Tom Smyth, In Memoriam

Penn Stater Magazine memorialized the late Tom Smyth in its July/August 2020 issue with this profile. Mount Nittany’s Tom Smyth Overlook is named in his honor.

Even into his late 70s, Thomas Smyth would hike up Mount Nittany, chainsaw on his back, and clear the trails up and down Happy Valley’s landmark peak. “It was unreal what that man could do,” says Bill Jaffe ’60 Com, former president of the Mount Nittany Conservancy. “We called him Mr. Mountain Man.”

Smyth joined the Penn State faculty in 1955 as a professor of etymology and bio­ physics. He also served as a longtime adviser to the Penn State Outing Club, leading students on hikes and other trips. “When he retired, he started volunteering for the Mount Nittany Conservancy in the early 2000s and later joined the board. A world-class mountaineer who scaled the Himalayas and Mount Kilimanjaro, he maintained trails on Mount Nittany and raised awareness of issues such as drain­ age and a gypsy moth infestation. Smyth received the conservancy’s Friend of the Mountain Award in 1991, and an outlook atop Mount Nittany is named in his honor. The Lion’s Paw Alumni Association honored him with its Lion’s Paw Medal in 2012.

His framed photos from outdoor adventures covered the walls and were stacked up on the floor. “He had so many he had run out of places to hang them,” says Mike Day ’73 Lib, past president of the Lion’s Paw Alumni Association. “He was quite a character.” Smyth died on Dec. 5, 2019, at age 92. He is survived by two sisters.

—Cristina Rouvalis

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