Henry Clay Smith, 92, Was Psychology Professor

Henry Clay Smith, a year-round resident of West Tisbury for 20 years and summer resident for the preceding 30 years, died peacefully at Hearthstone Alzheimer's facility in Marlborough on July 15. He was 92.

Henry strove to achieve a richly balanced life in the manner of his idol Thomas Jefferson. As a scientist, writer, husband, father and grandfather, intellectual, amateur architect and farmer, he was a beloved member of the West Tisbury community and proclaimed himself to be a happy and fortunate man and an optimist about the human race.

Henry was born on May 9, 1913, in Catonsville, Md. One of six children, he was raised by maiden aunts after his mother died when he was nine. A diligent student in a family of modest means, he attended St. John's College on a scholarship. He later earned his doctorate degree at Johns Hopkins University.

During his years of graduate study, he met Nancy Woollcott and was introduced through her family to Martha's Vineyard. Nancy and Henry married in 1938 and with their three children, David, Woollcott and Barbara, became regular Vineyard summer residents. They were part of a family clan that included Nancy's three sisters, Polly Murphy, Joan Jennings and Barbara Scannell, and their families.

For 38 years, Henry was a professor of psychology at Michigan State University. He taught, did research and published books on industrial psychology, personality development and sensitivity to people, which he defined as the ability to predict other people's behavior. His early work on the effects of music on productivity of assembly line workers helped make music part of the background of daily work life.

His love for small, close communities was echoed in Nancy and Henry's approach to life in a big university. In East Lansing, Mich., he helped plan the cooperative faculty housing development where they lived. The Smith home, with its field next door, was the gathering place for Henry's well-known athletic competitions, volleyball, touch football and hockey, depending on the season.

Henry's life on the Vineyard as a summer resident and as a full-time resident in retirement always involved writing, building and self-improvement projects.

He designed and built a house based around a three-story tower, which was his home for the past 30 years. His self-improvement projects ranged through yoga, developing a legacy blueberry patch, reading 19th-century novels and pursuing the health benefits of regular consumption of red wine, and were always supplanted by some new enthusiasm. He was an avid player of tennis, golf and croquet throughout his time on the Vineyard.

Among his publications were three major textbooks and numerous articles. He made much use of social occasions, dinner conversations and casual interchanges on the street to gather and test ideas. For the uninitiated, the interrogations from the professor with his raised Albert Schweitzer eyebrows could be startling.

The last of his writing projects, a biography of Thomas Jefferson, was in progress as his illness progressed.

Henry is survived by his wife, Nancy, of West Tisbury; his three children, David and his wife, Joan, of Swarthmore, Pa., Woollcott and his wife, Leah, of West Tisbury and Barbara and her husband, Jon, of Key Biscayne, Fla., and by eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on August 14 at the West Tisbury Public Library. In lieu of flowers the family requests contributions to the West Tisbury Library Gift Fund.