Lovie and MaryAnne Smith’s Charitable Pursuits

Lovie & MaryAnne Smith’s Charitable Pursuits

What you see on the NFL sidelines—the Chicago Bears’ even-keeled head coach revered for his reserved, if stoic, demeanor—gives little away about the passionate person Lovie Smith is both on and off the field.

The recent Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee hails from rural Big Sandy, Texas, where he grew up in poverty and attended segregated schools in the ’60s. Still, Lovie excelled as a high school football player, earning all-state honors as a defensive end and linebacker. “Lovie knew since the fifth grade that he wanted to be a football coach,” says MaryAnne, his wife of more than 30 years. The college sweethearts met at the University of Tulsa, where Lovie played football on an athletic scholarship. After a successful blind date, “He told his friends, ‘I met the girl I’m going to marry,’” she says.

“I still have the list I made after our date: ‘Ways to get Lovie Smith to marry me.’ I was going to make sure I always looked my best. And I wanted him to know how smart I was, that I got good grades,” she says proudly. Single women should borrow a page out of MaryAnne’s dating playbook: Lovie proposed to her the following month. They were married in 1980, and have three grown kids, Mikal, 35, Matthew, 25, and Miles, 22.

The Des Plaines, Illinois, native followed her man around the country as he pursued his dreams, but MaryAnne’s dreams also came true when their journey brought them back to her hometown in 2004 and he became head coach for the Bears. Neither Lovie nor MaryAnne have forgotten where they came from. The only way Lovie was able to attend college was on a football scholarship, so the duo decided to start the Lovie and MaryAnne Smith Foundation (LAMAS), which grants scholarships to worthy young people—to date, it has sent 22 students to college, including Howard, Pepperdine, and Purdue.

“These kids are just like me when I was their age,” says Lovie. He fondly remembers his high school coach offering to pay for him to go to college if he didn’t earn an athletic scholarship. “Such generosity left an enormous mark on my life, and I resolved to honor that teacher’s gesture,” he says.

It’s that passion for giving back that inspired the Smiths to get involved in the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, serving as honorary chairs for the current capital campaign for the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House, opening at 211 E. Grand on June 26—a $30 million project. “When you have a lot, you give a lot,” MaryAnne says. Those are words they live by.

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