During the half century that Roger Smith has lived in Palo Alto, he has served as founding president and CEO of a major bank, created multiple nonprofits, run for city council and volunteered to support numerous causes.
In honor of his decades of local service, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and Palo Alto Weekly are giving Smith an outstanding citizen volunteer Tall Trees award this year. An award ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, April 21.
"I was very pleased to get the award for my involvement," Smith said. "I was surprised to get the award because of the many other deserving citizens that make our city a great place to live and work."
When he first moved to Palo Alto in 1964, Smith said that he only knew one person and decided to start participating in the community, knowing that he wanted to make a difference. He began with the Palo Alto Junior Chamber of Commerce, or Jaycees, and his involvement continued from there.
Mothers Against Murder supports and advocates for the families of murder victims, aiming to make sure their voices are heard in the criminal justice system. The group's work includes helping families navigate the court process, providing emotional support and offering financial resources to cover things like burial expenses. The nonprofit also offers monetary rewards for information relating to certain murders and gun crimes.
Smith founded the group to make a difference in the judicial system, where he said the main concern is to ensure a fair trial for the suspect and the victim's family is "quickly forgotten."
"I am most proud of the effect we have on the victim's family," Smith said. "We have stayed in touch with many of our victims' families and continue to help them as they move throughout their lives."
Friends of the Palo Alto Parks is a nonprofit that works with the city and other groups to provide money to support and expand parkland, as well as to raise public awareness and appreciation for the city's open space.
The group has sponsored the playground at Heritage Park, the renovation of Lytton Plaza and the creation of the Magical Bridge playground at Mitchell Park. The Magical Bridge playground is specifically designed to be accessible for children and adults with disabilities.
According to Smith, his motivation to create Friends of the Palo Alto Parks was the understanding that the city wouldn't have enough money on its own to fund the needs of its parks.
In his professional career, Smith was the founding CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, which now has offices on multiple continents and over $200 billion in assets, according to the bank's website.
Smith also has been involved in political issues in Palo Alto over the years, including a 2005 bid for the city council, though he dropped out of the race six weeks before the election. In 2014, Smith was one of the primary backers of Measure D, which reduced the size of the city council from nine to seven members. He cites that campaign as one that he is especially proud of, though he acknowledges that the goal of shorter council meetings has not come to pass.
Read more stories on the 2020 and 2022 Tall Tree Award honorees: