Honoring Over Four Decades of Service at Prairie View A&M University

HOUSTON – Characteristics of the color “purple” are known to demonstrate: comforting, spiritual, mysterious, creative and artistic vibes. While shades of the color “yellow” are known to yield feelings associated with being: fresh, bright, cheerful, warming, happy and energetic. Compositely, these tones percolated Hilton Americas as, “A Summer’s Evening Celebration” banquet and scholarship benefit was held in honor of Dr. E. Joahanne Thomas-Smith. 

Honorable, gifted and esteemed personalities alike convened to pay homage to the much accomplished, illustrious and distinguished Dr. Thomas-Smith. She was honored for her 18 years of dedicated service as Senior Vice President and Provost of Academic Affairs of Prairie View A&M UniversityDr. Michael L. McFrazier, Vice President for Administration, Chief of Staff and Event Chair started the evening’s event off with a greeting. Award-winning journalist and Anchor of KTRK-TX’s Channel 13, was the EMCEE in the person of the beautifully-spirited, Melanie LawsonRev. Charles H. Lewter, IV, who is the Dean at Johnson-Phillip All Faiths Chapel gave the invocation.

Afterwards, dinner was served and a Visual Reflection was depicted featuring the journey of Dr. Thomas-Smith. Mrs. Barbara Tucker rendered a most fascinating musical tribute. Other tributes were given by: Ms. Phyllis Darden-Caldwell (PVAMU Alumna), Dr. Edward W. Martin, Dean Emeritus (Former University Administrator and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences) and Dr. James W. Ward (Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs of Texas Southern University). A ravishing melodious rendition of “In A Mellow Tone” was performed by the PV Singers and Jazz Ensemble. 

The Honorable Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee spoke meaningful and heartfelt words as she delivered her Legislative Tribute. The PV Singers and Jazz Ensemble once again graced the stage with an amazing performance of, “Take the ‘A’ Train”. University Tributes were spoken by Dr. Danny R. Kelly, Dean (Marvin D. and June Samuel Brailsford College of Arts and Sciences); Dr. Lauretta F. Byars (V.P. for Student Affairs and Institutional Advancement) and President George C. Wright.

President Wright noted that, “Dr. Thomas-Smith embodies our academic mission of teaching, research and service”. He continued, “Not only has she helped the University maintain its accreditation over the years, but she has ushered in new academic programs, mentored faculty, secured research dollars and has been a true ambassador for PV.”

Finally, Dr. E. Joahanne Thomas-Smith made her way to the stage while the awaiting gallery demonstrated a tumultuous stance.

She thanked her sponsors which included: Ernest and Floretta CollinsH-E-BDr. Flossie M. Byrd, the Montague CollectionSodexo, Lieutenant General (US Army Ret.) Julius and Louise Becton, Jr.John SharpING Financial PartnersErnest V. MartinTSU/OneTSU, American Campus Communities and a host of university supporters and guests that came to make the event that which it had become.

The honoree expressed that she is, “indebted to the ardent support and trust of many people”. Just to list a few she paid acknowledged and paid respect to the late President, Dr. Alvin I. Thomas; the late former Presidents, Lt. General (Ret) Julius Wesley Becton, Jr.Dr. Charles A. Hines and President, Dr. George C. Wright. “Nothing has been possible without the cooperation and talent of the students, faculty, staff and alumni” Thomas-Smith added.

As continually announced throughout the ballroom, Dr. Thomas-Smith has an educational and professional resume that extends to the role of academic achievement and acceleration that dates back to well over four decades ago. A memoir of her professional achievements reveal the following…

Dr. Thomas-Smith arrived at Prairie View A&M University in 1968 after having taught in Honolulu, Hawaii and Spokane, Washington. Upon seeing the University, her intention was to work as an instructor of English for a year or two and then relocate.

Along the way, she found inspiration from stellar educators like the late noted historian, Dr. George Ruble Woolfolk, Dr. Ann L. Campbell and Dr. Flossie M. Byrd, who became the first to hold the title of Provost. 

She pursued her doctorate at Washington State University, returning in 1976 better equipped to become a fully qualified academic servant, mentoring students, teaching and serving the University as it sought to “produce productive people.” 

Additionally, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Tuskegee University in 1965 and her master’s degree from New Mexico Highlands University in 1966. It was from Highlands University in 1999 that she received the distinguished alumni award.

Dr. Thomas-Smith had the instinct for not only high quality teaching but for getting things done through people. So it was not surprising when she was tapped for successively higher positions beginning with Assistant to the Dean of Arts and Sciences; Head, Department of English and Languages; Associate Provost and Director of Title III Programs; Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs; Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, to the position of Vice President for Student Affairs and Institution Advancement. 

Dr. Thomas-Smith denotes that she has accomplished nothing alone. Her curriculum vitae includes numerous achievements. Among the achievements occurring on Dr. Thomas-Smith’s watch are: the first permanent Houston Medical Center facility for the College of Nursing; acquisition of KPVU 91.3 FM radio station; support for establishing the Faculty Senate; creation of the University College; acquisition of five doctoral programs; formation of the Undergraduate Medical Academy; collaboration with Dr. Kelvin Kirby and Dr. Freddie Frazier to acquire a grant for undergraduates to prepare to eventually earn doctorate and professional degrees; acquisition of additional external funding from Sperry-Hutchinson, the Anheuser-Busch Foundation, the United States Department of Education, PVAMU Alumni and most recently HEB; establishing an undergraduate student research, re-establishment of The Honors Program, (iREAD); restructuring of the Tutoring Center; formation of the Center of Operation and Management of Personalized Academic Student Success (COMPASS); acquisition of the PVAMU Confucius Institute; and continued full reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Among her membership affiliations are: Sigma Tau Delta International Honor Society in English; Phi Delta Kappa Education Honor Society; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and the Houston Chapter of the Links, Inc., where during years as Program Chair, the chapter had a resurgence in recognition for excellent programs. She is an alumna of the Governor’s Executive Development Program Class XI. Dr. Thomas-Smith’s awards and honors are numerous, but most notable are the 2008 Extend the View Award, presented to her by President Wright who also in 2014 presented her with the University’s Humanitarian Award.

Most prominent among her appointments are those to the Certification Advisory Council of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), the editorial board of the Negro Educational Review, and the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (APLU). 

She is married to Rev. Sam I. Smith, Sr., retired public school educator and Pastor, China Chapel United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Texas.

Thus, it is no wonder after reading only a brief informative summation of Dr. Thomas-Smith’s resume that; if anyone was most deserving of such an esteemed celebration certainly she serves as the one ‘accredited’ to sit in this seat. Although this gala signified the dawning of an era filled with much success; her journey will not end here. She will resourcefully continue on at the university in a teaching role and as the institutional accreditation officer. Accordingly, the proceeds received from “A Summer’s Evening Celebration” will benefit the General Scholarship fund.