Bob de Smith: A heartfelt goodbye

Emma Bennett—Staff writer

Change is always hard; adjusting to the comings and goings of life is something that many of us work at and struggle to accept. Academia is no different, especially for those who have moved far from home and are required to create a new form of stability. One can find such feelings in the guidance of a teacher or mentor who encourages them to grow their skills and pursue their careers with a God-fearing posture. One such professor is Bob de Smith, who has decided to retire at the end of this year, much to the sadness of his students and the other members of the English department. So, in honor of his retirement, let’s look back on de Smith’s career at Dordt University and the influence he has had on the community.

To start, de Smith being the traitor that he is, did not choose to attend Dordt as a student, and instead went to Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He majored in English there, but spent a year in Calvin Theological Seminary in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin before pursuing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin in the same town. There he received an offer from future friend and colleague Jim Schaap to fill in at Dordt for one year. So, in 1983-84, de Smith and his wife Rebecca moved to Sioux Center.

“It was a marvelous, but very busy year for both of us.” de Smith said.

For his first five years at Dordt, de Smith covered lots of Core classes, as well as early British Literature. After accepting a permanent position, he took on the Shakespeare course, worked to revive History of the English Language, and was handed English 210— Approaches to Literary Study after a colleague chose to pursue work elsewhere. His skill set in reading Anglo-Saxon and his time in seminary have since solidified his position at Dordt and have given him the capabilities to faithfully conduct each of his classes, while finding ways to incorporate creative assignments and meaningful repertoire with his students.

de Smith expressed great gratitude at his time in the community, and remembered fondly when a student of his sent him a paper Beowulf mask after she went to see it in person at the British museum.

“Some of my best moments in class are when unexpected things happen,” de Smith said. “You can’t plan for those, but if students are engaged and bring their experiences to things, it’s fun.”

de Smith also mentioned times before Covid when he would take English students to an outdoor theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin to watch Shakespeare. From all these stories and experiences, it is evident that de Smith has gained as much from teaching and interacting with students as they have from him. To speak from personal experience, his classes have always held a high respect and intellectual curiosity about literature that is nothing short of contagious, and I for one have found that I have been challenged and have subsequently learned a lot in any class taught by him. While we all encourage and respect his decision, Bob de Smith has had a broad impact on the lives of many students, and he will be sorely missed.

Leave a Comment or Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s