Smith wrapping up interim period as executive director

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Rick Smith will finish his term as interim director May 31.

Lexi Holdiness , Staff Writer

After former Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Executive Director Germain McConnell’s departure in 2021, the Mississippi Department of Education looked to Rick Smith to save the day by filling the role on an interim basis.

Smith worked at MSMS for 10 years between 2008 and 2018 as the director for advancement and admissions and director for student affairs. During those years, he saw many teachers and students come and go, but MSMS made the impact of a lifetime on his heart.

“When I got the call from MDE asking if I would come back and serve as the interim [executive director], the first thing I said was, ‘Wow, I’m shocked. Can you give me a few days to think about it?’ I was retired for three years, and every day was Saturday,” Smith said. “But of course, it was no decision; it’s MSMS.”

As the 2021-2022 academic year comes to a completion, he will finish his work and return to the joy of retirement and the hobbies he has come to love.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to my daylilies, my garden, mowing my yard twice a week, my blackberries and my jelly making. I haven’t made any bread in months now,” Smith said. “I want to keep my grandkids again, and I’m ready to get back to the family and the fun parts of retirement.”

Of course, any departure is bittersweet, and there are pieces of the job he said he’ll miss.

“I’ll miss the kids. Just the students I have gotten to know and beginning to build those relationships [with students] again [will be missed]. I’ll miss the excitement, the projects and just being able to get back and feel like we’re getting some things done for the school and for the students that are going to make it better for everybody in the future,” Smith said.

The energy Smith brought to campus will also be missed by students and faculty. From his fun bowties to his horrendous dad jokes, Smith was able to become a positive presence during the midst of confusing times.

“All of MSMS will definitely miss Rick Smith. He brought a little more joy in our lives during his short time here. It’s always an enjoyment looking at the new bowties he wears each day. I love his energy so much. I hope he visits because we’re going to miss him,” junior Maurisha Arnold said.

Among staff, Smith definitely made an impact.

“The most wonderful thing about Rick is that he cares about all the students, and he was so disappointed that he didn’t get to know every student,” language instructor Lori Pierce said.

In his prior years, Smith had always worked closely with students. In advancement and student affairs he prided himself in knowing every student by name. In the interim position, Smith was unable to create those same relationships with students.

“My favorite part of working with Mr. Smith was his willingness to listen and adjust on the fly. I will 100% miss his sense of humor. He had a way of lighting up the darkest of rooms. He’s kept MSMS going during our time of transition to a new executive director,” director of student affairs LeAnn Alexander said.

Throughout the transition Smith has shown time and time again his commitment to MSMS and his love for the campus.

He stepped up during the transition and took the position where he was needed most.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.