Lester H. Smith
Texas Oilman, Philanthropist, and Author of
You Gotta Dance Like No One’s Watching
Lester H. Smith, a two-time National Latin Dance Champion, is one of
Houston’s most colorful and respected philanthropists. But the
second-generation Texas oilman is also known for his decade’s long
battles with cancer – and his ability to beat the odds time and time
again. He reveals his passion for life, his resilience and courage,
and an intensely generous spirit in the pages of his first book,
You Gotta Dance Like No One’s Watching
(Bright Sky Press, with Trish Morille).
A native of Wharton, Texas, Smith battled bladder cancer for nearly
two decades while building a successful energy business and training
as a competitive dancer. But it was a diagnosis of aggressive
prostate cancer that nearly ended his life. In true “Lester style”,
he committed himself to a full recovery and pledged to do whatever
he could to help others struggling with cancer. Just weeks after
successful surgery, Lester and his wife Sue were back on the dance
floor; eight months later, the dynamic couple won their first of two
prestigious titles - the United States Grand Senior Latin Dance
Smith’s battles with cancer – and his fierceness in overcoming them
– prompted him to turn his own personal battle with cancer into a
very public campaign to raise awareness of the disease, encourage
early detection and fund critical cancer research at the Texas
The Smiths have supported many philanthropic causes in medical
research and patient care. They are the third largest donors to
Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas where their significant
gifts established The Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center and The
Lester and Sue Smith Urology Clinic, named in their honor. They
have also endowed three chairs at the College for Urologic
Education, Research and Reproductive Medicine, and a chair in
pediatric urology at Texas Children’s Hospital. Lester has also
been a major donor to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Children’s
Cancer Center, and The University of Texas Health Science Center
where The Lester Smith Cardiovascular Training Center is located.
He is a frequent national speaker and contributor on cancer
survivorship and has served as a peer counselor for hundreds of
prostate and bladder cancer patients and their families.
In addition to his work with Baylor College of Medicine, Smith is a
Trustee of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where he provided
extensive funding to advance science education and bring diverse
Body Worlds 3: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies.
His fascination with gems and minerals led to
the creation of the Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault, featuring the
most extraordinary cut and polished jewels ever displayed in a
single permanent exhibition.
At the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Smiths established the Smith
Distinguished Lecture Series, a series of free public lectures
presented throughout the year by world-renowned speakers.
In February 2011, Lester and Sue Smith chaired An Evening with
Legend Robert Duvall, a benefit for Texas Children’s Cancer Center.
The Smiths pledged a dollar-for-dollar match for the event, and
raised $9.1 million dollars – a new record for the institution.
Concerned with the plight of those without access to timely, quality
medical care, in April 2011 Lester and Sue Smith provided a $15
million grant – the largest private gift in Harris County Hospital
District history – to establish the Smith Clinic, an ambulatory care
center designed exclusively for outpatients. Scheduled to open in
late 2012, the five-story building will include the Smith Breast
Center, Smith Infusion Therapy Clinic, Smith Diagnostic Imaging
Department and Smith Oncology Clinic.
In June 2011, The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation announced the
launch of the Lester Smith Pink Well Challenge, a
year-long fundraising effort offering $1 million in matching grants
to organizations engaged in breast cancer research, prevention,
treatment and patient support throughout the U.S. Symbolized by an
active pink pump jack in the heart of West Texas, Smith is using
proceeds from his energy industry successes to “pay it forward” in
supporting breast cancer research and patient care.
Numerous Houston organizations have honored the Smiths for their
immense philanthropic spirit including the Assistance League, Baylor
College of Medicine, Houston Children’s Charity, American Heart
Association and Holocaust Museum Houston. In 2006, the couple
accepted the National Association for Fundraising Professionals
(AFP) Excellence in Fundraising Award, and named Outstanding
In addition to serving as a Trustee of Baylor College of Medicine,
Lester Smith is a member of the Board of Directors of The Holocaust
Museum Houston, Board of Visitors at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center,
and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Prostate
Cancer Foundation. He is a Trustee and Past Chairman of the Houston
Museum of Natural Science. The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation
supports numerous non-profit organizations dedicated to medical
science, education, arts and humanitarian causes.