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C.L. Smith. Copyright: Office of Information Services Drake University.
Dr. Charles Lavaughn Smith

Originally submitted by: Bailey Cernohous, Drake University, Decemeber 1, 2011.

Childhood and Early Schooling

On the 25th of August in 1915, Charles Lavaughn “CL” Smith was born in the city of Indianapolis, Indiana [1] [2]. Smith was a young scholar, for he graduated both middle school and high school early. In high school he studied the four languages of German, Greek, Latin, and Spanish. He was very interested in , and once said about it that “everybody’s different, and language helps us understand the differences. The art of communication is the most important and misunderstood factor of contemporary society” [3]. He later went on to learn more languages which included several dialects of Aramaic and other classical languages [4].

College and Careers

He was a first generation college student for his family. His mother left school in third grade, and father was a “railroader” with a fourth-grade education. He did not have a choice about going to college; he claims his father told him “‘Son, we never had an education. You are going to college’” [5]. He went to Butler University, where he earned his A.B. and M.A. Later he went on to study at Yale University, where he received his B.D. and Ph. D. He majored in Near Eastern Studies, and minored in the New Testament [6]. On December 17, 1943 he married Mary Atianter Smith. She received a B.M. at Jordan/Butler Conservatory. Mary was a music
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Charles L. Smith (Faculty). Photo By: Deane N. Haerer. Copyright Drake Univiersity.
teacher, homemaker, and active in church and social groups. They later went on to have two children, Charles L II and Mary Carol [7]. In 1936-38 he served as a pastor for Franklin Road Chapel in Indianapolis. In 1943-46 he served as a Chaplain for the U.S. Navy in World War II. In September 1950, Smith came to Drake University to teach [8].

Contribution to Drake University

He came to Drake as a professor emeritus of religion and Near Eastern studies. He began working in the Divinity School, however the school closed in the 1960s [9]. After the Divinity School closed, four different departments wanted him to teach their classes, but he eventually chose the Department of Philosophy and Religion, where he chaired for many years [10]. He let his students call him “Smitty” or “C.L.” [11]. Smith retired in 1985 due to a mandatory retirement law that requires professor to retire at the age of seventy, yet continued to teach at least one course each semester until 1994. Smith left Drake for good at the age of eighty, but said he will always be a teacher. He said “some way or another, I’ll be teaching” [12]. Another contribution to Drake he has had other t
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Charles Smith; Drake Realys Official since 1950. Photo by Renee Hujanen. Copyright Drake University.
han teaching would be volunteering at the Drake Relays. He volunteered there for more than forty years, and served as the chief timer for the 1996 Drake Relays [13].

Awards and Interesting Facts

Smith received many awards throughout his life. He was the first ever recipient of the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Peace Award, which honors the memory of the slain Israeli prime minister. He also received the Drake Medal of Service in 1994 for his long-standing dedication to the Drake community. He was named Drake’s Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher in 1979, and received the Humanities Teacher of the Year Award in 1972, and again in 1984 [14]. He was one of the few non-Jews to serve on the Jewish Chautauqua selection committee, which showed his commitment to peace and understanding [15]. He is a competent speaker and in great demand for his lectures, which he gave more than one hundred addresses a year. He became an enthusiastic collector by his tenacious mind. His collection of comic books exceeds his library of classical music. He also collected modern and ancient firearms [16]. He died of a stroke in his home in Urbandale, Iowa on June 24, 2001. His lived his life by his motto: “to teach is to live and to live is to teach” [17].

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Charles L. Smith. Copyright Drake University.
References:s

[1] Des Moines Register (2001, June 25). Des Moines Register Obituary Report. pp. 2.
[2] Department of Human Resources.
[3] Sarver, Scheffie ( 1994, April 28). Smith leaving—10 years after retiring. The Times-Delphic, pp. 27A.
[4] Unknown (March 8). Dr. Charles L. Smith 1996 Rabin Peace Award Winner. pp. 3.
[5] Sarver, Scheffie ( 1994, April 28). Smith leaving—10 years after retiring. The Times-Delphic, pp. 27A.
[6] Department of Human Resources
[7] The Office of University Relations (1984, October). Biography and Photograph Files. pp. 1-2.
[8] Department of Human Resources.
[9] Biographical Sketch: Charles L. Smith. (n.d). [Charles L. Smith - Cowles Library Archives] Des Moines, IA: Drake University.
[10] Sarver, Scheffie ( 1994, April 28). Smith leaving—10 years after retiring. The Times-Delphic, pp. 27A.
[11] Biographical Sketch: Charles L. Smith. (n.d). [Charles L. Smith - Cowles Library Archives] Des Moines, IA: Drake University.
[12] Sarver, Scheffie ( 1994, April 28). Smith leaving—10 years after retiring. The Times-Delphic, pp. 27A.
[13] Biographical Sketch: Charles L. Smith. (n.d). [Charles L. Smith - Cowles Library Archives] Des Moines, IA: Drake University.
[14] Biographical Sketch: Charles L. Smith. (n.d). [Charles L. Smith - Cowles Library Archives] Des Moines, IA: Drake University.
[15] Unknown (March 8). Dr. Charles L. Smith 1996 Rabin Peace Award Winner. pp. 3.
[16] A colleague for the Divinity School Bulletin (1966, April). Portrait of Dr. Charles L. Smith.
[17] Unknown (1994, August 12). Drake medal winners to highlight Convocation. On Campus, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 1.