Love learning for the sake of learning

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Henry Smiley retired. He resigned from CBC. The Tower regrets the error.

After 30 years of teaching at Central Baptist College (CBC), Henry Smiley, professor of English, has announced he will not return in the fall.

Smiley has been teaching for 30 years. He received his bachelors in speech and theater with a broadcast emphasis, and masters in English from the University of Central Arkansas. He earned his doctorate degree in higher education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“When I graduated from UCA with my masters in 1988 I was looking for something. I was teaching part-time at UCA and UALR,” said Smiley. “but I wanted something that I wasn’t traveling and where I was going to be in a small environment with people whose beliefs I could identify with.”

Smiley has worked with Dusty Bender, humanities department chair,  for the entirety of his time at CBC. During their time as co-workers, they have experienced joy and pain together. Bender talked about how they were and are more than just co-workers.

“We are friends, we have known each other for a long time, we went to church together for a while. We suffered grief with each one of our families,” said Bender. “It’s been a joy and I still go down to his office and complain and gripe when I’ve got issues and he comes down to my office and complains and gripes when he has issues.”

Ann Gardner, communication department chair, has worked beside Smiley for 12 years. He was the one who hired her. She had felt the urge to apply at CBC without knowing she was exactly what they were looking for to move forward with the plans Smiley and a fellow professor had for the department.

“One of the things I admire about him the most is that his students, current and former,  all talk about how no one has a class discussion like Dr. Smiley,” said Gardner. “A lot of times with literature, it’s overwhelming or it’s so deep and students don’t necessarily understand it and Dr. Smiley loves to just discuss literature with students.”

Smiley is well known at CBC for his class discussions. Sophomore English major Katie Beth Fly has had many classes with Smiley. She enjoys the environment that is created by the discussions in his classes.

“It’s really fun to be in the classes because it’s palpable and it’s definitely an environment you would want to learn in and be excited in,” said Fly. “I am really grateful that he was my teacher. I think that he helped me to find the path I wanted to go on because I ended up changing my major [to English] recently and he was a big part of that decision.”

Junior Hunter Crass’s favorite thing about having Smiley as a professor is how active he is with the class. Crass also said that Smiley’s ability to make jokes and to be so upbeat with his teachings made being in his classes fun.

President Terry Kimbrow is also a former student of Smiley.

“I have known Henry Smiley for over thirty years, as a friend, professor and colleague. Dr. Smiley (then Bro. Smiley) was one of my first teachers soon after I enrolled in CBC,” said Kimbrow. “He was engaging in the classroom, passionate about literature and at times funny.  He was never boring.”

Smiley said the thing he will miss most about CBC is being in the classroom and the interaction with students. He said he loves the moments when he can look at his students and tell that what he is teaching begins to reach them by the change in their facial expressions and body language.

“When you’re up there and you’ve got 20, 30, 40 people looking at you, you can tell when those moments happen,” said Smiley. “Or when somebody comes by my office and they’ve made a connection between something I’ve covered in my class and another instructor has covered in their class. They’re taking that knowledge that hopefully they’re gaining in my class and applying it to other areas that is broadening their understanding of the world.”

Smiley said that the one thing he hopes his students take from his classes is to love learning for the sake of learning. He said he feels that if by the end of the day he has learned something new then it has been a good day.

“I think you know the term lifelong learners is kind of the cliche, but  I really hope that that’s what my students will do,” said Smiley.

When asked about leaving CBC, Smiley said it’s scary to leave somewhere that you have been so long.

“I made some real friendships here and the students who come here, who take this seriously who take my classes over and over, I will miss them,” said Smiley. “I will miss them probably more than anything. I wish them much success and it’s been a privilege to spend some time here.”

Photo by Samantha Lagergren

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