Presented at the 2014 Homecoming Alumni Chapel
The National Association of Wabash Men takes great pride in helping to forge lifelong relationships between alumni and the College. Jim and Susie, today we are honored to lift you up as shining examples of the powerful bonds that parents form with this great college and to welcome you into the ranks of our honorary alumni. And it is more than fitting that you join in the chorus with your four sons who attended Wabash in singing thy praises of Old Wabash. As parents of Wabash men, you are indeed in rare company with those who have simultaneously written four tuition checks to this College!
The two of you have been iconic figures in Montgomery County all of your lives — active, participatory, citizen leaders. As the President and owner of H-C Industries, Jim, you led a company that was one of the nation’s top manufacturers of steel and plastic bottle caps. Scores of Wabash alumni remember working part-time at your company as a way to pay for college.
Jim, you counted among your close friends legendary Wabash figures like Butch Shearer, Ben Rogge, Byron Trippet, Norm Moore, and Frank Sparks, especially after taking the reins of the company from your father in 1955. While the engineering skills you learned at Purdue guided the technical aspects of your work, your Wabash friends were instrumental in teaching you how to manage people and run a thriving business. You once said, “The study of the liberal arts gives students today an opportunity to confront the questions about what they really believe. It also gives them skillsets in writing, in thinking things through, and having an opportunity to debate those questions with other students and faculty.” Your support of the Wabash Institute for Professional Development, a liberal arts-focused program for engineers, allowed your employees — and others like them — to receive a strong foundation for leadership.
While Jim was leading HC Industries, Susie, you were supporting Wabash College Theater productions by creating costumes and assembling props. It was you, Susie, who designed and crafted Wally Wabash’s famous papier-mâché head, which lives on in the College Archives (and in our collective 1980s memories).
As community leaders, the two of you were the driving force behind Montgomery County’s support of Wabash’s Campaign for Continued Independence and Excellence in the 1980s. Your gifts to Wabash helped fund the renovation and expansion of Lilly Library and the Fine Arts Center, and your family has long supported the arts in this community. You were also instrumental in establishing the Fred N. Daugherty Award, which was endowed by H-C Industries and is awarded to a student from Montgomery County who has shown intellectual achievement and social growth as a result of his Wabash education. You have been loyal and consistent donors to Wabash’s Parents Fund and the Annual Fund. Recently, during the Challenge of Excellence campaign, you established the James and Susan Smith Family Scholarship to support Wabash men in the College’s dual degree engineering program with Purdue University because you are convinced that a liberal arts education brings immeasurable value to a person entering engineering fields.
Jim and Susie Smith, your legacy in Montgomery County and here at Wabash College is secure. You model for younger generations what it means to be service-minded citizens and this community is stronger and more robust because of your love and dedication. Therefore, it is with great affection and gratitude that the National Association of Wabash Men names you, Jim and Susie Smith, honorary alumni in the classes of 1950 and 1975. It is my honor to welcome you into our ranks and to offer you our highest praise as “Some Little Giants!”