Charlie Smith has been not just my colleague for 27 years – as long as I’ve been in this department – but one of my favorites and also a friend. Charlie came to SMU’s Department of English as a lecturer in 1980. He has risen through the ranks to become a Dedman Family Distinguished Professor and has received many awards: twice winning National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships; twice receiving the Texas Institute of letters Jesse H. Jones Award for the best novel about Texas, once in 1973 (for The Thin Men of Haddam) and once in 1998 (for Understanding Women). He was a finalist for “Best Novel” for Purple Hearts from Texas Writers League in 2009. I could go on, but instead I will simply say that, most recently, in Spring 2011, Charlie was named a Lon Tinkle Fellow for “sustained excellence in a career.”
Charlie has written articles, book reviews, and many, many short stories, and he has also written 12 – yes, 12 – books, and it is his twelfth book, Steplings, about which we are now so excited. But while we are celebrating that book with him, we, his colleagues and friends, are also a little bit in mourning at the idea that next fall he will no longer be on campus. He is retiring, and I’m happy for him that he is, but it’s hard to imagine this department without Charlie.
Charlie has been an outstanding educator in a department well known on the SMU campus, and beyond, for great teaching. A dedicated mentor to his students, he has retained close ties to them even post-graduation, so much so that many, many former students attended his celebratory book launch and reading at DeGolyer Library this fall.
Charlie has also been a great coworker, teammate, and collaborator: somehow managing to write those 12 books while remaining a valued contributor, participating in the common cause to make things work well within the department. It has been a great pleasure to work with you, Charlie. We will miss you, but look forward in anticipation to your next projects, no doubt already underway.
-Nina Schwartz, department of English chair