The legacies of two prominent African-American healthcare providers who graduated from La Salle University are preserved through the creation and annual awarding of endowed scholarships.
The Warren E. Smith, MD, Scholarship Fund is an endowed scholarship created by alumni, family, and friends in 2003 in honor of Warren E. Smith, ’54, who died in 1990. Smith was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from La Salle’s pre-med program and became one of the nation’s first African-American psychiatrists. His legacy in mental healthcare in Philadelphia includes service at La Salle, where he served as a University psychiatrist for 15 years before his 1984 retirement. A health and social services system based in Philadelphia is named in his honor, the WES Health System, because of his commitment to providing behavioral healthcare to underserved communities. The system currently has locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, and Illinois.
Robin Smith, Ph.D., ’83, is Smith’s daughter. Like her father, she also graduated from La Salle and became a licensed psychologist. She remembers watching her father work with the La Salle community and seeing his commitment to the physical and mental health of those with whom he worked.
“One of the things I remember him talking about that has stuck with me is how important it is to see the whole person,” she recalled. “We don’t know what is going on in a student’s or a faculty’s personal life. And it doesn’t mean that we’re entitled to know it, but it does mean that those realities impact how someone is thriving, or kind of diving deep into despair, and so I just remember him talking about how important it was to make room for the person’s whole story.”
Robin remembers her father’s bond with the La Salle community and how welcoming everyone was to him and his wife, Rosa Lee Smith, who also worked for the university for some time.
The Warren E. Smith, MD, Scholarship Fund provides scholarship awards to La Salle African-American students in their sophomore, junior, and senior years who demonstrate academic achievement and financial need. Robin said seeing her father’s legacy live on through the scholarship support for African-American students’ education is a point of pride for their family.
“His influence was something that really changed my life and it still informs me. Every day of my life. I am informed in terms of my own choices, my own decisions, my own generosity, my own big heartedness is really very much from him,” she added.
The Walter and Beverly Lomax Endowed Scholarship was established in 2006 by the Lomax Family Foundation in honor of Walter P. Lomax, Sr. and Elizabeth Harvey Lomax, the parents of La Salle alumnus Walter P. Lomax, Jr., ’53, MD. The scholarship provides financial awards to African-American students at La Salle who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need.
Lomax was an accomplished physician who died in 2013. During his multifaceted career, his overriding mission was to provide high-quality medical care to patients in underserved communities, his family said. As he developed his medical practice, he made sure his staff were exceptionally trained and committed to serving the community.
A notable moment in Lomax’s career came when he provided medical care to Martin Luther King, Jr. Exhausted by travel and speeches throughout the country, King had fallen ill and was treated by Lomax at a motor lodge in Philadelphia.
In addition to his 30-plus years of medical practice, Lomax expanded his work in the healthcare industry by creating several successful managed-care enterprises that changed how healthcare is delivered in underserved communities. He became a catalyst and principal of the first managed care program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He co-founded a multistate HMO that pioneered managed care services to Medicaid recipients and created a company that provided medical services in prisons and jails across the country to ensure proper care for the incarcerated.
Lomax’s legacy continues through his wife, Beverly, and six children—Laura, Thomas, Charles, Sara, Bennett, and the late Mary Claire, who passed in June. The family remembers their father as a caring, hardworking, humorous and generous leader who was admired and respected for his commitment to serving others. They shared one of his famous quotes they all remember: “Receive with one hand and give with the other.”
Scholarship support carries significant importance at La Salle, where nearly 100% of undergraduate day students receive financial aid. Institutional and financial aid contribute to the accessibility of a Lasallian education. For more information on La Salle scholarships, visit lasalle.edu/financialaid/scholarships.
— Meg Ryan