Scuba Oceanlife 09

Robert Wheeler "Bob" Smith

September 30, 1949 ~ August 13, 2020 (age 70)


Robert (Bob) Wheeler Smith, born September 30, 1949 in Birmingham, AL, died on August 13, 2020 at Goodwill Retirement Community, Grantsville, MD, due to complications with Thyroid Cancer.

Born to Arthur and Carolyn Smith, Bob grew up in Glen Rock, NJ.  He was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Glen Rock High School.  He went on to get his Bachelor of the Arts degree from Bucknell University, in Political Science.  He enjoyed his political geography class so much that he looked up the author of his text book, Louis Alexander at the University of Rhode Island and went there to receive his Master’s degree in Geography.  He then went on to earn his PhD in Geography from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

As he was finishing his PhD thesis, he joined the Office of the Geographer of the State Department, and later Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, where he would then spend a 31-year career as a civil servant.   He joined the State Department just before the UN Law of the Sea Convention was finalized in 1982 and spent his career working on maritime boundaries.   He traveled extensively, including work that led to international treaties with Mexico, Canada, the former USSR, and Kiribati.  He was also the author of many papers in the series “Limits of the Seas”, published by the State Department.  It was at the State Department that he met Sandra, wife of 43 years.

He also was the Co-Author of “Excessive Maritime Claims” and Co-Editor of the multi volume International Maritime Boundaries. During his career he would also teach about Ocean Policy, including classes at Georgetown University, George Mason University, and summer classes sponsored by the University of Virginia.  His favorite teaching “gig”, was after his retirement from the State Department, teaching with the Semester at Sea Program.  He taught on three different semester programs, with his most recent in 2017. 

In addition to teaching, post retirement, he consulted for numerous countries on their own maritime boundaries, and thus spent time in the Hague at the International Court of Justice and in Hamburg at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

He was a skilled planner of all things.  He thoroughly enjoyed his long connection with his fantasy baseball League, as “co-owner” of the team Foggy Bottoms, and later as the Commissioner of the League.  Draft Night was a highlight of the year.  He organized a regular football pool.  He used his love of planning to help organize a much loved 50th Reunion for Glen Rock High School, to plan many years’ worth of Rotary trips to Pirates games, Rotary golf Tournaments, and family reunion Golf Tournaments.  He was also known for his extensive excel documents planning family vacations that were nearly fully populated a year in advance.  He also took pride is keeping a spreadsheet for the whole family on each country visited.

He was a family man, quiet, solid, responsible, and not only offered advice and stability to his own daughters, but to many Falls Church Fellows who lived with the family over the years.

Bob was an avid lifelong golfer and was an active golfer at Oakland Country club for many years and more recently was a starting ranger at the course.  He ticked off a bucket list item when he visited Scotland with golf buddies to play on historic courses. 

He always loved his dogs, starting with his dachshund Penny as a child, through to Marco and Polo who have visited him until the end.

Bob had a love for travel that he has passed down to his daughters, who have both lived abroad and work in the tourism industry.  He always supported their interest in travel even from a young age and this will be one of his lasting legacies.

Bob is survived by his wife Sandra, brother, Arthur Smith, daughters Laura and Tesia, and son-in-law Federico Guerrero. He is predeceased by his parents, Arthur and Carolyn Smith, and his brother, Frederick Smith.

At Bob's request, he will be cremated. A memorial service will be planned at a future date. Newman Funeral Homes, P.A., 1100 Memorial Dr., Oakland, MD, 21550, is in charge of arrangements. 

In Lieu of flowers, a scholarship has been created at Garrett College, The Dr. Robert W. (Bob) Smith Memorial Scholarship.  Donations can be made via the college website  and selecting the above named scholarship (or look in restricted fund).

Condolences may be left for his family at


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