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In Memory of Dr. John David Smith

By Lydia McGee
On November 3, 2017

Beloved professor will be remembered by the Concord community. 
Photo By Concord University

Dr. John David Smith, professor of social work and director of the pre-law program here at Concord, died suddenly on Saturday, October 21, after a brief battle with cancer. A resident of Athens, West Virginia, and a Concord graduate himself, he dedicated his life to the success of his students and to his community.

    Dr. Smith received his Bachelor of Social Work from Concord College in 1976. He earned a graduate degree in social work from West Virginia University in 1981, an M.A. in Psychology from the WV College of Graduate Studies in 1988, his Juris Doctor from the University of Toledo, College of Law in 1991, and an LL.M. in Health and Administrative Law from DePaul University, School of Law in 1998.

    Dr. Smith served as the social work program director at Concord until 2001 when he was named Chair of the Division of Social Sciences until 2005. Later on, he would serve as director for the Legal Studies and Pre-Law programs, the campus counseling center, and the Public Service Initiative. In 2006, Dr. Smith served as the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students until 2009 in which time he served as Interim Vice President and Academic Dean. Later in 2010, he was appointed Vice President and Academic Dean until 2011. At the time of his passing, Dr. Smith served as Primary Investigator for Public Service Initiatives, the director for Appalachian Leadership and Education Fellows, chair of the Social Work department, program director for the Masters in Social Work program, and the director of the Legal Studies and Pre-Law programs.

    Not only did Dr. Smith leave a lasting impression on Concord University’s campus, but his community involvement was astronomical. He received the Hawey Wells Citizenship Award and in 2010, he received Concord University’s Outstanding Alumnus award, and in 2012, the Alumnus of the Year award. In 1995, he was named Social Worker of the Year, NASW Region I. The National Association of Social Workers stationed in Washington, D.C., shared his obituary on their Twitter page on Sunday, October 22. “NASW…mourn[s] the loss of @CampusBeautiful Professor of Social Work John David Smith,” NASW stated in their tweet.

    At the time of his death, Dr. Smith was serving as the Chair of the West Virginia Social Work Education Consortium. He served on the boards of Southern WV Community Corrections, Governor’s Committee on Community Corrections, Concord University Research Corp., Mercer Co. Drug Court, Appalachian Area Agency on Aging, and the Concord University Alumni Association. Previously to these, he also served as a member on the boards for the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities, Hospice of Southern West Virginia, National Network of Social Work Managers, WV National Association of Social Workers and various others. Smith also served on the Athens Town Council since 2005.

    Countless students and faculty will always remember Smith’s passion for learning and his dedication to student success. Dr. Marjie Flanigan, current Vice President of Student Affairs Dean of Students said in a statement released to the campus that “Dr. Smith was a beloved professor, friend, mentor, colleague, alumnus, and a community leader deeply committed to students, Concord, and the social work and legal professions.”

    “John David Smith was the kindest, wisest and most compassionate man I’ve ever known,” says Curtis Kearns, graduate of Concord, friend of 10 years and student of Smith. Kearns worked closely with Smith during his time as student representative for the Board of Governors. “He devoted his life to helping others and his dedication to Concord and its students is unrivaled. He challenged us all to be better men and women, to serve our communities and to see the good in others. He was the best of us. Many alumni, myself included, are heartbroken at his passing and we will struggle to fill the void his death leaves in our hearts for years to come.”

    Steven Kennedy, current Concord University Veterans Advocate, tells his story. “I used to work at the CVS in Athens and Dr. Smith would come in frequently, especially if he had a town council meeting. We would always talk for a few minutes (or 30) depending on how busy it was. I remember one day he asked me what my major was. I replied that I was a computer science major but didn’t know if it was the right field for me. I told him that I had a passion to help people, specifically veterans. He encouraged me to become a Social Work major and after weeks of contemplation, that’s what I decided to do. His advice led me on the path to secure what I would classify as the best job of my life yet. I’m now starting my last year of college has a Social Work major and am currently the Veterans Advocate for Concord,” he shared.

    He goes on  to state, “Dr. Smith was a very kind man. He didn’t measure his success by the accolades that he acquired through life. He didn’t boast about things he had done in the past. He was just a normal man trying to help as many people as possible. He made many contributions to Concord University, whether it be through work, mentoring, or writing grants. He was definitely dedicated to selfless service, and I hope that one day I can say I’ve helped half as many people as he did in his career.”

    At this time, Concord University Foundation has established a memorial scholarship in order to “continue Dr. Smith’s legacy at Concord and in higher education.” Donations to the John David Smith Memorial Scholarship may be made online at or delivered in person to the Office of Advancement in University Point on Concord’s Athens campus. Questions may be directed at or 304-384-6266.

    In the words of Sabrina Shrader, Concord alumnus, “He gave so much so that many would have a way when once there was none. I am grateful to him for what he did for others and for myself. May those whom he affected carry on his legacy.”

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