Dr. Doug Smith, one of the early champions for GSSM's creation, passed away this weekend at age 99. Since then, much has been written about Dr. Smith’s life and many contributions to the state of South Carolina. At GSSM, we recently celebrated his 99th birthday and the vision and determination he brought to our founding. Dr. Carlanna Hendrick was recruited by Dr. Smith as a history teacher in 1988, and they remained close through the years. Her reflections on Dr. Smith’s leadership in GSSM’s founding are a fitting appreciation of the man whose work continues to impact and inspire us:
The recent death of Dr. Walter Douglas (Doug) Smith was a particular loss to the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics. As President emeritus of Francis Marion University, Doug met with Dr. Jim Daniels, President of Coker College, Coker board member Dr. James Rogers, Sonoco Products President Mr. Charles Coker, and SC Governor Carroll Campbell to present the idea and plans for the establishment of GSSM. Their proposal met with legislative approval, and Doug was named Interim President of the newly created residential high school for academically gifted juniors and seniors. In February of 1988, recruiters went around the state to find adventuresome students to form the charter class of GSSM, and Doug began the search for faculty.
It was my great pleasure that Doug invited me to visit Hartsville, hear the plans for the new school, and join the new faculty. I had worked with him at Francis Marion and, with trust in his judgment, answered “yes.”
It was the best decision of my life.
In the summer of 1988, Dr. Leland Cox (an English Professor!) was selected as the first presiding President of GSSM, the remainder of the faculty were hired and the new class arrived—only to find that renovations were not yet complete for the science building and the new residence facilities only just finished. It was a time of experimentation and discovery and building and—thirty years later—can be deemed a great success.
At times like this, It is useful to remember the leaders who made it all possible and whose purpose created a school which has benefited both Hartsville and the entire state with residential and outreach programs of excellence.
Doug’s passing marks the loss of a rare breed of leader with an inspiring vision of what our state can be when we empower our young people with confidence, understanding, and compassion.
Dr. Carlanna Hendrick