Many colleges would be thrilled to have an alumnus as loyal as Tim Smith.
He graduated from Baylor University in 1983, with a degree in accounting, worked his way up in the business world, picking up a Harvard MBA, working with a venture capital firm, and running a technology company. In the last decade, he has personally given about $65,000 in gifts to Baylor, and he raised another $60,000 to endow a fund in honor of a business colleague and the colleague's wife -- the couple had met at Baylor.
For the last nine years, Smith has given an annual talk in an entrepreneurship class, and for the last five, he has served on the advisory committee for the business school.
But this fall, he received an unexpected call from the business dean telling him he would need to leave the advisory committee because he is gay.
"It makes me very, very sad. Here is a university that I love and that has done a lot of very good things for me. So it's sad, being rejected like that," Smith said. "Also I feel very angry. My money was good enough for them and my time was good enough for them. I haven't changed, but they find out I'm gay and that disqualifies me. That's just wrong."
While Smith is out as a gay man, he says he is "in no way an activist" and never talked about being gay at business school meetings because it never made sense to do so. "We were talking about the curriculum, how to make sure the business school reflected the real world of business. I never thought it was relevant," he said.
Smith's undoing at his alma mater apparently came when a professor asked him why he was moving from Dallas to Charleston. Smith assured the professor that the move would not affect his ability to help the university, and that he was moving to be closer to his partner. Smith said that he heard from the professor that their conversation later came up in a chat between the professor and the dean, Terry Maness.
Maness released a statement explaining why Smith needed to stop advising the business school. "Recently, I asked a member of our advisory board to step down because of his alternative lifestyle," the statement said. "We must be sensitive to the position of our affiliated denomination, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which has, on previous occasions, stated that a homosexual lifestyle is incompatible with most Baptist interpretations of scripture."
Smith said he would find other places for his philanthropy and his time now. And he said he does not feel any personal bitterness toward Maness, who Smith said faces unfortunate pressure to adhere to anti-gay policies. "No dean at Baylor is ever going to get fired for getting rid of a homosexual, but he does risk his job for retaining one," Smith said.
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