The University of Houston Magazine

Wilhelmina Daisy Cullen Robertson SmithReflections

Wilhelmina Daisy
Cullen Robertson Smith      1922–2009

by Kelli Ferrell

University of Houston alumna Wilhelmina Daisy Cullen Robertson Smith (’44, HON ’88) was exposed to philanthropy at a young age by observing her father, Hugh Roy Cullen.

And until her death on January 26, 2009, at age 86, she continued her family’s legacy of supporting the university. She was the last surviving child of Cullen and Lillie Cranz Cullen, UH’s founding family and first major benefactors.

In 1947, the Cullens donated a substantial part of their wealth to create The Cullen Foundation. The foundation was, at the time, one of the largest private foundations in the United States.

Since that time, the Cullen family and associated entities have contributed nearly $70 million to UH and the UH System.

Smith served as the first trustee of agriculture for The Cullen Foundation—alongside her older sisters Agnes and Margaret—at its inception.

“UH was everything to my mother,” says daughter Wilhelmina E. “Beth” Robertson. “She encouraged everyone to do the best that they could. She taught us what her parents had taught her—to always give to others. It was our duty and responsibility to give back. I remember her telling us how important it was for us to leave the world a better place than what it was when we got here.

“What meant so much to her were the people produced out of the University of Houston,” Robertson says.

"She taught us what her parents

had taught her—to always give to others."

Wilhelmina E. Beth Robertson

Smith, who received her bachelor’s degree from UH in 1944, was awarded an honorary doctorate from UH in 1988. She also was a life member of the University of Houston Alumni Association, which presented her with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1989. Her first husband, Corbin J. Robertson Sr., who died in 1991, was a strong advocate of early Cougar athletics programs. His name graces the university’s sports stadium.

In 2008, the UH System Board of Regents paid tribute to her, approving the construction of the Wilhelmina Robertson Smith Stadium Complex—a $38.7 million sports complex to be built on the north end of Robertson Stadium.

In her honor, the board also issued a remembrance and appreciation proclamation, which states: “Wilhelmina Cullen Robertson Smith generously supported and actively participated in innumerable University of Houston events during her lifetime, holding a very special place in her heart for Cougar athletics, as well as supporting programs and activities at UH-Downtown, including student support.”

Smith’s and Robertson’s children are Beth Robertson, former chair of the UH System Board of Regents; Lillie T. Robertson, friend and supporter of UH arts programs; Corbin J. Robertson Jr., advocate for the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston; Carroll Robertson Ray, current member of the UH System Board of Regents; and Alison S. Robertson Baumann.

Besides her children, Smith leaves behind her husband, Edgar A. Smith Jr., many relatives, and a university that is ever grateful for a life well-lived.