In Remembrance of Ernie Smart

Ernest Smart, a beloved friend and college, and pioneer of the Institute of Simulation and Training (IST), passed away peacefully on Thursday, May 16, 2019. He touched the hearts of many, here at IST, and will be dearly missed.

A true visionary, Ernie was a central figure in the establishment of IST as a reputable research institute within the University of Central Florida. When he joined IST as Director of Government Relations in 1986, the institute was still in its infancy. Ernie served as a liaison and was instrumental in helping IST obtain some of the initial federal contracts and grant funding for research and development activities. As a result, Ernie became part of the top five “Class of Millionaires” for the Office of Research and Commercialization at UCF, from 2008 to 2013, for securing externally sponsored research funding of $1 million or more during a given fiscal year. Ultimately, in 2014, Ernie received a UCF Millionaire award from UCF President Hitt to recognize his efforts for working with the military to bring research funding to UCF. That same year, after 28 years of service to the University, Ernie retired from IST.

In his early life, Ernie served in the Army as a helicopter pilot sustaining aerial flights in support of combat ground forces through the rank of Lt. Colonel. During his tour in Vietnam, Ernie was awarded his Sixth Oak Leaf Cluster for participating in more than twenty-five aerial missions over hostile territory. He was later bestowed the Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism and exceptionally valorous actions while serving as a commanding officer of a helicopter fire team during a mission. He maneuvered his own aircraft to divert fire away from an evacuation operation and returned to retrieve wounded soldiers.

That is the kind of man that he was. As described by those who knew him, Ernie was “Always a true gentleman and treated people right.” It was very important for him to be a good person, and he instilled that within those he knew and mentored at IST. A consensus among those that were close to Ernie is that he truly had a great personality and could strike up a conversation with anyone. He loved his family dearly and frequently expressed the pride he had in his daughters and grandchildren.

Dr. Crystal Maraj, who now sits in what used to be his office, shared some of the impact he made in her life and the lives of others. Ernie served as her mentor for work advice, as well as life motivation. He was always available to lend an ear, liked to speak his mind and never sugarcoated things. Nonetheless, Ernie is well-known at IST for his undeniable sense of humor, and even had a “jokes email distribution list.” Felipe and Robbie, part of IT, remember helping Ernie maintain the distribution list. “You had to be special to be a part of his distribution list,” shared Felipe, who recalls receiving a funny email every single day from Ernie. He also had a passion for wood-working. In his spare time, he enjoyed creating clocks, pens, and frames, among other things in his extensive wood-working station at home. He even crafted prizes to gift during giveaways at IST. Ernie looked at life as an adventure, never looking back. IST laments the loss of such a monumental figure in the history of this institute. He will be greatly missed.

Ernest is survived by his wife Doris of 59 years, daughters Cheryl and Pamela, and two grandchildren, Tim and Rachel. A memorial service organized by IST will be held in his honor on Thursday, May 30.

Written by: Catherine Delgado & Marybeth Thompson


May. 23, 2019