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From Yittayih Zelalem, Co-Director, Nathalie P. Voorhees Center

The sad news that our friend and colleague, Janet Smith, passed away on Monday, January 17, 2022, after a heroic fight with cancer was shocking.

Janet was professor in the Department of Planning and Policy in UIC’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, and co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement. She was a relentless advocate for justice and fairness with deep knowledge of community development and affordable housing. Her passion and conviction for the protection of the rights of the disenfranchised was unparalleled; she was a shining example to her colleagues, and an incredible resource to our partners. Her energy, enthusiasm and determination was inspirational to all who worked with her.

Janet has touched so many lives – thousands of students; hundreds of colleagues and Voorhees Center partners and staff, particularly, the hundreds of research assistants that have worked at the Center over the last twenty-five years; and many more.

Her work at the UIC Voorhees Center for the last twenty-five years, and her leadership of the Center as co-director for close to twenty years has had far-reaching impacts. She has been at the forefront on the Center’s work and was instrumental in strengthening and expanding its reach, including into the areas of economic development, the green economy, education, transportation, planning for people with disabilities, etc. She has left her mark, and her legacy will endure.

For me, Janet has been a dear friend and colleague for the last twenty-five years; we have been working side by side for all these years. Even during her illness, Janet stayed focused on her work and stayed positive. She relied on science and put her trust and confidence in her doctors.

The last time I saw her was a week or so before Christmas (a few days before she was admitted to the hospital). I met her in front of her apartment building to pick up brownies she baked for our staff for the holiday – thinking about staff even during her challenging days. We communicated when she was in the hospital as she continued to focus on her work to the end. Her passing leaves a void that will be hard to fill.

I will miss her very dearly, as will many who crossed paths with her.

Condolences to her husband, Jim, and her entire family – may she rest in peace.

Yittayih Zelalem

UIC Voorhees Center co-director