UAH's longtime diversity chief Delois H. Smith to retire

Delois H. Smith

Delois H. Smith Vice President of the UAH Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs retires on April 1.

Aaron Sexton | UAH

Delois Hunter Smith, Vice President of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at UAH is retiring on April 1, after nearly 40 years of service.

"It has truly been an honor and my pleasure to serve the university for almost four decades. I have been blessed with a career that has allowed me to work with outstanding students, faculty, staff and administrators who do extraordinary things everyday," said Smith.

She joined UAH in 1980 and has held progressively responsible positions in the areas of Student Affairs and upper administration. In 2000, Smith was named Vice President for Student Affairs and served as the Senior Administrative Student Affairs Officer for nearly nine years. Smith is the first African American female Vice President to serve in The University of Alabama System (2000, Interim; 2002 Vice President).

In 2009, following her service to diverse student populations, faculty, staff and administration constituents, Smith was appointed by the UAH president to lead and develop the Office of Diversity and Student Support Services for the campus. As Vice President for Diversity, she is responsible for strategic planning, fiscal management, and staffing for the Offices of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA) serving faculty, staff, students and administration. Areas of responsibility include Affirmative Action, Equity, EEO concerns, federal and state compliance issues, Title IX concerns and diversity programming and training.

"Over the past few years diversity, inclusion and multicultural issues have changed and are continuing to change significantly," Smith said. "The work of diversity has been made easier by ever-present societal change itself. Progressive companies, institutions and organizations, that know and accept these diverse societal changes, are poised to grow as the nation grows—those who do not, will find themselves very much out of step with the society around them."

Smith added that the work of diversity has been made harder by intolerance, lack of civility and mutual respect and polarization along racial, gender, political and socio-economic lines. And, she cautioned, "Diversity and inclusion is not the sole work of ODMA, but of all members of the university."

Recognized as an exceptional diversity leader, champion for students, and a higher education professional, Smith's retirement is applauded by peers and UAH alumni who know her well.

“I have had the opportunity and great professional privilege to work with Vice President Delois Smith for many years and have found her to be a consistent and dedicated voice for students, community, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She represents the strongest and best qualities of a caring university colleague, mentor, and administrator," said Dr. Charles R. Nash, Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, The University of Alabama System. "Delois Smith’s clear and firm advice and counsel will be sorely missed throughout The University of Alabama System and by members of the Alabama Association of Higher Education Diversity Officers,” Nash added.

Dr. Molly Wilkinson Johnson, UAH Associate Professor of History, and Director of Women's and Gender Studies (WGS) said, "The program has been extremely fortunate to have Delois Smith and the Office of Diversity as a partner on many of our events, including the Charged Up for Change! EXPO, the Alabama Women's Student Leaders Conference, and Interfaith Conversations on Women's Spirituality. Her support has been critical in enabling WGS to bring our programming to the campus and community," Johnson said. "In addition to her work at UAH, she is deeply committed to service in our community. I have often thought that everybody in Huntsville seems to know and respect Delois Smith. She is a caring and ethical human being, whom I consider a role model. I am proud to have worked with her, and I wish her a wonderful retirement," said Johnson.

UAH alumna Dr. Joy Agee-McDaniel ('16 PhD, Biotechnology, Science, Engineering, '10 MS Biological Sciences) said, "Delois Smith epitomizes what it truly means to be an inclusive leader. Her leadership at UAH has led hundreds of students to feel like they have a voice and are represented in the UAH culture. Not only does she do this by her administrative decisions, but by her direct interactions with students to foster their academic success and leadership development. During my time at UAH, I was greatly influenced by Mrs. Smith to become a more culturally aware leader, and always plan campus activities that were enriching for everyone. As a scientist, these skills have been instrumental in my professional development," said Agee-McDaniel, a past President of the UAH Minority Graduate Student Association.

