Born in Chicago, Rev. John P. Smyth is a 1952 graduate of DePaul Academy and a 1957 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He captained the Notre Dame basketball team his senior year; was selected an All-American; and was a first-round draft choice of the then young NBA’s St. Louis Hawks. He elected to forgo a professional basketball career and entered the seminary instead.
1962 to 2004
Fr. Smyth was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in April 1962. His first and only assignment as a priest was Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Over the years, Fr. Smyth’s duties on behalf of Maryville have encompassed teaching; coaching, administrating, recruiting volunteers, finding needed financial support; introducing new, effective and innovative treatment programs; and always fighting for the rights of Illinois’ neglected youth.
Fr. Smyth was named Executive Director of Maryville in 1970. At the time, Maryville was an enormous drain on the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the physical plant was well beyond repair. By utilizing his networking skills, he managed to eke out a financial existence for Maryville without help from the Archdiocese. By aligning himself with successful business people, such as Thomas J. Origer, Fr. Smyth completely replaced a crumbling infrastructure on the main campus in Des Plaines to serve 250 youth. He also initiated extensive program changes at Maryville. In the seventies, he spearheaded a diagnostic unit and emergency shelter facilities and introduced the Family-Teaching model of childcare to Maryville that was created at the University of Kansas. In addition to his daily challenges with the youth, Fr. Smyth sought new sources for funding. He developed a year-long calendar of fundraising events from Walk-a-Thons to charity golf outings to the most successful single-day charitable fundraiser in the State of Illinois – Chuck Wagon Day.
During his administration, Maryville expanded to various sites that specialized in caring for neglected, abused, and abandoned youth comprised of cocaine-addicted newborns to the medically complex child; from teenage girls at odds with the law to youth with both mental illness and substance abuse (dual diagnosis) problems; from the victims of child pornography, teenage prostitution, and sexual abuse to the damaged child who is the result of family violence.
Additionally, Fr. Smyth is the recipient of innumerable awards, including the President’s Child Safety partnership Award presented to him by President Ronald Regan in recognition of a program developed for combating child victimization; and in May 2001, Fr. Smyth was inducted as Laureate in the Lincoln Academy of Illinois for his work in the field of Social Services – this is the highest honor an Illinois Governor can bestow upon a citizen of the State.
2004 to the Present
After almost forty-two years of service at Maryville Academy (City of Youth), in January 2004, the title of President Emeritus/Chancellor of Maryville had been bestowed upon Fr. Smyth. He also carries on pastoral duties with the community of the Marian Chapel at Maryville and with the Hispanic community of the Maryville-Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.
Fr. Smyth continues to give his time, energy, enthusiasm, leadership and love to the service of the children and their families and caretakers throughout the State of Illinois. Consistent with a quote that has been paraphrased and associated with him – “No person stands so tall as the one who stoops to help a child” – in July 2005 Fr. Smyth established the Standing Tall Charitable Foundation. He embarked upon this course because of his belief that education is the key factor in breaking the cycle of poverty, abuse, and neglect. The organization’s mission is to underwrite educational costs for underprivileged youth in the State of Illinois, primarily from the underserved neighborhoods in the Chicago metropolitan area. Fr. Smyth works diligently in his position as Executive Director of the Foundation and his door is never closed to a youth in need – day or night. His strength supports the weak; his power serves the helpless; and his love and dedication are given freely to any youth in need.
In addition to his commitment to his Foundation, in March of 2007, Fr. Smyth was appointed President of Notre Dame High School in Niles, Illinois. Where is goal is to guide the student body by enlightening their minds and enhancing their spirits so when they walk out the doors into the world upon graduation, they will possess the qualities for success in the path of their choice with a full appreciation of not only what they have received and achieved at Notre Dame High School, but also what they may return to the community and society as a whole.
Executive Director of The Rev. John P. Smyth Standing Tall Charitable Foundation, President of Notre Dame High School, and President Emeritus/Chancellor of Maryville Academy