C. Henry Smith Scholars

 C. Henry Smith was among the preeminent scholars in Bluffton's history, as evidenced by the campus reminders of his legacy. An annual peace oratorical contest for students bears the name of the late history professor and prominent Mennonite historian. So does a peace lecture delivered both at Bluffton and Goshen College where Smith taught before coming to Bluffton in 1913 by faculty from the two institutions. And top Bluffton juniors and seniors can experience discovery an enduring value of the university as C. Henry Smith Scholars.

It's a good way of broadening their horizons, says Dr. W. Todd Rainey about the program, which was founded in 1973, 25 years after Smith s death in 1948. Rainey, a professor of biology, and Dr. Susan Carpenter, an assistant professor of English, are co-advisers to the honor society. Each year, a maximum of 15 new C. Henry Smith Scholars are named by the university s Special C. Henry SmithStudies & Honors Committee. Juniors and seniors with grade point averages of at least 3.3 may be recommended by faculty and invited to apply for membership, a process that includes writing an essay.

The chosen students then join senior scholars returning from the previous year for over the course of an academic year a series of seminars and two or three field trips. In the last few years, the group has also made an annual presentation on campus about that year's civic engagement theme on Civic Engagement Day in April. This year s project will relate to the theme of global poverty.

Held about every other week in the homes of faculty or staff members, the seminars are meetings that feature speakers, sometimes faculty and other times students who report on their departmental honors or other research projects. The seminars represent an opportunity for the scholars to actively participate in discussion of these new ideas and ask questions, Rainey says. And for students practicing research presentations, it provides a venue for a different audience to provide feedback on what they re working on, notes Cody Litwiller, a senior C. Henry Smith Scholar from Hopedale, Ill. Those in-home venues are also a nice change of pace, he says, from the classrooms where students are used to seeing faculty.

It's been good to have a different relationship with professors through meeting in their homes, the marketing major explains, saying he also likes sharing ideas with peers who are interested in what s happening on campus, in and out of the classroom. They get to experience a different part of the college community than they normally would, Rainey points out, saying the participating students tend to be both ambitious and busy. Similarly, he says, the field trips introduce members of the group to ideas and activities they may not have encountered previously.

Last year's Smith Scholars traveled to the Hindu Temple of Toledo for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and another past group visited the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, in Perrysburg. The students have gone to museums and attended plays and concerts as well, based in part on a survey of their interests taken early each fall. They've seen the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and this year's group went to Ohio Northern University for a performance of Hamlet last fall. Possible destinations this spring include the Dayton Art Institute and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. I think the program augments the intellectual experience here, Rainey adds.