“The Renaissance Man”

Professor Herb Smith Nominate for President of McDaniel

Juli Guiffre

Co-Editor in Chief

Herb Smith2Dr. Herb Smith, professor of political science and international studies, accepted a nomination to become the ninth President of McDaniel College, and submitted a letter of interest to the search committee to be considered.

“Our Presidential Search materials posted on the McDaniel College website have proven to be most effective. College alumni have become engaged in the process as a result of the web site and focus group meetings, and many have submitted names for consideration,” said Mary Lynn Durham, chair of the committee.

Last May, McDaniel College posted a surprising new aspect to our website: the search for the college’s ninth President. Over the summer, Smith received a rather unexpected phone call from an old friend.

Jim Kauffman, alumni of ’91, had called Smith to ask if he could nominate him for the job.

“We had talked about it over the years,” said Smith. “I’d say [to Kauffman] ‘I’m really happy with what I’m doing, but if the opportunity came up, I’d consider it.”

The next step for Smith was clear: “I talked with [my wife], Beth, for two weeks. You need to go into this with a strong backing from your soul mate. Beth and I are a team.”

It’s been a few short months since Smith’s decision to allow Kauffman to nominate him, during which he’s been trying to not let his hopes run away from him.

“I think I bring a great deal to the table. I’m not Mr. Perfect or Mr. Wonderful. I’m not letting my hopes run away from the realities of the situation. I’ll certainly give it my best shot,” he said.

Kauffman and Smith had kept in touch since Kauffman’s college days, when he took every single one of Smith’s courses. They have also run Boy’s State together every year since 1993.

Kauffman thinks that Smith’s connections with local, state, and federal government and, most importantly, his relationship with the students, will make him an effective President.

“At McDaniel, contributions from alumni have been lower than other schools. Without Herb, I wouldn’t still be as connected to McDaniel as I am,” he said. Kauffman also feels that the next President needs to be sympathetic toward the name change.

“I know a lot of my classmates feel they the college they went to doesn’t exist anymore. We need a President who was there that that and can address it and understand it,” he added in support for his nomination of Smith.

In Kauffman’s recommendation letter, among his nine points of support, he calls Smith “The Renaissance Man” – a title meant to evoke Smiths deep belief in liberal arts, in integrating knowledge across disciplines.

In 1967, Smith was working as a biology lab assistant at Ursinus.

“I would have been a bio major if I could have passed Calculus in high school,” he said. “We didn’t get along.”

He also bikes, fishes, and plays single’s tennis with Dr. Brian Wladkowski, associate professor of chemistry.

“Brian and I play tennis. He beats me, but it’s ok. He’s 20 years younger,” he said.

Smith recently published an article on a Sport Fishing website. Called “When Your Fishing Trip Goes South,” they article describes a fishing trip in which they hit a tropical storm and 15 inches of rain.

Smith’s office door is adorned with a Jimmy Buffet sticker, an “I’d rather be in Belize” sign, a quote from Pirates of the Caribbean, and a poem that reads “Feed the crocodiles, ride the sharks, climb tall coconut trees, raft the waterfalls.”

He also incorporates his liberal arts philosophies into his work as a teacher. Smith is faculty advisor to both the McDaniel College Democrats and the Republicans. Through his classes, students can volunteer on a campaign of their choice and design and conduct original survey research.

Smith is sought often during election season by the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post, as well as several TV and radio stations, for his astute political analysis. He will have a book published by the University of Nebraska that he co-wrote with John Willis, called “Maryland Politics and Government.”

Smith thinks that knowledge of politics “gives us respect for diversity and a talent for honest compromise. The President has to work with the federal and state government,” he said, “and I’ve been on a first name basis with five Maryland Governors.”

His teaching philosophy is comprised of giving students choices, and creating a structured environment where learning is fun and marketable, “my Belizean philosophy,” he calls it.

In light of this, Smith, if elected, plans to attempt to implement a program incorporating five separate tracks: Leadership, Internship, Faulty/Student research, Volunteer, and Study Abroad.

Hypothetically, the school would give a savings account to each student with a surcharge of $200 or $400 dollars that would earn interest. When the student became upperclassmen, they would be able to use these savings to with one of these tracks. For example, this would make it much easier for students to afford to study abroad if that is the track they choose, or it could be used to hire full-time staff to help coordinate a research or internship opportunity.

Smith, if elected, still plans to teach a course at McDaniel, probably a seminar, and would continue to eat lunch at Glar every Wednesday, because he thinks it’s important to have access to the students to really understand how the college runs.

“I’m passionate about the college. I would love to be the President, but I love to be a Professor. If the search committee, in its wisdom, chooses otherwise…I’m perfectly content,” he said. “I’m not doing this out of driving ambition, I’m doing this because I think I’d do an exceptionally good job…I hope I’m the right person, at the right time, in the right place.”

Smith believes he has found the right time, as he said certainly 30 years ago he would not have been prepared for this.

“There’s one thing that counts for more, the most important thing in my life, that’s taught me how to be a complete human being,” he said as he pointed to something on the shelf in his office.

It was a picture of his son Tyler when he was six, learning how to fish off a jetty in Cape May. Tyler had given Smith the colorfully painted frame for Christmas last year. In white letters, Tyler had written, “To a Dad even better than he remembers.”

The search committee “met by telephone conference during the first week in October. Lead consultant David Gring reported that interest in this Search is receiving national awareness and that the pool of candidates is very strong, said Durham. “Committee members are reviewing the candidates.”