“Bob and Susan Smith may be common names, but they are far from common in their selflessness and generosity.”
These are the words of Flaviu Simihaian ’08, a man who met a very special family during a Rotary International trip that took Susan Smith from Concord, N.C., to Romania in the spring of 2001.
“I led a team of non-Rotarians on a month-long trip throughout the country,” said Susan. “We stayed in various homes of Rotarians, and one of the homes was that of Flaviu. He played tennis and had won a tournament using his sister’s racquet and wearing her shoes. In order to continue playing tennis, he would’ve had to move to Bucharest at the young age of 14.”
Struck by this young man and his talent, the Smiths arranged for him to spend the following summer in Concord with them and train at racquet clubs in the area.
“His parents sent their baby boy to live with someone they had only met for a few days, but they were very grateful and trusting,” said Susan.
As the summer progressed, and as Simihaian’s “two families” continued to discuss opportunities for the boy they shared such love for, Simihaian stayed in the U.S. and attended high school, from which he graduated in only three years, and he enrolled at Davidson, holding the top seed on the tennis team. The Smiths had to jump through many hoops, including many repeat trips to Romania and intense conversations with government representatives at the country’s U.S. Embassy, in order to make Simihaian’s more permanent stay in the U.S. possible.
“I fell in love with the liberal arts and the academic side of Davidson,” he said. “It was a humbling experience and a good challenge to become the best I could be, athletically and academically. Tennis at Davidson was a great experience, but what impacted me the most was the world of knowledge I discovered in the classes outside of my economics major: writing fiction, literary criticism, philosophy, poetry and other courses whose books and notes I still review to this day.”
Through their involvement with the college, the Smiths built strong relationships with Davidson parents, students and coaches, and they have included Davidson in their estate plans, a commitment that will create scholarships for international students.
“We want to offer students the opportunity afforded Flaviu,” said Bob Smith. Once the couple moves to The Pines in Davidson in a few years, they look forward to interacting with these students.
“I could not have afforded Davidson without a scholarship,” said Simihaian, “and I remember being very surprised. I wondered why strangers who had never met me would give me money to pay for my tuition. It took me quite a while to understand their generosity. It was an important lesson for me to learn and be better.”
Today, Simihaian is co-founder and CEO of iMedicare, which services more than 4,000 independent pharmacies across the U.S. In 2015, pharmacies using iMedicare helped 250,000 patients, resulting in a savings of $287.5 million to Medicare recipients.
Simihaian remains close with both families and says the impact the Smiths have had on his life inspires him to strive higher and go out of his way to help others. He gets back to Romania quite often, and he employs programmers and designers there.
“When starting a tech company, I knew there was a tremendous amount of talent in Romania,” he said. “Most of them have more talent than I do, but they didn’t have opportunities to come to the United States. Thanks to Bob and Susan, I’ve had a different life, and I consider myself lucky.”
Simihaian’s experience as an international student at Davidson prepared him well for a career as an entrepreneur. The generous commitment from the Smiths will make similar experiences possible for exceptional students from across the globe—students who will enrich Davidson, the lives of their classmates and the world overall.