Dr. Smith died Monday, April 14, 2014, at his home in Decatur, following a lengthy illness.
Dr. Billy Stewart, president of East Central, said, “Our college and community lost a great man earlier today. Dr. Smith served as president of this institution with honor, integrity, and a commitment to excellence for 15 years. He left an indelible mark on East Central Community College and on the lives of those who were fortunate to know him. We are a stronger and better institution today because of Dr. Smith’s leadership. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Charlotte, and daughters, Kelli and Wendy.”
Dr. Smith, 71, led the institution from 1985 to 2000 and served his alma mater as its sixth president.
Ovid Vickers, retired ECCC faculty member, said of his former student and fellow educator:
“Dr. Smith was a devoted family man and a devout Christian, whose contributions to the Mississippi Community College System are too numerous to list. He was a very dedicated educator and had devoted his life to the process of education. He served well as the President of ECCC.”
During Dr. Smith’s tenure, the college experienced unprecedented growth in numerous areas, especially in enrollment, program offerings, campus facilities and workforce education and training. He also led the college through two re-accreditations by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
An increased emphasis was placed on recruiting students of all ages. As a result of a closely followed recruitment and retention plan, enrollment increased each of his 15 years at the helm.
Serving students remained Dr. Smith’s top priority throughout his administration. The Student Union Building bears his named in recognition of his dedication to providing the best education and college experience for students of all ages.
East Central began offering programs in the health-related field during his administration. Those programs include surgical technology, licensed practical nursing, and associate degree nursing.
The college also increased its evening class schedule by offering classes at locations throughout the five-county district to assist students with their educational needs.
Various renovations of college buildings and additions to the Decatur campus were also made during this period. East Central purchased the former Newton County High School property (earlier Decatur High School) and made extensive renovations. The area is now referred to as South Campus and includes classrooms and laboratory space, faculty offices, and a library for the Town of Decatur.
New buildings constructed under Dr. Smith’s leadership included the Associate Degree Nursing/Child Care Technology Building (now named for former ECCC President Dr. Phil A. Sutphin), the Workforce Development Center (previously referred to as the Skill/Tech One-Stop Career Center), Erma Lee Barber Hall (named in honor of the former dean of women) and the Student Union (named in honor of Dr. Smith).
Efforts in workforce education and training continue at the college, as various services are provided individuals, businesses and industries in skills training, career counseling, job placement and customized personal development.
The college also increased its efforts in the area of alumni relations and fundraising with the creation of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Among projects sponsored through the Foundation include the Welcome Home Archway and electronic marquee. The archway is a re-creation of a similar structure that greeted campus visitors from 1950 to the early 1970s. The Warrior, the college’s alumni publications, began publication early in the early years of the Smith administration and is still published today.
In the area of athletics, new sports added during Dr. Smith’s presidency included women’s softball and men’s soccer. Rodeo competition also began as an intercollegiate but has since been discontinued.
A graduate of Noxapater High School, Dr. Smith received an associate’s degree from ECCC and earned bachelor and master degrees from Mississippi State University, and a doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi.
He was married to the former Charlotte Flowers of Natchez. He had two daughters, Dr. Kelli Smith, a family medical physician with Magee Medical and Surgical Group in Magee; and Wendy Smith, who serves as director of choral and music instruction at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba.
Milling Funeral Home in Union is in charge of arrangements, which are incomplete at this time.