March has come and gone, but what a great time to have honored some extraordinary women for Women's History Month. Many of these women came before us and paved the way, but there is one who shines and continues to make her mark. She is B. Smith -- a woman who has been a trailblazer in business, fashion, hospitality and entertainment. Without a doubt, Smith broke ground for so many, particularly African-Americans. She was the first black model to grace the cover of Mademoiselle, and opened several successful restaurants in New York and Washington, D.C. Smith has a home collection at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and has taught the world about doing everything with "style." But perhaps her greatest achievement is her grace and honesty in sharing with the world her early diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
Since that time, Smith has appeared on various news programs with her husband and business partner, Dan Gasby, who has been by her side supporting her and also educating others about the illness and the need for more funding and research -- particularly for African-Americans.
Just last year, Smith went missing for nearly 18 hours -- and was later found in Manhattan. Her struggle with the disease continues, yet she and Gasby have not only been devoted to each other, but to the cause.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease is the most expensive in the country, costing $226 billion and possibly reaching $1.1 trillion by 2050. Smith and Gasby addressed the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging just last week in Washington to advocate for more funding and more support for those who suffer from the disease and for caregivers.
I have had the opportunity to meet both Smith and Gasby recently for a class project. Smith came to the campus and her demeanor and grace were truly quite moving. She showed great affection for all the students, and quickly became a mentor -- offering hope and inspiration.
Smith's career has been remarkable and her work and legacy continue. But it will be her battle to fight Alzheimer's and her openness to educate others that will be historic.