The dozens of photos and Best Delegation plaques lining a wall in McDaniel’s Political Science seminar room endorse professor Herb Smith’s commitment to mentoring his students’ involvement in Maryland Student Legislature (MSL).
Now Smith’s support will be recognized on another level each year when MSL awards its top student honor, renamed the Dr. Herbert “Herb” Smith Award for Distinguished Career of Service.
“The MSL Board of Directors decided to name the award for Dr. Smith based on his unwavering support of MSL and of the Western Maryland and McDaniel delegations for all of our history,” says MSL Board chair Brian Griffiths, a 2000 Western Maryland/McDaniel alumnus. “His commitment not only to MSL but to state and local government make him an inspiration for us all and a worthy namesake for an award that recognizes service to MSL and the study of Maryland’s state and local government.”
MSL offers invaluable opportunities to not only Political Science majors but all students who participate, according to Smith. During MSL sessions held at the state house in Annapolis — which is the oldest state legislative building in continuous operation in the country — students sit at the actual chairs and desks of senators and delegates.
Maryland’s state house is steeped in state and national history, which only enhances the students’ experience there, Smith says. During the time it served as the nation’s capital, the state house was the site of the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War.
“MSL sessions provide opportunities to write, research, present and debate — to gather support and deal with the opposition,” says Smith, who also serves as McDaniel’s Director of Government Relations. “They also learn that it’s not easy to get things done.
“I’ve seen some awesome performances in the annual MSL session — students who participate a couple of times get better, they build self-confidence and develop a communication skill set that serves them well in any profession.”
Despite his Pennsylvania roots, Smith has been both advocate and fan of Maryland politics and government since the early 1970s, when he was a district coordinator for the infamous William Donald Schaefer’s first mayoral run. In fact, Schaefer’s “Do it now” mantra has guided Smith in his professional life — tests and papers alike are returned graded to students by the next class period after they are due.
“Maryland government and politics have been my specialty, my love, my political passion since 1971, so connecting Maryland politics and my students through MSL is a natural fit for me,” says Smith, explaining that Maryland politics are so much more accessible, neighborly and community-based than those in his home state. “Having this award named for me just came out of the blue, a total surprise — I’m flattered, humbled and honored.”