John and Dyan Smith Support Education and Arts with $4.5 Million in Gifts

Published: November 2, 2021 | By: Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation | Category:

Earlier this month, John and Dyan Smith of Cedar Rapids made a $4.5 million gift to establish two new funds at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation—the Cornell College Ingenuity Fund and the Cedar Rapids Opera Young Artists Program Fund.

The Cornell College Ingenuity Fund, established with $4 million from the Smiths, will help fund real-world experiences for students, such as internships, research opportunities, or off-campus courses. These experiences, called Ingenuity in Action, are a key part of the Ingenuity curriculum, which Cornell implemented in the 2020-21 academic year. The Ingenuity curriculum is designed to complement Cornell’s block scheduling to give students hands-on experience solving problems.

“Ingenuity puts us among the most selective few schools in the country that require experiences out-of-the-classroom and, as importantly, provide funding to make these experiences possible for all students,” said President Jonathan Brand. “This helps our students focus on the abilities and skills that all employers and graduate schools want in college graduates. Ingenuity is a game-changer for our students and for Cornell.”

John, who graduated from Cornell with a degree in economics and business, traveled to Chicago to learn about poverty in America with a religion class. He found the experience transformational and is excited to now be a part of giving similar experiences to today’s students.

“Cornell is a great educational institution, and Ingenuity helps to showcase that and differentiate us,” John said. “The students really demand and want this kind of education. It’s an exciting future for Cornell–one we want to be a part of by giving this gift.”

John and Dyan also established the Cedar Rapids Opera Young Artists Program Fund with a gift of $500,000. The fund will support the organization’s Young Artists Program, which provides education and paid performance opportunities for singers at the undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate level. The program was started in 2003.

“John and Dyan have championed Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre since the very beginning, and we are deeply grateful for the recent and truly transformational gift they have made to endow our Young Artist Program,” said Daniel Kleinknecht, Founder & Artistic Director. “This gift will provide stability for our efforts to train young singers to make their way onto the world’s opera stages.”

Community Foundation President & CEO, Les Garner said, “This gift is the latest in John and Dyan’s long history of giving. Their gifts have provided invaluable support for the organizations that make our community thrive, and these funds will continue to do just that for many years to come.”

Visit the Nonprofit Giving Center and the Nonprofit Calendar to search for a nonprofit fund, organization, cause, or event to support.