Beth K. Smith, who co-founded the Women’s Employment Network and the Central Exchange among multiple Kansas City civic achievements, died Wednesday at her Kansas City home.
In addition to assisting career pathways for countless area women, Smith, 96, worked for decades to improve race relations in the metro area, including providing service to the Kansas City Human Relations Commission and the Panel of American Women.
Honored with the Athena Award, the top honor for female leaders given by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Smith typically downplayed her own role, preferring to champion group efforts to improve the community.
Characteristically, in an essay she wrote for The Kansas City Star in 1980, Smith wrote: “Most of us have limited opportunity or ability to deal with global or even national problems or arrangements. What we can do as we peer into the ’80s and beyond is look at how we are operating locally.”
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She spent countless hours in public service after becoming a Kansas City resident in 1948. Her volunteer career included board service for the chamber, the 18th & Vine Authority, the city’s Public Improvements Advisory Committee, and the Jewish Community Relations Bureau.
A graduate of Wellesley College, she later earned a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she subsequently taught leadership classes for years as an adjunct professor.
She was the widow of Edward A. Smith, a founding partner of the Kansas City law firm of Smith Gill Fisher & Butts, which later merged with Bryan Cave.