Kent Smith Leaving OU for Langston University
After a six month process of interviews and meetings, Smith was chosen to be the next Langston University president on Jan. 19, after a week of interviews, board meetings and constituent conferences with members of all three campuses.
For Smith, being chosen to lead the 3,000 students at Oklahoma’s only historically black college is an honor that comes with sadness.
“I’m certainly excited, because it’s a dream come true to be the president of a historically black college, but it’s also bittersweet,” said Smith. “I feel like a senior who is realizing they have to leave this place. It’s a bad feeling.”
However, Smith’s departure from Athens will not occur until July 1, 2012, leaving time for transition and the selection of a new vice president for Student Affairs.
“The good thing is,” said Smith, “It’s not as if I’m leaving tomorrow or even next month.” And while the selection process for his successor will occur before his exit, the details have yet to be hammered out.
“I have to talk to [President Roderick McDavis] about the succession plan … how or if he wants me to be involved in it,” said Smith.
And while Smith’s presidency starts less than six months from now, he says he won’t be entering Langston with any preconceived notions or any particularly specific plans.
“My first few months will be a lot of meetings and a lot of listening,” said Smith. “I’ll work with the team of people already there … it won’t be life according to President Smith.”
With the guidance and tutelage of university leaders such as McDavis, Smith won’t be leaving Athens empty-handed, but with the lessons he’s learned during his time at OU.
“I really owe Dr. McDavis a lot,” said Smith. “He has allowed me to get involved in a myriad of things other than student life.
McDavis also imparted wisdom on Smith that will be used in his leadership of Langston.
“[I’ve learned] to always do the right thing, even if it’s not popular. That’s one of the things I really respect about Dr. McDavis … I’ve seen him do what he believes is best for his university, his alma mater,” said Smith. “There are always people who think you should do something differently, who don’t have the same information as you. Being president is not easy.”
Another lesson Smith brings with him to the Sooner State is to “have integrity.”
With lessons learned and students’ lives touched, Smith moves into the final stage of his employment by OU. While Oklahoma City and Tulsa may be a larger and more urban setting, Smith will always remember Athens.
“One thing about Athens is it grows on you … it’s a very special place,” said Smith. “I will probably miss some of the traditions that as vice president of Student Affairs drive you nuts, but also make it special … Halloween and the fests. And while you’re concerned for students safety, it’s part of what makes the university unique.”