Smiddy Hall is rededicated
newly renovated Smiddy Hall welcomes visitors to The University of Virginia’s
College at Wise, just as its namesake Joseph C. Smiddy did during his three
decades of service to the College.
greets you, just like Joe did,” said Smiddy’s longtime friend and colleague
George Culbertson as the College rededicated Smiddy Hall on Tuesday, June
Culbertson joined University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan and UVa-Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry and others in a ceremony that honored Smiddy, the College’s first chancellor, and his tireless and often unique efforts to nurture a young two-year school into a thriving four-year institution.
became the face of this institution,” Culbertson, a member of the College’s
Class of 1957 said. “Everyone knew and trusted Joe, and they trusted that he
was going to do the right thing.”
genius of Smiddy was and still remains his ability to work with people and to
cultivate those relationships in ways that benefitted the College, Culbertson
said. Smiddy’s priority was academics, and he made sure that those without
financial resources had a way to attend college.
the history of the institution, you see the genius of Joe,” Culbertson said.
reminded the crowd that Smiddy defied Virginia segregation laws and admitted
the first black student when it was illegal to do so. He recalled how Smiddy
and powerful Virginia Delegate Orby Cantrell worked in Richmond on a bill that allowed
the College to become a four-year institution.
think the stars were in alignment when Joe was convinced to come here,” Culbertson
Henry called Smiddy an illustrious man who provided extraordinary service to
chancellor, he knew well the sacrifice that families made to give their
children access to higher education,” Henry said. “He espoused and modeled the
‘can do’ attitude, passionate engagement and total perseverance that made
students successful here.”
Henry said UVa-Wise would “rededicate” itself to the principles Smiddy established.
Sullivan said the words Virginia uses to market southwestern Virginia apply to
Smiddy as well.
distinctive and alive,” she said. “You are certainly authentic. You are
certainly distinctive. You worked for decades to serve and lead this College so
students could become distinguished leaders.”
“aliveness” refers to his “great human vibrancy” and “aliveness” that worked
its way into every aspect of the College, she said.
is a great day for my family and my friends and for all those people who helped
me be here on this day,” Smiddy said.
recalled how the entire College worked as a team to serve the region, even if
that included the chancellor grabbing a mop to clean up after a roof leak.
didn’t have anyone to call in those days,” he said. “You just grabbed a mop.”
in 1972 as the administration building, Smiddy Hall was officially named in
1985 on the occasion of Smiddy’s retirement after 30 years of leadership and
service to the College. Smiddy Hall was renovated in 2011 to house faculty and
administrative offices as well as classrooms. A new Information Technology wing
was added to the building during the renovation.
a native of Jellico, Tenn., helped establish Clinch Valley College, now known
as UVa-Wise. After his service in World War II, the educator, storyteller and
traditional Appalachian musician, began his career as a high school teacher,
band director and principal in the Lee County Public Schools. He was hired as
the College’s first biology professor in 1954 and later served as dean and
director of the College prior to being named its first chancellor.
He cultivated the fledgling College from a two-year institution to a four-year college. Under his leadership, CVC was the first state college or university founded in Virginia without a policy of racial exclusion and was the first to recruit actively among all races. He stayed true to the College’s mission of making higher education available to all regardless of financial circumstances.
Photo: Tim Cox