Were you ready for college at age 14? Age 16?
One of the university’s youngest graduates, William Bridges Smith, enrolled at the University of Maryland in 1958 at age 14. He graduated in 1962 with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at age 18– the age when many students start college! His photograph in Biographical Photographs – Print File Collection is nearly identical to his yearbook portrait, enabling us to identify him.
William enrolled alongside his 16-year-old brother, Harry Leroy Smith, Jr., who graduated in 3.5 semesters at age 20. Both William and Harry made their marks on the university in spite of concerns over their relative youth. The 1962 Terrapin Yearbook lists William under Who’s Who among Students in American Colleges and Universities in the United States. He is pictured next to Harry under the Omicron Delta Kappa national men’s honor society and among the members of Aiee-Ire (Joint Student Branch of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and Institute of Radio Engineers). The Terrapin also records the two young students’ membership in Phi Kappa Phi, an honor society for the upper ten percent of the graduating class and from all schools at the university.
(right-click to enlarge an image in the slideshow)
The Baltimore Sun, interested in the story of one of Maryland’s youngest graduates, printed a brief biography of William “Bill” Smith on June 10, 1962. William, who graduated with a 3.02 GPA, was advised by elders (other than his parents) not to start college too early. He commented on their advice, “You’re supposed to get socially maladjusted or something.” Clearly, he did not take their recommendations to heart, as he became involved in Aiee-Ire, AFROTC, the chess team, and the chess club, dated college freshmen, and took 20-23 credits per semester. In his second semester, he dropped out of a social fraternity because he earned B’s instead of A’s. Answering questions about his extensive extracurricular involvements and high academic achievements, he responded, “Some kids will sharpen pencils or play the radio, and wonder at the end of an hour why they haven’t accomplished anything.” Upon graduation, William planned to work at the Bell Labs location in Holmdel, NJ, to pursue his master’s and Ph.D. research.