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Speakers and Honorees
Fred G. Smith, DDS '78, MS, and Venice K. Paterakis, DDS '81
Honorary Doctor of Public Service
Fred G. Smith, DDS ’78, MS
Venice K. Paterakis, DDS ’81
The husband and wife team of Fred G. Smith and Venice K. Paterakis can point to accomplishments in a variety of fields — business, dentistry, education, and philanthropy — but their successes are woven together by one simple thread.
Smith calls it “The Rule of One.”
“Every day, perform one random act of kindness. Every day, compliment at least one person. And every day, learn one new fact and share it with somebody,” he says. “Try to do that every day — it is very, very hard to do — but you’ll find that those simple things make you a better person.”
Smith and Paterakis, both graduates of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, have been performing acts of kindness for decades, with the overriding goal of their efforts being to improve the human condition and serve the public good.
In 2015, for instance, the couple donated $1.5 million to establish the first endowed professorship at the School of Dentistry, where they met as dental students in the late 1970s, marrying in 1981 after Paterakis completed her degree. The professorship’s mission is to attract a prominent faculty member who will pursue new areas of research and innovative teaching methods.
“I’m proud to be able to play a role in enhancing the quality of the education that will be provided to future students,” Smith says. “The goal is to attract someone who can be creative enough to establish a revenue stream for the School of Dentistry, primarily through research and discovery, and that those advancements would also help improve the oral and overall health of the general public.”
It’s not the only educational venture the couple has supported. Recognizing that leadership qualities are necessary for future success, Smith in 1996 founded Gerstell Academy, a private school for children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade located near Westminster, Md. He is chairman of the Board of Trustees and president emeritus of the nonprofit institution, which teaches a curriculum focused on leadership, college preparatory academics, physical training, and modern language fluency. Paterakis devotes time to the school, too, as vice president and secretary of the Board of Trustees, after practicing dentistry in the Fells Point/Harbor East area of the city for 33 years.
“What’s most rewarding is the metamorphosis of kids, in the context of the qualities they have when they arrive and the qualities that they demonstrate when they leave,” says Smith. “The real telltale sign will be the next 20 years, what they do with their lives and how they positively impact their communities.”
Smith also serves on the board of trustees of the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation, Inc., among other groups, and Paterakis has been active with the Maryland Ronald McDonald House and supports many other charitable organizations such as Yumi Cares and Horizon Day Camps.
They are members of prominent Baltimore families. Smith is vice president and director of Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns nearly 200 TV stations across the United States. He practiced oral and maxillofacial surgery in Hunt Valley for more than a decade before joining his family’s media business. Paterakis is one of six children in a family that rose to prominence in Baltimore through its H&S Bakery business and more recently has been involved in the development of Harbor East.
Both are thrilled to be returning to the University of Maryland, Baltimore today to receive their honorary degrees. “Philanthropy and service to the community were values instilled in me at a very young age,” Paterakis says. “I am honored to be involved with the University of Maryland, Baltimore and greatly appreciate this wonderful recognition bestowed on us.”