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Lower Columbia College (LCC) and the Lower Columbia College Foundation (LCCF) are pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Edward L. Smith as the 2021 LCC Alumnus of the Year.

Image of Dr. Edward Smith

The LCCF Alumni of the Year award is to acknowledge Lower Columbia College alumni who have made significant contributions to the community, and whose accomplishments, relationships, and careers have exemplified the legacy of excellence at LCC. Lower Columbia College (LCC) and the Lower Columbia College Foundation are pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Edward L. Smith as the 2021 LCC Alumnus of the Year.

Ed graduated from Castle Rock High School in 1949 where he played drums, was a four-sport athlete, and part of the Trico League All-Star Baseball team in 1948 and 1949. Ed joined the Musicians Union in 1945 at the age of 14, the youngest professional musician in the state of Washington. After high school, Ed attended Lower Columbia College (then known as Lower Columbia Junior College) on a scholarship with a major in engineering and a spot on the baseball team. He was one of the first classes to attend LCC in the newly constructed Main building. Ed played two seasons of baseball for LCC coach Claude Jones, as a second baseman, and was an on-base leader for the Red Devils. While at LCC, Ed met his future wife, Sharon Berge of Longview. Ed and Sharon were highlighted in the school newspaper following a sock-hop dance where they won the “Best Socks” competition with Sharon’s hand knitted matching argyle socks. 

The LCCF Alumni of the Year award is to acknowledge Lower Columbia College alumni who have made significant contributions to the community, and whose accomplishments, relationships, and careers have exemplified the legacy of excellence at LCC. Lower Columbia College (LCC) and the Lower Columbia College Foundation are pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Edward L. Smith as the 2021 LCC Alumnus of the Year.

Ed graduated from Castle Rock High School in 1949 where he played drums, was a four-sport athlete, and part of the Trico League All-Star Baseball team in 1948 and 1949. Ed joined the Musicians Union in 1945 at the age of 14, the youngest professional musician in the state of Washington. After high school, Ed attended Lower Columbia College (then known as Lower Columbia Junior College) on a scholarship with a major in engineering and a spot on the baseball team. He was one of the first classes to attend LCC in the newly constructed Main building. Ed played two seasons of baseball for LCC coach Claude Jones, as a second baseman, and was an on-base leader for the Red Devils. While at LCC, Ed met his future wife, Sharon Berge of Longview. Ed and Sharon were highlighted in the school newspaper following a sock-hop dance where they won the “Best Socks” competition with Sharon’s hand knitted matching argyle socks. 

In 1951, Ed’s music career took off and he traveled the U.S. playing drums for jazz and big band music with Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Cal Tjader, and Harry James. Some of his music career highlights were playing at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City, the Black Hawk in San Francisco, the Lighthouse Jazz Club in Hermosa Beach, and the Sands Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. It was during this time that Ed married his number one supporter, Sharon, who joined him on tour. They later had two sons, Scott and Clark. In 1952, Ed’s draft deferment ended and he joined the Air Force and served as a Radio Operator and Analyst until 1956. He continued playing jazz while stationed in Japan, playing with both Japanese and American musicians at the Blue Chateau Jazz club in Tokyo. 

In 1960, Ed and Sharon moved to San Diego and Ed returned to school at San Diego State University. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1964 and a Master’s degree in Physical Science in 1967. Later, in 1971, he earned his doctorate in Oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 1964, Ed was recruited to work for the Navy as a civilian scientist studying the effects the ocean environment on the propagation of underwater sound. In 1967, the Navy contracted with Westinghouse for the use of a deep dive submersible. Ed was awarded 14 dives on the Deep Star 4000 to explore ocean internal tides and their effect on underwater sound. During their 13th dive, due to a miscalculation, they became stuck on the ocean floor for nearly 16 hours. They surfaced in the 17th hour with only three hours of oxygen remaining.

In 1972, Ed and family moved to Washington, D. C., where he was the Associate Director of the Navy’s Undersea Surveillance Project Office. Ed helped introduce a new generation of undersea surveillance systems, including surface ship and submarine towed arrays which were critical to maintaining an advantage in the Cold War. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency established the Acoustic Research Center at the Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, California in 1976.  Ed was appointed the Director of the Center and lead the acoustic signal processing research. Testing and evaluation of many signal processing techniques were evaluated with winners proceeding to advanced engineering and testing for the Navy. Ed lead the development of a system for Inter-Array Processing (IAP). Ed enjoyed the success of IAP and was recognized by the Navy for introducing an operating system to the Operating Fleet in 28-months, rather than the four to six years. Ed retired from the civilian Navy in 1982. Dr. Smith was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Award for his many contributions to the Navy’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Undersea Surveillance systems as well for an accelerated introduction to the Operating Fleet an operating system for ASW and Undersea Surveillance.

Upon retirement from the Navy, Ed joined BK Dynamics, a scientific consulting firm, as Vice President and eventually became President and owner. The firm specialized in the modeling and prediction of Navy manpower requirements. Under Ed’s leadership, the firm increased its capabilities in support of the Army’s Delta Forces, marine mammal training and operating systems, underwater sound systems performance predictions, close support to an intelligence operating agency, and the development and introduction of submarine security at Submarine Base, Bangor. In 1994, Ed sold BK Dynamics and moved his family back to the Pacific Northwest. Ed continued to work on various classified projects related to low frequency acoustics and anomalies, which ended in 2020 due to the pandemic. Sadly, Ed lost Sharon to colon cancer in 2008. His son, Scott, is a network engineer in San Diego and his second son, Clark, is a business owner in Tacoma. Ed, at the age of 90, continues his lifelong passion of playing drums with a local jazz band at Casa Mexico in Keyport and at various outdoor locations during the pandemic.  

Ed is excited to be named LCC’s Alumnus of the Year and shares LCC’s impact on his life and for others. “LCC plays an important role in cultivating, improving, and educating young minds. LCC was a crucial step for me and provided a sound educational foundation and it continues to stay tuned to the needs of the local community,” he said. Dr. Smith’s philanthropic support and investment in the future of LCC includes the Student Success Fund, College Success Fund, Athletic Excellence Fund, and LCC Booster Club.

“Ed personifies how local talent can grow and find amazing opportunities after receiving an education. We are proud that Lower Columbia College was a catalyst for those opportunities. Ed has definitely lived an extremely interesting and successful life. We are honored to present Dr. Edward Smith as LCC’s 2021 Alumnus of the Year,” said LCC President, Chris Bailey.

Dr. Smith will be honored at this year’s “virtual” LCC Foundation Horns & Halos Gala on October 7th. For more information about the LCC Foundation, LCC Alumni or to join the LCC Foundation Alumni Association, visit lowercolumbia.edu/foundation.


For more information, please contact Kendra Sprague, (360) 442-2121 or ksprague@lowercolumbia.edu

 

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