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Julian W. Smith Memorial Scholarship

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To aid students in outdoor and science education.smith

About Dr. Julian W. Smith


Dr. Julian W. Smith served as Director of the Outdoor Education Project from its inception in 1953 until his retirement in 1972. The project was national in scope, was organized under the auspices of the American Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and was funded by a variety of industries, corporations and organizations that were involved in some aspect of outdoor recreational and educational pursuits. Throughout his tenure as national director of the Outdoor Education Project, Dr. Smith held the position of Associate Professor of Education and Chair of the Outdoor Education Department in the College of Education at Michigan State University. His professional competence as an educator, an educational administrator and as a leader assured the success of the project. This profile of Dr. Smith highlights only some of his unique and outstanding abilities and the contributions he made to the field of outdoor education, to his colleagues and students and to Michigan State University.

First, a brief background of the Outdoor Education Project will provide a basis for better understanding the nature and scope of Dr. Smith's role and responsibilities with the project and the university. The Outdoor Education Project was prompted by the findings of a national survey conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior. The survey, made in the early 1950s, sought to discover what outdoor activities people participated in. The results indicated that at the top of the list of the most popular activities were fishing, hunting and boating/water activities, in that order. Coupled with these findings was the growing realization that American youth generally lacked the skills, knowledge and attitudes required for lifelong enjoyment of the outdoors. An educational project to prepare youth for participation in these activities and for the conservation of the outdoor environment in which they were held was a logical outcome. In response to this need, the American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (AAHPER), a Department of the National Education Association, initiated the Outdoor Education Project on a national level. What resulted was one of the first business-industry-education partnerships in an educational venture. Direct funding was provided by several industries including the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association (AFTMA), the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) and the Outboard Boating Club of America. Other organizations and industries made contributions of various kinds to the project but the primary and sustained funding was provided by the AFTMA. Under the direction of Dr. Julian W. Smith, working with a national advisory committee of representatives from schools, colleges, education organizations, state departments of education, conservation agencies and businesses, the project was designed to undertake the following activities: leadership training through regional, state and national workshops and clinics; providing interpretation and information aimed at the development of outdoor education programs in schools and colleges; and, the developing of instructional materials for classroom and field use.

Dr. Julian W. Smith was uniquely prepared and situated to become the national director of the Outdoor Education Project. His experiential background in educational leadership positions (fourteen years as a secondary school principal and eleven years in the Michigan State Department of Public Instruction) and the active role he played in professional organizations at a national level (AAHPER, National Education Association, and the Society of State Directors of Health, Physical Education and Recreation) had prepared him well for this national leadership role. His academic background and educational experience qualified Dr. Smith for a faculty/administrative position in higher education. His proximity to Michigan State University facilitated the establishment of the Outdoor Education Project within the academic setting of MSU. Such a relationship with an educational institution was essential to the teacher preparation and leadership training component of the project.

In addition to Dr. Smith's professional background and experience that were so well suited to the director's role, he brought extraordinary personal qualifications to the position. Dr. Julian Smith was a soft-spoken, gentle man with an easy, open, quiet manner that won him immediate friends. He was always respectful of others and welcomed their ideas and involvement in the task or discussion at hand. Dr. Smith was one who always brought others into the conversation, activity, discussion and/or event. His leadership style put others in an active role. In this way, he drew upon the knowledge, experience and expertise of many people and brought together an outstanding group of professionals from around the country to provide both direction and direct contributions to the Outdoor Education Project. Applied in his teaching role, Dr. Smith's leadership style and approach brought his students, of every level and background, into a dynamic learning environment created primarily by their own participation in that environment. Given the fact that outdoor education is not a singular discipline, Dr. Smith's extraordinary ability to integrate and coordinate many different and separate disciplines, bodies of knowledge, activities and individuals from varying aspects of the broad field of outdoor education was a hallmark of his successful fulfillment of the role as project director.

Further, it was obvious that Dr. Smith had a deep appreciation and love for the out-of-doors. He understood on a personal level the relationship of man to his natural environment. He was truly "at home" in a natural setting and, as an educator; he knew the unique value of education in the outdoors. He was a tireless and most articulate spokesman in promoting a better understanding of the value of developing and implementing programs of outdoor education in a variety of educational settings. A glimpse of Dr. Smith's understanding and belief in the value of outdoor education can be seen in his writing about the future of outdoor education.

The Outdoor Education Project that Dr. Smith directed for twenty plus years was by all counts a most successful venture. The project touched the lives of countless youth throughout the United Stated through new and expanded educational programs in a myriad of settings from school camping environments to the National Boy Scout Jamboree. Dr. Smith's quiet, yet dynamic, leadership was fundamental to the project's success. Dr. Smith received well-deserved professional recognition and honors for his work. None of these is more fitting to his life's interest and work than the Julian W. Smith Memorial Scholarship given each year to a student preparing to teach in outdoor or science education at Michigan State University.

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