Mohonk Mourns Death of Its Leader

Bert Smiley, who led the iconic hotel for nearly 30 years, is remembered as humble and intelligent, with a great sense of humor.

The legacy of Albert K. “Bert” Smiley III, the former CEO and president of Mohonk Mountain House, will carry on after his death on Oct. 16 from leukemia. Smiley retired in June, but had remained as a member of the board of directors and corporate treasurer of the iconic resort hotel.

Born in 1944, Smiley grew up on the resort property, which was founded by his great-grand-uncle Albert Smiley in 1869. He attended Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, and earned a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

He and his wife, Nina, were pursuing successful careers in Washington, D.C., when Smiley was called back to Ulster County in 1990 to lead his family’s property. They never looked back, Nina says.

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“Bert delighted in being outdoors,” she reflects. “Taking long hikes and cross-country skiing surrounded by nature encouraged his ‘contemplative faculty’ as he liked to say, quoting Frederick Law Olmsted. He was fascinated by exploring ideas and gaining insights. He wrote beautifully and with power, sharing thoughts that helped shape others’ understanding of complex and nuanced issues.

“Along with a playful side, a wonderful sense of humor, and a remarkable intelligence, Bert had a profound sense of his own center and the way he sought to live his life. Every morning we would set our intention for the day, saying together while still in bed, ‘May we live with compassion, with grace, with insight, with integrity, with love.’”

Under Smiley’s leadership, Mohonk Mountain House gracefully adopted new amenities. They included the opening of the award-winning Spa in 2005; the construction of the Mohonk Ice Skating Pavilion in 2001; the development of Grove Lodge in 2016, the resort’s first new accommodation in more than 100 years; and the launching of a resort-wide Service Initiative in 2003, which resulted in the Mountain House’s recognition as a Star of the Industry for outstanding guest service.

In a Mohonk Mountain House statement announcing Smiley’s passing, he was remembered fondly: “A humble and unassuming presence with a brilliant mind and a dry wit, Bert worked tirelessly over decades to preserve the Mountain House and his family’s legacy.”

“During his 28-year tenure, Bert was a steadfast leader wholly dedicated to Mohonk’s core values and continued excellence,” said David Smiley, chairman of the resort’s Board of Directors. “His countless contributions have had a profound effect on our family and friends at Mohonk and beyond, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.”

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Nina Smiley says his memory is firmly lodged in Mohonk Mountain House: “Bert was a genuinely good person. He loved his family and friends, he loved Mohonk. As I look around Mohonk — the Mountain House and lands that he adored — I see Bert’s legacy everywhere.  He will always be with us.”

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