Huntsville native gets teaching award

Huntsville native Steve Smith, a former professor of communication at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, has been awarded the Wallace A. Bacon Lifetime Teaching Excellence Award by the National Communication Association, which recognizes outstanding teaching and celebrates a long-term commitment to teaching.

Smith, who graduated from Huntsville in 1967, taught more than three decades at the university. Smith will be presented his award at the NCA annual conference and award ceremony in Baltimore this November. Smith is an independent scholar with Oxbridge Research Associates. He worked at the UofA from August 1982 to June 2015.

In an email message last week, Smith said while at Huntsville High School he took public speaking from Kenneth Owens and debate from Roy Gunter, “both of whom were very good teachers.”

“As an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas, I became a communication major after taking a few courses from Jimmie Rogers, who became my mentor and encouraged me to go to graduate school,” Smith wrote.

Smith earned his master’s degree at the university, then went to Northwestern University in Illinois where he was awarded a doctorate.

“I studied with Franklyn Haiman, the foremost free speech scholar in the discipline,” he said. He also completed special studies in First Amendment issues at Harvard Law School.

A university press release said, “Smith has been a Mellon Fellow in the Department of History and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at Penn; a Visiting Fellow in Wolfson College, Faculty of Law, at Cambridge; a Visiting Fellow in Manchester College, Faculty of Modern History, at Oxford; a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s LaFollette Institute of Public Affairs; a Visiting Fellow in the Departments of Politics and Anthropology at Princeton; a Visiting Scholar at Stanford Law School; and a Visiting Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Studies at the University of Virginia.

Smith also served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, vice president of the Arkansas Constitutional Convention, chief of staff to the attorney general, and executive assistant to former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

Smith said, “I think my interest in First Amendment issues emerged from my affinity for the underdogs in history and society, or maybe I just always had a problem with authority.”

The national award will honor not only his own work, but the input of students he’s taught and the teachers he’s learned from.

“I am honored to receive the lifetime teaching award from the National Communication Association. And, a bit humbled,” he wrote.

“I’ve always thought that good students make good teachers, and I learned much from my students – especially those who were interested and brave enough to challenge my arguments. And I am grateful for all of the great underpaid and under-appreciated teachers I had who took an interest in me, encouraged my work, and exemplified teaching at its best – beginning at Huntsville Public Schools.” During his 33 years as faculty at the university, professor Smith’s dedication to students was inspiring, a statement on said.

“He created unique opportunities for student learning that greatly contributed to the students’ development and to their professional accomplishments. Letters from students supporting the nomination spoke of extensive and specific ways Smith’s teaching affected their lives across both personal and professional spectra.

“In addition, Smith founded Lambda Pi Eta, the communication discipline’s official national honor society, now with more than 500 active chapters at four-year colleges and universities worldwide. According to Smith’s biography with the University of Arkansas, his books include “Myth, Media and the Southern Mind,” “Clinton on Stump, State and Stage: The Rhetorical Road to the White House,” “Preface to the Presidency: The Speeches of Bill Clinton, 1974-1992,” “Electronic Tribes,” “Communication Shock,” “First Amendment Studies in Arkansas,” “Freedom of Religion: Foundational Documents and Historical Arguments,” and “Freedom of Expression: Foundational Documents and Historical Arguments.”

Smith also has contributed more than 60 book chapters and scholarly articles in such journals.

His research has been awarded the National Communication Association Golden Anniversary Monograph Award, the National Communication Association Wichelns Award for Communication and Law, the National Communication Association Haiman Award for Scholarship in Freedom of Expression, the National Communication Association William O. Douglas Prize, the Southern States Communication Association Madison Prize, the Arkansas Library Association’s Arkansiana Award, and the Fulbright Research Prize in Communication Studies.

He received the Fulbright College Master Researcher Award in 2002.

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