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2023 Harrison M. Sayre Award Honorees, Renée and Dwight Smith

Generosity comes in many forms. For Renée and Dwight Smith, generosity extends far beyond their charitable dollars—it also includes leading by example and encouraging and empowering those around them. Guided by their faith, the couple says that giving back to the community and inspiring others to be generous is a true blessing.

It’s a reminder of everything you have,” said Renée, who carries a coin-like token inscribed with the phrase blessed beyond belief.

“When you look around at your life, you have so much. It makes it easy to give or want to help other people. No matter what’s going on in my life, it’s like, ‘you’re blessed being able to help others.’”

2023 Harrison M. Sayre Award honorees Renée and Dwight Smith

The Smiths, who are longtime Columbus Foundation donors, have given generously to numerous organizations in central Ohio and in Dwight’s hometown of Springfield, Ohio. Through their Donor Advised Fund, the TBTG Foundation, which was established in 2002, Renée and Dwight continue to grant funds to a variety of nonprofits locally and in Africa, as well as provide scholarships at Columbus State Community College. Today, the couple is passionate about supporting organizations that advance social justice, support entrepreneurship, uplift older adults, and empower and inspire youth.

“When you look around at your life, you have so much. It makes it easy to give or want to help other people. No matter what’s going on in my life, it’s like, ‘you’re blessed being able to help others.’”

Renée Smith

Additionally, the Smiths are very involved in the community, including through board service. Dwight currently serves on numerous for-profit and nonprofit boards, including Peoples Bank, OCLC, Rocky Brands, The Highlights Foundation, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He previously served on the boards of Columbus State Community College, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Columbus Chamber of Commerce, among others. Notably, Dwight also served as the past chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and as a member of The Columbus Foundation Governing Committee, including as the Chair.

Renée is also active in serving the community and participates in charity walks, back to school supply drives, and community food and clothing collections.

My Special Word helps create defining moments for kids ages 5-13 to recognize their power to define themselves and to empower them to think positively, speak positive words, conduct positive conversations, and model positive behaviors.

Several years ago, Renée and Dwight started My Special Word, a concept that grew into a nonprofit, which teaches children about the importance of positive, encouraging, and inspiring words. My Special Word puts the power of words in the hands of children, letting them decide how they want to be seen—such as kind, smart, brave, or creative. Additionally, through the program, children and adolescents develop skills such as engaging in positive conversations, being a good friend, appreciating the differences of others, and being resilient during difficult times.

My Special Word, the picture book, follows a young child on her journey to discover a word that will make her “Unstoppable”.

“Children want to share who they are and celebrate what makes them special,” said Dwight. “If we can change the words children use to describe themselves, we could change conversations. If we change conversations, we could change behaviors. And if we change behaviors, we could change the world.”

In 2016, Renée—who was instrumental in the early years of My Special Word, serving as its de-facto executive director—and Dwight established the My Special Word Fund at The Columbus Foundation to help cover the cost of the program for participants. Additionally, a partnership with Worldreader has enabled My Special Word to provide a digital book collection at no charge on the BookSmart platform. Through My Special Word, Renée and Dwight have encouraged youth around the world to become the amazing people they are meant to become and to strive daily to reach their greatest potential.

“Renée and Dwight approach their philanthropy with great care, generosity, and optimism, inspiring countless individuals,” said Douglas F. Kridler, President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation. “Their light shines brightly in our region and we are honored to celebrate the many contributions the Smiths have made to central Ohio and beyond.”

In celebration of the Smiths’ giving spirit, Renée and Dwight have been selected as the 2023 honorees of The Harrison M. Sayre Award. As Mr. Sayre once stated, “The best way to extend your life is to give to the community,” and the Smiths give generously of their time, talent, and treasure.



Renée and Dwight Smith


Renée and Dwight Smith



The Harrison M. Sayre Award, given in honor of The Columbus Foundation’s founder and 25-year volunteer director, recognizes leadership in philanthropy in central Ohio.