On March 25, Chuck Smith '63 addressed Delbarton students at a Morning Meeting about his experiences as Delbarton's first African American student. His address was originally scheduled to take place at the end of February, to conclude Black History Month, but inclement weather forced a postponement until March. He shared stories of his three years at Delbarton and what life was like on campus nearly sixty years ago.
Smith emphasized five key qualities: respect (for yourself and others; mentorship (you will be a hero to someone), hard-work (part of learning and doing), enthusiasm (attitude is everything) and character (when no one is looking) and told the boys "I am incredibly proud to be a Delbarton alumnus."
Ironically, his father, a judge who was Morris County's first African American lawyer, had moved his family from Morristown to East Orange the year his son entered Delbarton. This resulted in a long commute that began each morning with a 6:00 am bus ride via public bus to catch the Delbarton bus at 6:30 am. Riding that bus on his first day were two upperclassmen who became lifelong friends, Bob Findlay '61 (nephew of the late Delbarton Headmaster Fr. Stephen Findlay) and Mike Hayes '61 (brother of the late Abbott Giles Hayes '56). Both students served as older brothers and mentors, and helped Smith acclimate to life at Delbarton. Using his own story as an example, Smith encouraged today's Delbarton students to look out for their younger brothers, and even assigned specific grades responsibility for the younger classes.
Chuck Smith's stories, which he illustrated with family photos and vintage pictures from his Delbarton years, connected him with his audience in a powerful way, and students rose in unison to offer him a standing ovation when he concluded. Afterwards, he presented a very impressive piece of hardware -- his 1963 Delbarton School Athlete of the Year trophy embellished with his 1963 graduation tassel -- to the Delbarton archives, a gift that was gratefully accepted by Athletic Director Dan Whalen and Football Head Coach Brian Bowers.
Smith was surrounded by members of DAC who were eager to congratulate him, and Green Wave defensive lineman Chuck Nnaeto '22 introduced himself to Smith (who was a self-described football 'enforcer' back in the day) as 'the other Chuck'.
Smith was born and raised in Morristown and attended Morristown public schools, including one year at Morristown High School, before arriving at Delbarton in tenth grade where he was a basketball and football four year letterman, co-captain of the 1962 football team and recipient of the Athlete of the Year Award at Delbarton graduation in 1963. He went on to University of Connecticut where he co-captained the freshman football team. He was also co-chair and organizer of the African American Students Association and President of the Theta Xi fraternity.
He began his career at Johnson & Johnson where he rose to become a Product Director of First Aid Products and organized/co-chaired the Black Employees of Johnson & Johnson group. At Marcal Paper Mills, he served a Vice President of Marketing, then joined Gunn Associates as a Partner in business development serving clients including the NFL, Air Canada, Gillette, Nabisco and AT&T. At Renfro Corporation, he was Managing Director of the Dr. Scholl's franchise.
Now retired, Smith has always believed in giving back, and has done so throughout his robust career. He served as Board Chair of Grandville Academy, an inner city after-school program operating in seven states, and also was Chairman of the Board at Trenton's Granville Charter School. He has served as a Science Mentor for a Trenton mentorship program, and as organizing Chair of Mercer County African American Chamber of Commerce. He was on the Mercer County College Development Board, and is a board member of Delancey Court Homeowner's Association of Newtown, PA where he and his wife Marion reside. They are the proud parents of three children, and enjoy spending time with their seven grandchildren.
We thank Chuck Smith '63 for his continued support of Delbarton, and for taking the time to share wonderful memories of his Delbarton days, and his very full and productive life since, with our current students!