The Cerritos College Foundation announced Monday that an alumnus left a $2.3 million gift to support the college’s woodworking program.
The late John B. Smith Jr.’s gift — the largest financial donation the college has ever received — is designated the gift for woodworking scholarships, which will be available starting late this year, according to college officials.
Smith also donated his woodworking equipment, including a drill press and bandsaw, to the college.
“We are truly humbled and inspired by Mr. Smith and his family’s generosity,” said Cerritos College President/Superintendent Jose Fierro. “Mr. Smith’s gift will help students attain advanced skills in woodworking and master the artistry of woodcrafts for many years to come.”
Smith, who was born in Texas, graduated from North High School in Torrance in 1962 and worked as an engineering draftsman in the aerospace industry for about 10 years. He took woodworking courses at Cerritos College in the 1990s before moving to Paso Robles, where he was living on a ranch with a custom wood shop at the time of his death in March 2015, a day before his 71st birthday.
Smith established a trust to create the woodworking scholarship fund at Cerritos College upon the death of his mother, who died in September 2018 at the age of 95. The college was notified of the bequest this summer.
Cerritos College has offered woodworking courses for more than four decades. The program emphasizes hands-on training and all classes are project-focused.
The college offers more than 40 classes, including faceframe and frameless cabinet construction, architectural millwork, table and casegood construction, hand tools, woodturning and veneering.
“Woodworking can be a very rewarding career for students who are just graduating from high school or people looking to develop a highly skilled hobby,” said Reuben Foat, Cerritos College’s woodworking program chair. “The job market for woodworking is very strong with careers that range from cabinet makers, furniture finishers, machine operators and craft woodworking artists. Students who complete the program generally are incredibly satisfied working within this meaningful and gratifying vocation.”