Patricia Knott Smyth, philanthropist and hospital board chair, dies

Patricia Knott Smyth, a philanthropist and former Good Samaritan hospital board chair, died of leukemia complications Jan. 14 at her North Baltimore home. She was 89.

Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of contractor and developer Henry J. Knott and his wife, Marion I. Burk, local philanthropists. She was a 1947 graduate of the Institute of Notre Dame and earned a biology degree at Notre Dame University of Maryland.

She met her future husband, Dr. J. Walter Smyth, on a double date while they were in school. They married in 1952 and settled in Guilford.

“She was the eldest of 13, and this prepared her for her seminal role as mother to her own eight children,” said her daughter, Brigid S. Lakin of Paradise Valley, Ariz. “She ran her home as a tight ship, with all eight kids participating. She taught discipline and insisted her children give their best in everything. She embodied selflessness and loyalty.”

Another daughter, Ann-Lindsay S. Marsh of Phoenix, said: “Mom had a can-do attitude, but didn’t do anything for the recognition. She encouraged all her children to spread their wings, but never to forget to be charitable.”

Family members said Ms. Smyth worked with her father and learned the essentials of running a large business from that association.

In 1966 Cardinal Lawrence Shehan named her to the board of directors of the then-new Good Samaritan Hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard, an institution funded through the estate of department store founder Thomas O’Neill, who died in 1919. Mr. O’Neill also gave his $7 million estate to build the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

“My mother was smart and intuitive and she picked up a good business sense,” said her son, John C. Smyth, a resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County. “She was excellent in seeing the big picture.”

Ms. Smyth rose to become the Good Samaritan board secretary and was named the hospital’s chair in 1986. She held the post for seven years.

“During her time on the board she saw that small, independent hospitals were not going to survive,” said her son. “She was a driving force first in the creation of the Helix Health System and as well in the creation of MedStar.”

“I got to know Ms. Smyth as the chair of the Helix Health System and when it merged with MedStar. She was actively involved in those merger discussions. She was dynamic and had a savvy business sense. She brought leadership to the table,” said Bradley S. Chambers, MedStar Good Samaritan and Union Memorial hospitals president. “She had a strong sense of looking out for patients. She also looked out for the employees, to make sure they had what was needed to provide excellent patient care.

“She was a no-nonsense person, and people respected her for that,” said Mr. Chambers. “You knew where you stood, and you always got an answer from her.”

A building on the Good Samaritan campus is named for her and her husband in recognition of their service to the hospital.

Ms. Smyth also served as the first board chair of both Helix and MedStar.

Kenneth A. Samet, President and CEO of MedStar Health, said, “Pat was the first chair of the MedStar Health Board, and was instrumental in bringing Helix Health and MedStar together 20 years ago. She had a unique ability to see the big picture in health care — to understand the economic requirements for long-term success given the many changes predicted to impact hospitals.”

He also said, “She helped build an organization that is a true legacy for her caring spirit and strong leadership."

Ms. Smyth was also interested in the revitalization of Baltimore. She acquired the old White Cloud Mattress Factory on Guilford Avenue in Mount Vernon and renovated it into condominiums.

She became chair of the Maryland Hospital Association and served on the boards of the University of Maryland Medical Systems Inc., Catholic Health Care Consortium, Center Stage, Maryland Hospital Education Institute, Marion I. & Henry J. Knott Foundation and the Automobile Association of Maryland.

Mrs. Smyth supported the schools she attended and served as a trustee.

“We all admired Pat’s intelligence and personal grit, and I personally appreciated her candor and tremendous insight,” said Mary Pat Suerkamp, a former Notre Dame of Maryland University president.

She was also managing partner of her family real estate entity, The Twelve Knotts Limited Partnership.

As a student she played basketball and coached her daughters in their schools. Family members said she enjoyed a good laugh, a competitive card game, hosting dinners and attending parties. She spent vacations at Bethany Beach, Del., and Ocean City.

“She always made any game challenging and never ‘let’ you win,” said her daughter, Ann-Lindsay Marsh.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.

In addition to her daughters and son, survivors include four other sons, James W. Smyth Jr. of Carmel, Ind., Patrick J. Smyth of Owings Mills, Dr. Thomas B. Smyth of Woodbrook and Francis X. Smyth of Laurelford; another daughter, Margaret M. “Peggy” Smyth of Towson; three brothers, Francis X. Knott of Baltimore County, James F. Knott of Naples, Fla, and Martin G. Knott of St. Michaels; three sisters, Rose Marie K. Porter of Monkton, Lindsay K. Harris of Baltimore and Mary Stuart K. Rodgers of Charlesbrooke; 21 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Her husband of 48 years, a urologist who also taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, died in 2000.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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