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VOL. 122 | NO. 42 | Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Memorium

New St. Mary's building to be named after Fred Smith's daughter

By Andy Meek

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GIRLS INC.: St. Mary's Episcopal School just filed a $9 million building permit for a new building that will be named after Sandra Windland Smith Rice, an alumna, renowned nature photographer and daughter of FedEx icon Fred Smith. Rice died in 2005. -- Photo By Andy Meek

The Dassault Falcon 20C plane that delivered the first Federal Express package in 1973 - now on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington - bears her name.

And people don't have to look far to find other tributes to Sandra Windland Smith Rice, a passionate wildlife photographer and the oldest child of FedEx chairman, president and chief executive officer Frederick W. Smith. One reason is Rice's friends, colleagues and members of the Smith family continue finding ways to preserve the memory of her extraordinary life.

For example, a photography exhibit that memorializes Rice is on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. Soon, her memory will be enshrined further still, thanks to a spacious, state-of-the-art facility being built at St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis.

The ultimate honorarium

St. Mary's - the alma mater of Smith's daughter, who died in 2005 of a genetic defect that affects the heart's rhythm - is building a structure on campus that will include a new middle school and library space.

That facility, for which a $9 million building permit was filed last week, will open by fall 2008 and is part of the third phase of the school's $32 million capital campaign. (For more information about the building permit, see Page 3.)

Perhaps most important, Rice's memory will permeate the building, from its official name to some of her nature and wildlife photography that will hang inside.

"It's quite a nice project," Smith said about the tribute to his daughter. "It's something that we wanted to do in her memory, and she would have been very happy about it. She was a great girl, she was beautiful and talented, a great mother, great wife - there just couldn't have been a more wonderful person on the face of the earth."

The project honoring "Wendy" - who had her work published in National Geographic magazine and other publications and venues around the world - has relied heavily on input from the Smith family. Architects, planners, contractors and school officials have worked closely with them to craft certain details.

The Smith family pledged $5 million toward construction of the three-story building, and donations also have come in from several other families and individuals. Based on information distributed in a recent newsletter about the capital campaign, visitors to the finished Windland Smith Rice Building will be greeted by a grand staircase. Part of the floor will reflect a design similar to a camera's aperture.

The skylight above will have the look of a camera lens. Innovative design touches will include suspended ceilings that look cloud-like.

"Mr. Smith and his entire family have just been very supportive and gracious and shepherded us through the process of the appropriate way to go about erecting this wonderful facility in honor of Wendy," said Riki Jackson, director of advancement for St. Mary's. "This is part of phase three of our campaign, so it also shows the phenomenal commitment and great support of the St. Mary's community."

Photo finish

Such a building is one way to give back to Smith's daughter, who in turn was an avid supporter of the 160-year-old school she graduated from in 1988. The idea also is fitting, said sister Kathleen Smith, because one of the causes especially close to Rice's heart was introducing children to photography.

The namesake of the $12 million, 53,000-square-foot facility was herself a widely recognized talent, a globe-trotting photographer and passionate wildlife champion. When China sent a pair of pandas to the National Zoo in 2000, for example, Rice flew along and photographed the trip for Fujifilm.

Stephen Freligh, publisher of Nature's Best Photography magazine, said Rice served as master of ceremonies for many of the magazine's photography award events. He recalled her also as a conservation advocate whose prime tool was photography.

"Windland's enthusiasm for photography was contagious, inspiring emerging photographers worldwide to rise to do great things," Freligh said. "She had an amazing ability to connect with children and their creative perspective of nature. They could listen to her for hours as she shared her experiences with wildlife and wild places."

Father and daughter

A new middle school will be enclosed in the finished Windland Smith Rice Building, as well as the James Frederick Smith Library, named in honor of Fred Smith's father.

"There are so many elements of the Windland Smith Rice Building that are going to be very unique," Jackson said.

Fully equipped computer labs are on the way, as well as private study rooms, and a music classroom and choral chambers. It's all part of an elaborate building project, yet one for which Smith has a simple wish.

"We loved her so much and we miss her enormously, and I hope the middle school will be something that can help generations of young women develop into the kind of young woman she was," he said.

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