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Joan Barr Smith: Kellogg Grad, Former Evanston Mayor Dies

Memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 28

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University alumna and Evanston’s first woman mayor, Joan Barr Smith, died Saturday, March 21 at the age of 75.

Smith, a graduate of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, served two elected terms as mayor of Evanston, from 1985 to 1993, and is remembered as a strong ally of the University.

Prior to her election to the city’s highest office, Smith spent eight years on the Evanston City Council as alderman of the Second Ward.

She has been credited with fostering town-gown relations during her tenure in local government.  

Smith supported a joint effort between the city and the University to develop a $400 million research park on Church Street.

In 1990, Smith also blocked plans by the Evanston City Council to levy a “tuition tax” on students at Northwestern and a handful of other tuition-based schools.

According to a Sept. 11, 1990 article in the Chicago Tribune, Evanston would have become the first city in the country to approve a “tuition tax” had Smith not used her veto power.

While sympathizing with aldermen frustrated about financial issues, Smith reportedly said, “I don’t think the right thing to do is tax people for getting an education.”

Smith retired from politics after her second term.

The daughter of James C. and Mildred Worthy, Smith grew up in a political family.

Her father, a Northwestern graduate and Kellogg professor, served as the assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Smith moved to the North Shore with her family when she was four, according to the family’s obituary. She graduated from New Trier High School and received a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University before obtaining an MBA from Kellogg in 1996.

Smith is survived by her husband, Wayne Smith of Bonifay, Florida; two daughters, Debra Nee of Evanston and Jennifer Bell of Silverton, Oregon and their families.

A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, March 28, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 1509 Ridge Ave., Evanston.

In lieu of flowers, Smith’s family has asked that donations be made to St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, or the Evanston History Center, 225 Greenwood St., Evanston.

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