Smith's invaluable contributions to UAH students through program and policy development include primary revision of the New Student Orientation format, establishment of a Dating Policy in conjunction with the Faculty Senate, formation of the Student Counseling Center and Disability Support Services, and establishment of the Student Government Association's B. Jeanne Fisher-Prevost Outstanding Student Leadership Award.

"Dr. B. Jeanne Fisher-Prevost served as UAH's first Vice President for Student Affairs and continued a series of 'firsts' for the campus," said Smith. "Dr. Fisher-Prevost was instrumental in the Title IX equity transitions and hired me as the first African American administrator in Student Affairs for UAH," said Smith. "Her innovative, bold, insightful and forward-thinking moxie moved UAH Student Affairs forward by leaps and bounds and established the foundation on which many of the student clubs, organizations, and programs now stand and continue to grow. Fisher-Prevost's legacy is systemic and intricately interwoven throughout the UAH division of Student Affairs. I am forever grateful for her mentorship and personal friendship. UAH and I are the better for the opportunity to have known and worked with her. I see her influence everyday as I drive around or walk across campus."

Of all her academic and professional achievements at UAH, Smith is proudest of the Student, Staff And Faculty Emergency (SSAFE) Fund. "When I was an undergraduate student at The University of Florida (UF), I found myself broke and in need of help paying bills and buying groceries. A friend gave me $50 and told me not to worry about paying it back, but to just pay it forward," Smith said. "That $50 was as valuable to me as $500. I made a promise to indeed pay it forward and to one day do the same for others when I had the opportunity. So, my husband, Ed, and I established the SSAFE Fund at UAH several years ago."

SSAFE provides discretionary funds for use in case of emergencies that happen for staff, students and faculty needing temporary, short-term financial support. The account is maintained by the UAH Office of Development. "The SSAFE fund has helped hundreds in the UAH community. I hope others will be generous as well and make continual donations to the fund so more individuals in the UAH family can be helped to reach their goal or achieve their dream."

In addition to Smith's responsibilities as UAH's chief diversity officer, she also led the university's community outreach efforts for equity and inclusion initiatives. Her exemplary outreach work in the North Alabama community includes President of the Board of Directors of Girls Incorporated of Huntsville; AshaKiran, Chairperson of Race and Culture; Interfaith Mission Service, Board of Directors; The Village of Promise, past president; Madison County Mental Health Association, committee member; Huntsville Leadership Impact Class/Race Relations; Huntsville Chamber of Commerce Education Committee; and more recently advancing racial equity and understanding through the coordination and launch of the successful series, Community Conversations on Race Relations (2016-17).

Smith is the recipient of several prestigious community service awards including the Interfaith Mission Service (IMS) Racial Harmony Award; Alabama National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Outstanding Contributions to Higher Education; Village of Promise (Families in Poverty) Early Adopter Award; Community Educational Leadership Award; Alabama A&M University Alumni and Huntsville City Council; UAH Minority Graduate Student Association Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Award; and The UAH Foundation Staff Award.

As her retirement nears, Smith has already started the next chapter of her life. "I have always maintained state licensure as a professional counselor. I will soon launch an LLC counseling and consulting service. I am particularly excited about a focus on a dating service component for singles and those who are single-again. My husband, son Alex and I plan to travel extensively as well."

Her advice for her ODMA successor is to never forget that UAH and Huntsville are exceptional places to live, learn and grow. "In the state of Alabama, if it can be done, and done well—Huntsville is the place to do it. Embrace and take full advantage of the plethora of opportunities in this place to work progressively and well, with quality people and programs."

Smith would like UAH to remember her as someone who, "Genuinely cared about and supported the students, faculty, staff and administrators at UAH, served the Huntsville community, and that my faith undergirded all that I did…that I always gave my best, loved a good clean joke and loved to laugh."

She is a graduate of UF receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Psychology and Educational Psychology. Smith is a licensed professional counselor (LPC), a nationally certified counselor (NCC), a Board Certified Clinical Psychotherapist (BCCP) and a Qualified Intercultural Administrator (QA, IDI).


Joyce Anderson-Maples


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