Dr. Albert Smith teaching an introductory nutrition course at the University of Vermont. (Courtesy Peggy Rosenfeld)
July 28, 2020
Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Rosenfeld ’74 characterizes her father, Dr. Albert Smith, as an important and visionary leader, a beloved professor and advisor, and a tireless champion of quality teaching for UVM students. And she should know—she sat in the front row of his introductory nutrition class during her freshman year, and he served as her academic advisor throughout her undergraduate studies as an animal sciences major. Both she and her sister, Kathryn Smith ’77, graduated from UVM during his tenure. Smith went on to enjoy a successful career in nursing, while Dr. Rosenfeld worked in the field of dietetics. In recognition of her father’s devotion to UVM and to teaching nutrition, and in recognition of Dr. Rosenfeld’s own career in clinical nutrition, she and her husband Harvey have made a $2.5 million estate commitment that will establish two new endowed professorships, both of which focus on nutrition research. The gift will also significantly augment the Kathryn J. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund, established in 2003 by Dr. Albert and Patricia Smith in memory of their daughter, which provides support to juniors and seniors majoring in nursing.
Dr. Rosenfeld can scarcely remember a time when the University of Vermont was not a part of her life. She was about five years old when her father accepted a position as assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, a move that launched his distinguished 35-year career that included appointments as department chair (for 17 years), full professor, acting dean, and associate dean. Dr. Rosenfeld says her father was instrumental in increasing research grants, expanding student enrollment, and developing and overseeing the University’s agricultural facilities. She has fond childhood memories of outings and picnics at the UVM Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, and of afternoons as a teenager spent scooping “the best ice cream in the state, ever!” at the old Dairy Bar in Carrigan Hall.
As an undergraduate at UVM, Dr. Rosenfeld followed her father’s footsteps in animal sciences and conducted research on food microbiology and quality control. But her interests shifted to nutrition sciences in graduate school at Penn State, and she eventually went on to earn a Ph.D. in the field at the University of Maryland. For thirteen years she worked at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore, MD, where she was a senior clinical dietitian before moving to Ft. Myers, Florida. Her work focused mainly on the nutritional support of the critically ill patient. After her retirement, as she was thinking about her own estate plans, she says a visit on campus with UVM Provost Patty Prelock got her excited about the University’s newly-established integrative health program. She and her husband saw an opportunity to honor her family’s legacy at UVM as well as create collaborative research and teaching opportunities in their respective fields of study. “The two professorships will be inclusive of my father's career, my career in nutrition and dietetics, and my sister's nursing career,” says Dr. Rosenfeld.
Their gift will establish two Dr. Albert and Patricia Smith – Dr. Margaret and Harvey Rosenfeld Professorships, one for nutrition research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), and another for integrative health and culinary medicine in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences (CNHS). The professorships are intended to be a collaborative, complementary endeavor across both colleges. “The Rosenfelds recognize the value of interdisciplinary approaches to care and creating healthy societies,” says Provost Prelock. “The integration of nutrition, dietetics and integrative health is a natural collaboration as we look to more ‘whole health’ approaches to ensuring the well-being of both healthy and compromised patients.”
Integrative health encompasses the full array of factors that affect our health and well-being, including social, economic, environmental, and behavioral influences. One major determinant of our own health and healing, of course, is the foods we eat. With her background in nutrition and extensive experience as a registered dietitian, Dr. Rosenfeld understands deeply the role of nutrition in health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management. She also recognizes the value of integrative health approaches that supplement more traditional pharmacological approaches to treatment. “What’s exciting about the integrative health program is its all-encompassing approach, from ‘seed to table,’” says Dr. Rosenfeld.
Chair of Nutrition and Food Science Amy Trubek teaches students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Foods Lab. (Photo by Bear Cierri)
With one position focused on the the quality of the food we eat and the other focused on using high-quality food to prevent and treat disease, Provost Prelock says the two new faculty appointments will represent a unique opportunity for collaboration between CALS and CNHS. “These professorships facilitate a natural research and clinical connection in our recent efforts across the two colleges to experience food as medicine and promote healthy choices that sustain our well-being."
Fundraising for CALS and CNHS is a major focus for the University of Vermont Foundation, a nonprofit corporation established to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont. More information about the impact of donors like the Rosenfelds and the work of the UVM Foundation can be found at www.uvmfoundation.org.