Smith leaves his legacy at Delaware State University

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Dr. Claibourne D. Smith, right, attended his last regular meeting as a longtime member of the Delaware State University Board of Trustees on Jan. 21, culminating his 28 years of DSU service. Above, DSU board chairman David G. Turner presents Dr. Smith with a resolution granting him the status of Trustee Emeritus. (Submitted photo/Delaware State University)

DOVER — Dr. Claibourne D. Smith attended his last regular meeting as a member of the Delaware State University Board of Trustees last month, ending his 28 years of service at DSU.

Even after being presented the honor of trustee emeritus he said that his heart will forever be with the Dover school.

“I never want to separate myself from the university,” Dr. Smith said. It will always be with me.”

As trustee emeritus, Dr. Smith will still be welcome to attend board meetings in a non-voting capacity.

“I will always be engaged with keeping with up DSU,” Dr. Smith said. “Any thoughts or ideas that I may have I want to let them know to show them that they’ll always have my support.

“I want to continue to watch the school grow.”

Dr. Smith has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from the University of Denver and received a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Oregon in 1964.

Originally, he worked with students in the chemistry department at DSU and no intentions of being a board member.

“I had a chat with an employee when I was working at the DuPont Company,” Dr. Smith said. “He mentioned that I might have some interest working with the chemistry department, due to my background.

“I then started to work with the students to give them some insight to become a chemist and through that association I started to get involved with the college over the years. “

Dr. Smith was first appointed to the board during the 1987-88 academic year to finish the term of Arthur Richardson.

“He had resigned because he was moving all the time,” Dr. Smith said. “They recommended me to be a part of the board and I’ve been there ever since.”

Starting in 1993, Dr. Smith served as chairman of the board. He stepped down in 2015, with current chair David Turner appointed to the position.

Last year, the board renamed the university’s Administration Building after Dr. Smith as well.

He said it’s been honor to serve on the board for so long.

“It was great being a part of all the different changes at DSU,” Dr. Smith said. “Being a part of the evolution was something that I never imagined.

“I want it to be one of the leading (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the country and it’s gratifying knowing that we made all the right the steps to continue. To make that happen is just outstanding.”

Mr. Turner said he learned much from Dr. Smith over the years.

“He taught me to be a great leader,” Mr. Turner said. “It’s about having that communication amongst each other to make sure everything continue to go as planned for the university.

“It’s all about having a plan and taking the necessary to execute it. That’s what he’s taught me.

“He’s been a part of some major changes at DSU. Dr. Smith helped make the right decisions to make DSU the university that it is today. That’s his legacy.”

Upon the Aug. 31, 2008, resignation of then-DSU President Allen L. Sessoms, Dr. Smith was appointed by the board to serve as the acting president of the university until a new permanent president was hired.

On Jan. 14, 2010, Dr. Harry Williams became the president of DSU, and Dr. Smith resumed his duties as chairman.

Dr. Smith said that’s a time that he’s most proud of.

“To have a chance to change the dynamics of higher education it was very clear to me that we had to do some things differently,” Dr. Smith said. “If you look back at it, a lot of HBCUs in this country were dwindling.

“I just wanted to make sure that certain steps were taken so we could continue to grow.”

He said Dr. Williams has been a major factor in the success of Delaware State.

“He’s done a lot,” Dr. Smith said. “I wanted to ensure that DSU would continue to grow and we needed someone like Dr. Williams.

“He was a fresh, young face and brought a different perspective to the university.”

Dr. Smith said he had no intentions of remaining president.

“Being in that role as president I understood that everything had to be in the best interest of the university,” Dr. Smith said.

“I was very proud that I was able to rally DSU to support my tenure and help transition Dr. Williams in as president.

“That’s the highest achievement that I can hold up. I’m very proud of that moment.”

Now that’s he’s retired, Dr. Smith plans to spend a lot of time with his wife, Roseann.

“We’ll get to do a lot more things together now,” he said. “We’re going to relocate to Florida in June, so we’ll both have a chance to retire and enjoy our lives together for a while.”

He believes the future of DSU is in great hands.

“I’m proud of what the university has become,” he said. “We have a great board and I know that they will continue to do everything they can to make DSU the best HBCU in the country.”

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