dr. Smith was born and raised on a Canadian farm near Ontario. He attended the University of Michigan and Victoria University in Canada. After working as a U.S. Army surgeon at the Battle of Gettysburg and other Civil War battle sites, and as a Marine physician who treated Yellow Fever patients in New Orleans and other cities throughout the south, he came to Virginia in 1883 to open the first federal quarantine site at the Virginia Capes. In 1886 he resigned from the U.S. Marine Hospital and settled in Norfolk.

Florence Smith was born in New Orleans and lived most of her life in Norfolk. Her 1952 newspaper obituary identifies her as “the last surviving member of a prominent Norfolk family.” Upon Smith’s death her estate left $293,000 to the Foundation – the largest gift it had received at the time. Another $167,000 was added to the fund after Smith’s estate was settled.

The Florence L. Smith Scholarship is for long-time Virginia residents studying at Virginia medical schools. In 1952 there were only two schools in Virginia educating M.D.s – the University of Virginia Medical School and the Medical College of Virginia (now Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.) In the 1970s after Norfolk gained Eastern Virginia Medical School, the Hampton Roads Community Foundation petitioned the court to allow scholarships to EVMS students.

Smith also created a smaller fund in her father’s name. The Hy Smith Scholarship is for Virginia students attending Virginia Theological Seminary.


Since 1952 nearly 750 Smith Scholars have received $2.5 million in scholarships. Visit smithscholars.org to learn about the Society of Smith Scholars.