George Smith hates to lose. A Harvard Business School graduate, Smith founded one of Southern California's largest, most prominent real estate investment banking firms and will receive an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University next week. Still, he smarts a little from a grievance endured at Hamilton High more than 50 years ago.
"I graduated second in my class to a home economics major," said the 70-year-old real estate guru and father of four. "She had one B in three years and I had two. My physics teacher graded me at a different level than anyone else because she knew I was going on to Cal Tech."
He holds no grudge. And this small injustice would help to fuel rather than blunt his drive to succeed, which has served Smith well in building a firm that exceeded $2 billion in commercial financing last year. He never imagined that he'd also apply this indomitable will another way: in a fight to save his daughter's life.
Becca Smith was 5 years old in 1983 when she was diagnosed with Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T), a rare, progressively degenerative neurological disease for which there is no cure. Children with A-T have difficulty walking and with balance, and are more susceptible to infection and certain cancers. Smith and his wife, Pam, were told that Becca was unlikely to reach her 20th birthday.