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College of Arts & Sciences
First-Year English


FYENGL Says Goodbye to Cherished Colleague Elizabeth Smith

Honoring 33 Years of Service at the University of South Carolina

On the thirtieth of September, First-Year English Coordinator Elizabeth Smith will be retiring after 33 years at the University of South Carolina. Given that 29 of those years were dedicated to the English department, First-Year English will be losing a pillar of administration, as well as an esteemed cohort. 

A self-described “Navy brat,” Elizabeth moved 22 times before settling in South Carolina and coming to work at the university. She reflects upon her years at SC as those in which she observed others moving in and out of her professional home, rather than the other way around. In addition to working with 13 different directors, she was witness to the department’s vast technological shifts—from Ditto machines and IBM Selectric typewriters to desktop computers and high-speed internet connections. 

Elizabeth began her career at SC in 1983, working on a coastal stratigraphy project for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Elizabeth was then hired as the executive assistant to Mr. Kenneth E. Toombs, the director of libraries from 1967 to 1988 and who planned the building of the Thomas Cooper Library. In 1987, she joined the English department.  

Elizabeth describes her early years working in the English department as vastly different from the ways in which it operates today. First, Elizabeth says that there were only 1,850 freshmen then, as opposed to the 5,100 freshmen of today. Using her father’s Navy vernacular, smaller numbers meant running a “much tighter ship.” 

Motivated by colleagues and students, Elizabeth managed to advance her own education while maintaining her full-time position. “I was looking around thinking I need to go back to school. I was frightened to death, so I start with just a few classes at first,” Elizabeth says. “I took all of my classes at the College of Applied Professional Sciences, and it has evolved to now the College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management.” 

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1995, Elizabeth pursued a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Webster University in Charleston, SC. Commuting on weekends and dealing with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis—all while raising two children, Elizabeth completed the program in just three years. 

Elizabeth reflects upon her degrees as helping her accommodate a variety of professional environments within a constantly evolving department. “Over the course of years, my position has included adapting to department needs. It’s been interesting to maneuver all the different administrative and organizational styles,” says Elizabeth.  

Although she enjoys adapting to and working with a range of administrative approaches, Elizabeth’s least favorite part of the job has been adjusting to new forms of technology. “Making those changes become resources was a challenge,” Elizabeth says. “It was frightening new technology, but on the other hand it cut so much time and effort and energy.” 

As Elizabeth closes this professional chapter of her life, she opens the door to more time spent with her loved ones, including her two artistic sons. Alex is a multidisciplinary artist whose current work is primarily in the visual arts. His works are featured on his website "What Art Made Me Do." His past work includes playing the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Charleston, SC and serving for three years as technical director for the Piccolo Fringe Festival at Theatre 99. He was also a featured artist in the Charleston Cultural Council’s 2011 Founders Ball. Elizabeth's younger son Jason lives in Decatur, GA with his wife and two children. Jason graduated from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. and, in 2008, started his own business—Smithworks Iron and Design. Most recently, Jason won a grant that allowed him to beautify the Atlanta, Ga. beltway with his sculptures. 

She also has a 22-year-old grandson and 17-year-old granddaughter who, she says, “are just amazing.” Her grandson is currently in Africa working with the Peace Corps and her granddaughter recently graduated with dual degrees—a High School diploma from Dreher High and an Associate’s Degree from Midland’s Technical College. She is currently a student at SC majoring in Forensic Anthropology. 

After a few months of sleeping late and catching up with family, Elizabeth plans to put her graduate degree to good use by gaining employment at a Veteran Affairs PTSD facility. “I would love the opportunity to use my counseling degree and experiential learning from having moved so much,” says Elizabeth. 

Given her constant relocating prior to settling in South Carolina, Elizabeth has come to find that what she appreciates most in her years working at the university is the fortune of staying put, while also gaining friendships with others as they come and go. “I’ve had so many amazing assistant and associate directors and students that I’ve taught in classes that I still maintain contact with. I used to think I loved to move every couple of years but I didn’t realize that I could be here sitting still and people could be moving around me and going on, sharing their new experiences and successes with me,” Elizabeth says. “The best thing about working here is that I have had the opportunity to meet an amazing group of people.”