Thomas R. Smith impacted students at Penn State Abington classrooms for decades as an Associate Professor of English and Division Head for Arts and Humanities. When he retired, he decided to give back by establishing the Thomas R. and Eileen Walton Smith Award for Achievement in the Arts and Humanities.
“I set up the award because there were programs in the Division of Arts and Humanities that offered no awards to students for exceptional achievement, specifically in Corporate Communication, Dance, Music, and Theater,” Dr. Smith said.
“What I hope students gain from the award is increased motivation to do good work associated with their courses, independent studies, or ACURA [undergraduate research], and, for students in the programs without awards before now, to know that Penn State Abington values and appreciates their strong efforts in their fields.”
William Connor ‘18, pictured at right with Dr. Thomas Smith, is the first recipient of the Smith Award. He graduated in May with degrees in American Studies and History.
“Dr. Smith’s award is going to help me greatly as I transition into graduate school,” he said. “I hope to make him proud.”
Will’s undergraduate research project focused on the artwork created for Pennsylvania post offices as part of the Works Progress Administration Section of Fine Arts during the Great Depression. Some of the work was developed as a form of relief for the unemployed, while others came to fruition as part of a rule that one percent of the total budget for all new federal buildings had to be set aside for decoration.
Dr. Smith met Will for lunch in the days following commencement to discuss the new graduate’s achievements including plans to transform his post office research project into a book.
“I found Will to have a lively mind and very eager to keep working on his project on Works Progress Administration art in Pennsylvania post offices,” Dr. Smith said. “I am very pleased that the first Smith Award has recognized Will's imaginative project and that it has been given to such an able and deserving student.
Will said he will use the funds from the award toward his master’s degree in Public History at Temple University, which he begins this fall. He also plans to attend law school.