Text Resize

SMC receives $133,000 scholarship donation

SMC receives $133,000 scholarship donation

Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees accepted a $133,000 donation to establish the Charles R. Smith Memorial Scholarship at its regular October meeting Tuesday on the Dowagiac campus.

The scholarship, donated from the estate of Levola Smith Tillman, will help African-American students from the college service area who are pursuing a degree in engineering.

Levola, who passed away in May, was co-owner with her husband, Charles, of the Smith Hoist Manufacturing Co. in Cassopolis. Charles passed away in 1971.

Representing the family at the meeting were Connie Goens, daughter of Charles and Levola, along with her husband Bert; and Robyn Smith-Woods; and Kelli Smith-Fiala, both granddaughters of Charles and Levola.

"We are very honored to receive this money from Mrs. Tillman and her family," said Dr. Fred L. Mathews, chairman of the SMC Board of Trustees. "Smith Hoist Manufacturing Co. was a backbone of the Cassopolis community for decades. Now, their legacy will live on through education."

Charles Smith was born in 1900 in Tennessee and moved to Chicago in 1919. While in Chicago, he worked at various trades, including time as a Pullman porter, handyman, roof contractor and he even opened an auto garage. Smith was an inventor and the invention that changed his life was the Smith Hoist. Building construction sites at the time did not have an efficient, affordable way of lifting supplies to rooftops.

Smith patented a hoist in 1942 and opened the Smith Hoist Manufacturing Co. on the south side of Chicago. The company succeeded quickly and Smith, in search of a quieter setting, built a factory on the south side of Cassopolis in 1950.

The Smith family remained in the business until 1993.