Marie F. Smith

National President, A.A.R.P., Washington, D.C.

Marie. F. Smith would be promoting education to young people if she had the money and all the time in the world. ?That is the path for them if they want to be stars. If they want to be great, the path is education,? she says.

A graduate of Fisk University, with a bachelor?s degree in biology and premedical studies and a certificate in public affairs from Stanford University, Smith started her career at the Social Security Administration, where she held several supervisory and managerial positions. It was at the S.S.A. that she met one of the people to whom she attributes her professional success?Rosa Weber, an assistant manager. In those days, there were no women in management positions, Smith says.

She also credits her personal and professional success to her grandmother, who was a probation officer and a very influential political figure.

As national president of the American Association of Retried Persons, the country?s leading organization catering to persons over the age of 50, Smith draws from a background of public affairs and volunteerism gained from her years at SSA and her early experiences at A.A.R.P. Her first role at A.A.R.P. was spokesperson for the organization?s Women?s Initiative Program. She also has served on the organization?s Legislative Council, joining its subcommittee to study economic, employment and low income issues.

At 67 years of age, a widow with three stepchildren and five grandchildren, Smith doesn?t feel like slowing down just yet. True to her philosophy of life, ?Never give up,? Smith says she still wants to give more. ?I would like to give back to women and girls in the African-American community. So many things have been given to me over the years. I have been fortunate,? she says.

Smith has been recognized for her many professional achievements by, among others, the Commission on the Status of Women, which awarded her a Woman of Excellence Award; the S.S.A., from which she received a Commissioner?s Citation; and by Ebony magazine, which named her one of America?s 100 most influential African-American leaders.