Alabama Academy of Honor


Bertha Smolian

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1969.



Mrs. Bertha Pizitz Smolian of Birmingham was born October 9, 1886 in Swainsboro, Georgia, and moved to Birmingham at the age of three. Her father became a mercantile pioneer in the city, founding the Pizitz chain of department stores.

Following her graduation from Radcliffe College in 1917, Mrs. Smolian returned to Birmingham to begin a life of involvement in Birmingham's community endeavors. Her efforts began with the nation's first six-day-a-week radio program for and by women, and expanded to fields such a drama, education, Community Chest, health and service to youth. She was long a member of the boards of Mercy Home, Alabama State Training School for Girls, the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, and Hadassah, Temple Sisterhoods, and the Council of Jewish Women. Mrs. Smolian and her business, Joseph Smolian, were best known for their philanthropic efforts in behalf of Birmingham. In 1960, the Smolians' gift of $100,000 matched Hill-Burton federal funds, made possible the first unit of the Smolian Psychiatric Clinic.

Five years later, another gift from the Smolians in the same amount enabled the college to greatly expand the clinic and expand service and teaching facilities. At about the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Smolian gave their handsome home and its furnishings as a faculty club for the Medical College. They also purchased another house next door for social activities of students, and named it Friendship House.

Mrs. Smolian was also an active benefactor for all of the performing and graphic arts and has made countless private gifts to individuals and organizations. Mr. Smolian was in the forefront of the crusade for increased legislative appropriations for the mentally ill, and for aid to the indigent ill.

Mr. and Mrs. Smolian had two daughters, Mr. Arthur Puce of Atlanta, and the last Mrs. John Jacobson of Birmingham. The Smolians divided their time between Birmingham and Hollywood, Florida, where too, Mrs. Smolian has become widely known for her work with educational and health groups. She is now deceased.