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Rod Smart Remembered: A Heartfelt Tribute to a Beloved Figure in Imperial Valley


In a heartfelt tribute to Rod Smart, the Imperial Valley community came together at Del Rio County Club to honor the beloved figure. Celebrating his life and profound impact on the community, Rod Smart, a vital part of Brawley, was deeply cherished by those fortunate enough to know him. 

Joining Imperial Valley College in October 2015, Smart left an indelible mark with his dedication to educational access. His dynamic work ethic was evident as he raised $30,000 for the Foundation’s golf tournament early on, expanding sponsorships and forging connections with potential donors.

Through strategic collaborations, Smart’s innovative fundraising and investment strategies garnered over $100,000 in new donations within his initial six months. Personally, visiting more than 300 major donor prospects, he played a pivotal role in establishing lasting relationships in the Imperial Valley community.

“I will miss his sense of humor; he was always a bundle of joy and always saying something positive. He just loved our students and he always wanted to make an impression on them by providing leadership development and scholarship opportunities,” said Dr. Lennor M. Johnson, President/Superintendent of Imperial Valley College.

Former Brawley Mayor Sam Couchman knew Smart since he was 16 years old and lauded his community involvement and being an important part of Brawley’s history.

“He’s always been interested in students, he’s been a city councilman in Brawley and has a long-lasting legacy,” Couchman said.

One of the emotional moments of the ceremony was when Smart’s son, Winston, gave the eulogy and sang two songs dedicated to his father. One was No Hard Feelings by the Avett Brothers and A Long December by Counting Crows. 

“My father loved his job and loved giving back to higher education. He didn’t do it for the money or recognition,” he recalled. 

Born to Robert (Bob) and Ruby Smart in 1955, Smart, a Rotary member and former Mayor of Brawley, lived a life dedicated to service. As the Executive Director of the IVC Foundation, he seamlessly combined his passion for community service with his fundraising expertise.

Beyond his professional achievements, Smart’s prowess extended to the golf course, winning the Lettuce Tournament twice and earning a reputation as an incredible storyteller. A lifelong Dodger fan, he even assisted his godfather in throwing the first pitch for Brawley Day in 1964.

A dedicated Sigma Phi Epsilon brother for 50 years, Smart received the prestigious Order of the Golden Heart in 2013. His SigEp brothers, including his son, remained some of his closest friends throughout his life.

His impact was immeasurable, leaving behind a legacy of friendship and community spirit that will be remembered fondly by all who were fortunate enough to call him a friend.

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