by Len Lear
The Waldorf School of Philadelphia (WSP), 7500 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, has announced its second annual “Ode to JoyRide” that will take place on Sunday, Oct. 5, in honor of the late Lewis duPont Smith, a beloved former parent of the school and resident of Chestnut Hill.
“Lewis, along with his wife Andrea, was a devoted parent and friend to The Waldorf School of Philadelphia,” said Kerry Hoffman, School Chair of The Waldorf School. “He was an avid supporter of the Waldorf curriculum and the philosophy and ideas of Rudolf Steiner, who founded and developed what we now know as Waldorf Education.
“Among many things, Lewis served on the Board of Trustees of the WSP and as a very active member of the school’s development committee. His legacy lives on in his wife, Andrea, and his three wonderful children who all attend or attended the WSP. The eldest graduated in 2014 and will be entering Springside Chestnut Hill Academy this fall.”
Lewis was an avid long-distance cyclist, and the event on Oct. 5 will honor two of his passions, cycling and The Waldorf School of Philadelphia. Riders may choose from a 25-mile, 10-mile or 5-mile ride starting at Forbidden Drive, right across from the Cedars House on Northwestern Avenue. The ride will start at the ringing of the school bell by Lewis’ children.
Smith, who was also a teacher, political organizer and philanthropist who sat on the boards of Vox Ama Deus in addition to the Waldorf School of Philadelphia, died Aug. 12 of 2011 in Jefferson Hospital after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 54.
Despite his battle with cancer, Smith’s death came as a shock to those of us who saw him as an ultra-fit athlete who had an extremely health-conscious lifestyle. Smith was a scholarship football player at the University of Michigan, where he graduated in 1979, but unlike many other high-powered athletes who let themselves go later in life, Smith was just as athletic in his 50s as he was a few decades earlier. The handsome 6-foot-4 long-distance cyclist with a flat stomach and defined muscles was a virtual poster child for healthy living. He cycled up to 50 miles a day, and he had a dream “to shadow the Tour de France.”
At their home in Chestnut Hill, Smith and his wife regularly hosted salons where friends were invited to hear classical music and opera, discuss political philosophy and share good food. Smith and his wife often performed operatic excerpts from Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” He also entertained guests with recitations of Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller, legendary German poet and philosopher.
Just a few months before his death, I had lunch twice with Smith, and we talked for hours about subjects that we were both interested in such as The Enlightenment, the French Revolution and Romanticism. We definitely did not agree on all subjects, but I was astounded by his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the subjects discussed. I had no idea he was ill, however, and he told me about several long-distance bicycle trips he had taken in the recent past.
According to Smith’s sister, Valerie Lynch, “Smith was a founding member of the Philadelphia Forum for Anthroposophy, an organization dedicated to the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), founder of the movement known as Anthroposophy, which he described as ‘a path of knowledge to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe’ and from which biodynamic farming, the Camphill Movement and Waldorf education developed.
“As a young man growing up in Paoli, Smith attended the Haverford School and later the Rectory School and Avon Old Farms in Connecticut, where he distinguished himself as a two-time state champion, two-time New England state champion and a national prep heavyweight wrestling champion in 1975.”
“The world is a lesser place without Lewis,” said George Trautman, former headmaster at Avon Old Farms, after his death.
After college, Smith taught English and history at the Hill School in Pottstown and Friends Central in Wynnewood. In the early 1980s, he was a political organizer, leading to his association with Lyndon LaRouche Jr., an extremely controversial political radical.
After meeting his future wife in Philadelphia in 1985, Smith and Andrea married in Rome and later moved to New Hampshire, where Smith ran for Congress. Although he lost the election, he ran again in 1990 as a candidate from Pennsylvania. After a second unsuccessful attempt, Smith chose not to run again.
Founded in 1996, The Waldorf School of Philadelphia offers an education to children in grades pre-K through 8. For more information on Ode to JoyRide, contact Allison Budschalow, Director of Development, at 215-248-1662, firstname.lastname@example.org or phillywaldorf.com/development/community-fundraising-events.
Ed. Note: Some of the information contained in this article was written for us by Valerie Lynch after the death of her brother in 2011.