Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008
Vernon G. Smith
W. George Pinnell Awards for Outstanding Service
Associate Professor of Education
School of Education
Indiana University Northwest
Appointed to IU faculty, 1992
B.S., Indiana University, 1966
M.S., Indiana University, 1969
Ed.D., Indiana University, 1978
"Dr. Smith's lessons are taught and they are written. But, most of all, they are written in the lives of those he serves."
--Roger W. Thornton, Superintendent of Schools, Illinois High School District 211
It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. • A person stands tallest when bending to help someone in need. • If it is to be, it is up to me.
Vernon G. Smith holds these adages close to his heart. They are the guiding principles of his untiring dedication to others and his remarkable record of teaching and public service -- a record that spans four decades and includes 145 awards and more than 100 citations of achievement and appreciation.
From his first postgraduate position as a school teacher in Gary, Indiana, to his current roles as an Indiana state representative and an associate professor of education at Indiana University Northwest, Vernon Smith has always been one thing: a stalwart and compassionate advocate for northwest Indiana.
When he's not teaching and mentoring students, advocating for public education initiatives, or speaking at local events and national conferences, you'll find Smith serving meals to prison inmates at Thanksgiving, bringing a boarded-up Gary theatre back to life, or organizing local teens to help senior citizens with household chores. Smith is a "voice for the needs and dreams of the residents of northwest Indiana," says Roger W. Thornton, former executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents and current superintendent of schools, Illinois High School District 211.
Smith is also the heart, head, and hands behind countless educational programs and civic endeavors. In response to the lack of youth involvement in civic and political activities in Gary, Smith organized Youth in Politics, the Young Citizens League, and Youth Ensuring Solidarity (YES). To revitalize the community's pride in Gary, Smith organized the Gary chapter of Focus Hope and the Stash the Trash campaign, an annual clean-up effort that focuses on Broadway Street.
He is the founder and president of IU Dons, Inc.; the founder and board president of African-American Achievers Youth Corps, Inc., in Gary; the founder of the Northern Indiana Association of Black School Educators; and the founder and sponsor of the Gary-based Vernon Stars. He is a member of numerous national, state, and community organizations, which include Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the Northwest Indiana Urban League, the Gary Reading Council/Indiana State Reading Association, the Brothers Keepers Shelter for Homeless Men, and the NAACP. In addition, he serves on several committees at the School of Education.
Before he joined the IU Northwest faculty in 1992, Smith was an assistant principal and then principal in the Gary Community School Corporation, as well as an adjunct lecturer at IU Northwest and Purdue University Calumet. An informed promoter of quality public education, Smith carries his messages to civic centers, churches, the legislature, schools, and a host of social service agencies. "Many of these efforts are directly related to research and teacher preparation for student and school success," says Dorothy W. Ige, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Northwest.
As a teacher, Smith finds his truest calling and most satisfying work. He believes in masterful teaching and in being available to students' needs beyond the classroom -- writing letters of recommendation, being a faculty sponsor of student activities, and acting as a personal motivator and mentor. He received the Trustees Teaching Award in 2006 and in 2000 (when it was named TERA), and he received the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) Award in 1998.
Smith sat on the Gary City Council for 18 years prior to his election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1990. As a legislator, Smith has served as assistant majority floor leader, and he is currently chairman of the Local Government Committee. He is the former chair of the Committee on Families, Children, and Human Affairs and is the founder and current chair of the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of the Black Male. "The cross-fertilizations between Dr. Smith's pedagogy and scholarly publications with his service commitments are evident," says Ige. Empowering and educating American youth and black male youth are a critical focus of Smith's political, academic, and personal mission, and Smith has published numerous writings on these topics.
"Vernon has committed himself to bettering the country's educational system and to the promotion of social justice, focusing on America's youth," says U.S. Representative Peter Visclosky. "He exemplifies the spirit of concern and giving of oneself by which we hope and believe this country is characterized."