Herb Smith’s life passions inspire students and peers
By Juliann Guiffre, Features Co-Editor
Writing a book on Maryland politics and government, working as a consultant for the Democracy Group, teaching at a college, scheduling fishing and diving trips to the Keys and Belize and being a husband and father, Dr. Herb Smith does it all.Dr. Herb Smith, Professor of Political Science
Smith, 61, professor of political science and international studies, has known his lifetime career goal–teaching–since his sophomore year at Ursinus College, where he was the editor of the student newspaper.
“I had a wonderful professor, Dr. Gene Miller, who had so much fun teaching, he really inspired me,” said Smith, who then decided to combine his love of politics with his newfound passion of teaching.
Smith first got into politics at Haverford High School where he worked on the Student Council, yet he was always a person who liked to be “behind the scenes.” He campaigned in 1975 and lost by only 400 votes. The experience made him realize that being a politician was not for him.
“Being a professor is what I do, first and foremost, but I also like to practice the craft of politics as well,” he said.
Smith was a political science major from day one at Ursinus, and has a “very conservative streak” of holding onto what he does for a very long time. He met some young democrats while earning his Ph.D at Johns Hopkins University, and his first job was District Coordinator for Liam Donald Schaefer when he ran for mayor of Baltimore in 1971.
Three years ago Smith sat down with Don Herche, Arthur Murphy and Don Lamb-Minor and decided to start the Democracy Group, “a team of successful campaign experts that have used proven strategies and tactics to run effective campaigns since the early 1970s.”
According to their website, “We know politics. We know the values and issues that motivate voters. We know how to win.”
Dr. Debora Johnson-Ross, associate professor of political science and international studies, says Smith is at his best during the elec?tion cycles.
“His enthusiasm for the process and helping students understand it are contagious and he keeps the department on ‘high alert’ during these periods,” she said.
Smith also teaches a student favorite class, “Campaigns and Elections” that encourages students to become directly involved in the political process.
This expertise during election cycles has led to other professional engagements for Smith. He has been a regular contributor on the “Political Roundtable” of the popular Maryland Public Television program “State Circle,” where he faces off with the infamous Richard Vatz of Towson University.
Smith’s knowledge of the Maryland Political scene is bolstered by his dedication to issues of local governance and his personal passion, education. Each year, he takes a group of McDaniel students to Annapolis to help represent the Maryland Independent College and University Association as part of a day of lobbying for education interests in Maryland.
Smith’s passion for politics and teaching motivated Shane Brinegar, ’09, when he visited McDaniel in his junior year of high school for Boys State.
“Immediately after hearing [Smith] speak I knew that I wanted to attend this institution. [His] passion for education, activism and students is inspirational,” said Brinegar. “He is truly one of the reasons I decided to attend McDaniel College.”
Outside of his professorial and political duties, Smith’s interests include trout fishing, tennis, environmental action including stream clean-ups, Irish, folk and country music, TV shows such as The Daily Show, The Office and The Colbert Report, and movies like An Inconvenient Truth, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now.
“My father took me fishing when I was four; I’ve been fishing ever since,” he said. When Smith was eight he went on a trip to the Florida Keys, which eventually led to his idea for the “Fishing in the Florida Keys” course over Spring Break.
After the Keys course became popular, Smith and Dr. Brian Wladkowski, started the idea of a Jan Term fishing and diving trip- the eventual destination was sunny and serene San Pedro, Belize.
“I had researched it, and Belize had been discovered in the ‘80s as a great place for fishing and diving,” he said. “The first year we had six people on the trip- the next we had 24.”
Smith lives with his wife of eight years, Beth, in Baltimore. He made the whooshing sound as Google Earth zoomed into Maryland, Baltimore, his house, the dam behind it and the patch of land where he digs up old Balti?more beer bottles.
Dr. Christianna Leahy, associate professor of political science and international studies, said, “Whether on campus here or in Belize fishing, Herb embodies the spirit of our wonderful liberal arts college and our current campaign’s slogan fits Herb well: ‘carpe diem.’”
Stuart Clark, ’09, has had a different but equally inspiring learning experience with Smith.
“Dr. Smith has a habit of quizzing students (meaning me) on trivia (meaning really, really ob?scure and esoteric facts),” he said. One day, after a class full of teasing Clark for getting a question concerning the megalodon and the mosasaur wrong, he asked him one more question.
“What is the very last line of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” [Smith’s favorite movie]? “Drink up, me hearties, yo ho!”
Additional reporting contributed by Mike Habegger.