Sep 05, 1931---Jun 09, 2024

Don was born September 5, 1931 in Tyler, Texas to Giles Roy Smith and Verdie Herrin Smith and the family moved to Lyons, KS soon after.  He graduated from Lyons High School in 1949 and earned his BS in mechanical engineering from Kansas State University in 1953.  He joined the US Air Force through ROTC after graduation and earned a Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio in 1954.  He was awarded a PhD in Physics from the University of Colorado in 1959. He was stationed at several locations around the United States, including Fort Worth, Idaho Falls, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Manhattan Kansas, and Alexandria, Virginia over his Air Force career.  Col. Smith was one of the first faculty assigned to the newly created United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in 1960 and taught in the Dept of Physics there for over 10 years.  His time at USAFA was interspersed with stints with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (OSR) at the Pentagon.  He served in the Viet Nam war. Don received the Meritorious Service Medal and retired as a Lt. Colonel in 1975 after 22 years of service. He then began his second career in Kansas City, accepting the position as Director of the Engineering program at UMKC. He and his family moved to Mission Hills, Kansas in 1975.  Dr. Smith taught and served as division chief of Engineering for 22 years.  He was instrumental in laying the foundation that resulted in the establishment of the School of Science and Engineering at UMKC as an independent department.  The UMKC School of Science and Engineering now is among the leading engineering schools in the United States in research funding and industry collaboration.

Don was a proud member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at KSU, the Retired Officers Association, Pi Tau Sigma Engineering Honor Society, National Society of Professional Engineers, and the American Nuclear Society.  He was past president of the Western Chapter of the Missouri Society of Professional Engineers.  He received the Harry S. Truman Award for excellence in science.

Don was preceded in death by his first wife Mary Lee Smith, who he met while attending Kansas State University, and by his older sister Betty Smith Edwards. 

Don is survived by his current beloved wife Mary (Ungashick) Smith, his daughter Dr. Susan Smith Porter (Charles), his son Craig Crawford Smith (Cindy), grandchildren Monica Porter Collins (David), Troy Porter (Anna), Michael Smith, and Matthew Smith, great grandchildren Rivers, Cameron, William, and Wesley Collins and Willa and Deia Porter.  He was welcomed into the Ungashick family with open arms upon his marriage to Mary in 2005 and became a beloved grandfather figure to his new extended family of 9 more children, 31 grandchildren, and 9 great grandchildren, a role he filled proudly for nearly 20 years.   

Don was a member of the Kansas City Club, Milburn Country Club, Friends of the Arts, Friends of the Library, Friends of the Truman Campus, The University Associates, and a former member of Rotary. He was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed hunting, fishing and skiing with family and friends whenever possible. Don was a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics and one of his favorite passions was modeling and flying radio-controlled airplanes, which he enjoyed throughout his life.   He also loved international travel (the running joke was that he and Mary lived on cruise ships) and was able to travel the world with her several times over.  He enjoyed good food, good wine and new experiences and was deeply loved by friends and family alike.  

Memorial services will be at Porter Funeral Home, 8535 Monrovia, Lenexa, KS at 10:30 am Friday June 14, 2024.  Private interment at Holy Family Mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery, 83rd and Quivira, Lenexa.  

Charitable contributions in Don’s memory or honor may be made designated to the Donald R Smith Student Fabrication Space, School of Science and Engineering c/o the UMKC Foundation at: or to Catholic Community Health Hospice Care.


Funeral Service
Porter Funeral Home
8535 Monrovia St.
Zip Code:
Jun 14, 2024
10:30 AM
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