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ELIZABETH SPANN SMITH GWIN

August 14, 2014

Funeral services for Elizabeth Spann Smith Gwin will be held Monday August 18, 2014 at 10:00 A.M. at the First United Methodist church in Starkville, Mississippi..
Elizabeth died at her home in Starkville, Mississippi, on August 12 2014. She was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years, Howell H. Gwin, and by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Barnett Smith of Columbus.  She is survived by a son,  Dr. Howell H. Gwin Jr.  and wife Elizabeth,  a daughter, Dr. May Gwin Waggoner and husband Dr. Roger A. Waggoner, of Lafayette, Louisiana, and four grandchildren,  Dr. Anne Gwin of Boston, Massachusetts, Howell Holmes Gwin III of Denver, Colorado, Beth Waggoner Patterson of New Orleans, and Dr. Benjamin Waggoner and wife Mandy of Conway Arkansas, and three great-grandchildren.
Elizabeth Spann Smith was born in 1909 in Columbus, Mississippi, the daughter of Charles Barnett Smith of Columbus and May Rush Smith of Rushton, Mississippi. After receiving two B.A. degrees in Piano Performance and Spanish at MSCW in 1930, she taught piano in Hollandale, Mississippi for a year and then in 1931 moved with her  new husband Howell Gwin to Evanston, Illinois, then to New York, where he pursued graduate degrees at Northwestern University and Columbia. In New York she was employed as a runway model for Charles Armour and John Robert Powers. In 1943, the family left New York for Wesleyan College, a women’s liberal arts college in Macon, Georgia, where her husband taught English literature and Photography and she taught piano privately. In 1949 Mr. Gwin joined the faculty of Mississippi State College and they moved to Columbus and then to Starkville.
As a young wife and mother, Elizabeth was heavily involved in volunteer work, from working with the clothes dispersal program for the needy at Riverside Church in New York to the Missionary Society (later the WSCS, then UMW), the DAR, the UDC, and. the Macon AAUW where she served as president.  In 1953 she went from girl Scout volunteer to professional by accepting  a "temporary part-time job" as  Executive Director of the Prairie Girl Scout Council and three years later became full-time. When she retired, in 1976, the council had grown from 400 girls in four counties to more than 5000 in nineteen. After 20 years “Honey” received the Thanks Badge from the Girl Scouts of the USA. 
As a visionary, Elizabeth’s dream was to build a residential Girl Scout Camp for the girls of her council. The first summer resident camp at Camp Tik-A-Witha was offered in 1970 and is now used on a year-round basis. Elizabeth also wanted to provide the same quality camping experience to children with special needs. The program and staff training manual developed by her college-aged Girl Scouts is still used today. “Handicapped session” began in 1975 and was renamed the Elizabeth Gwin Session in her honor. Camp Tik-A-Witha and the Session received national recognition from the American Camp Association. Elizabeth was awarded the Girl Scouts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 by the Prairie Girl Scout Council. In April of 2008 she was awarded the Thanks Badge II, the very highest recognition awarded by the Girl Scouts of the USA, and received the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2009 for her work. At age 96 she helped former staff members clear fallen trees and brush damaged from a major storm, and a year later helped plant 500 flower bulbs there. She continued her participation in staff training every summer until this past one.
 Her activities were not limited to Girl Scouting. In 1981 she joined the MUW Alumnae Association, soon became President of the Starkville chapter and eventually served as international President of the Alumnae Association, a group which was on the front lines in the early 1990s as government agencies contemplated merging MUW with Mississippi State. She served on two MUW Presidential search committees and on the Board of Directors for the "W," the MUW Foundation, and was honored in 2008 with the MUW Alumna Achievement Award.
 Beginning with Epworth League, Elizabeth was active from an early age in her church. She was a member of various Bible Study groups, chairman of her circle and of Starkville United Methodist UMW, president of her Sunday school class, chairmen of the Worship, Staff-parish and other committees, and lay leader.
 In 2007, she helped found the Senior Citizens’ Center in Starkville. She was a member of the University Woman’s Club, a gourmet group, a book review group and a sewing group.  She was the oldest living member of the DAR in the state of Mississippi, delivered Meals on Wheels, and was a favorite speaker at classes on gerontology at Mississippi State. She was a supporter of the Starkville Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Friends of the Library.
 In 2003 she received the Mississippi Blue Cross Blue Shield Ageless Heroes Vitality award for her volunteerism after age 65. In March 2011 the United Methodist Church awarded her its Cross and Flame award. 
In 1983 she endowed the Howell H. Gwin Memorial Scholarship in English at Mississippi State, and in 2010 she established the Howell H. Gwin Jr. scholarship in History at Lamar University.
 She continued to entertain well after the age of 100 and her guest list included Jean-Marie Gustave LeClezio, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature who was making an appearance at Mississippi State in 2008.
 Visiting hours will be observed in the sanctuary of First United Methodist church from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday August 17 and for one hour prior to Monday's service. At the funeral, friends and family will be invited to share their personal reminiscences of Elizabeth.
Contributions may be made to the Elizabeth and Howell Gwin Scholarship Fund at Mississippi State University, the Elizabeth Gwin Scholarship Fund at Mississippi University for Women,  the Elizabeth Gwin session at Camp Tik-a-Witha ,O Box 1087, Tupelo  MS‎ 38802, or the Music fund of the First United Methodist Church in Starkville. 
View the online guest register at www.WelchFuneralhomes.com

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