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Smock returns to Byrd Center as interim director

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Feb 5, 2021


SHEPHERDSTOWN — Monday morning dawned bright and early for Ray Smock, as he began his first day back-on-the-job as Robert C. Byrd Center director in over two-and-a-half years.

Thankfully for both him and his fellow staff member, Director of Education and Outreach Jody Brumage, those years of retirement weren’t spent in leisure. Smock has remained active in the life of the Byrd Center, as a member of its Board of Directors.

“When Ray retired in 2018, the Byrd Center was already two years into a significant transition that began when we changed our name from the Center for Legislative Studies to the Center for Congressional History and Education and adopted our new mission in early 2016,” Brumage said. “Under the leadership of Jay Wyatt as director, we refined the center’s execution of its mission, by placing emphasis on educational outreach, rooted in the foundation of primary sources and inquiry-based learning, creating lesson plans for civics instruction from our archival collections. Our educational programs have grown in geographic coverage and number of participants during Jay’s tenure as director.

“Many of these initiatives began when Jay was Director of Programs and Research,” Brumage said. “In the time that Jay was serving as director, Ray was still a member of the Board of Directors, so he is already versed in these programs and initiatives.”

Before serving as the center’s inaugural director from 2002-2018, Smock was the Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-1995. According to Smock, his continued presence at the Byrd Center has helped insure this tenure as interim director will not be wasted.

“My main goal is to help build a strong financial footing for the center going forward,” Smock said, mentioning the Byrd Center staff, friends and board are already dedicated to achieving that goal. “The center is a nonprofit educational institution on Shepherd University’s campus. We receive no funds from the state of West Virginia, and the staff members of the Byrd Center are not paid as university employees.

“We are building a strong cadre of supporters in and around Shepherdstown, and we are also seeking support from foundations, philanthropic organizations and federal grants that support our mission of promoting a better understanding of representative democracy, Congress and the Constitution,” Smock said.

Now nearing his 80th year, Smock said he has two reasons for coming out of retirement — his desire to help former director Jay Wyatt take the next step on his career path, and his love for the Byrd Center’s work.

“I love the work,” Smock said. “I am coming back to the Byrd Center to provide continuity while we plan for the future. We have much work to do.

“With the help of all the Friends of the Byrd Center, I pledge to work to keep this vital part of the Shepherd University campus and this active community of citizens going strong as long as I can, until my successor is found. And it will be hard to find a strong successor, unless we can demonstrate that our financial house is in order for the foreseeable future,” Smock said.

To learn more or help with the fundraising efforts, visit https://www.byrdcenter.org/.