An era of academic leadership is ending with the retirement of Dr. R. Kathy Smoot, Vice President of Academic Services/Provost, who has served Hazard Community and Technical College in major leadership roles for 20 years.
Dr. Smoot values the opportunity she has had to mentor and encourage a number of young people who’ve gone on to earn their bachelor’s, master’s, and/or even doctoral degrees and establish successful careers as tomorrow’s leaders. She has enjoyed her opportunity to positively impact education – specifically, higher education – in this area of the state and, therefore improve the lives of the students.
She has had a strong impact on college initiatives. She was on the team that put together the University Center of the Mountains concept, as well as the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music. She created the Academic Leadership Team to emphasize that working together college folks could accomplish so much more than working alone. Another project was her work with a group of writers to document the history of Lees College before it was lost which resulted in publication of Place of Hope, Place of Progress.
Dr. Smoot worked to pull together Workforce Solutions and technical programs to better meet business/industry needs in Eastern Kentucky; and, the college added a number of new academic programs over the years for that same reason. As one of the college’s senior leaders, she has been present and helped lead everything from the mergers and opening of new campuses to leading the effort to ensure HCTC provides quality in online programming.
A key leadership role included her service as interim president from January to August 2007. “HCTC has been in a state of constant change during the 20 years of my tenure. With the merger of Lees, change from UK to KCTCS, merger of the Technical Campus, opening of Knott County Branch, opening of Leslie County Center, movement from in-person to online classes, etc. I guess that’s one reason that 20 years seems to have flown by — never a dull moment,” she said with a smile.
She believes the mergers have made all institutions involved better and stronger than they could ever be alone. Dr. Smoot has worked with five presidents at HCTC, all of them quite different in their leadership style, priorities, etc. “I tend to be one of those individuals who likes change and all the possibilities/opportunities change brings with it,” she said. One of her all-time favorite quotes is by the late John F. Kennedy, “Change is the law of life, and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
She has advice for others who aspire to such a leadership role. “Be careful what you wish for,” is her first response. She says leaders need to be prepared to work tirelessly (24/7/365), have a “thick skin” and not take things personally, lead the way you would want to be led, and learn something new every day of your life.
The strengths of HCTC are its people, according to the Vice President. “It’s the people I will miss. HCTC is a great place to work and we have a truly excellent faculty and staff; and, most importantly, we impact and change lives every day through the many successes of our students. I’m honored to have been a part of such a wonderful institution, doing the work I love with the people I love, for the last 20 years,” she said.
In her retirement, she plans to spend time with family, including her 87-year-old mother, Beulah Brashear Catron, her husband, Bob Smoot, and daughter, Dr. Sunshine Smoot. The family hopes to spend more time at their home in North Myrtle Beach and travel more, as well as home renovation projects. She hopes to finish a couple of “picture books” she started some time ago, one on all the covered bridges in Kentucky. And, she is happy to pursue hobbies which include photography, gardening, and reading a good book.
“I will always value the time I’ve spent at HCTC and, when all things are said and done, I’m glad that I returned home to Eastern Kentucky some 23 years ago. “Roots” are just as important as “wings”, and I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to experience both during the last 65 years,” noted Dr. Smoot.
Dr. Smoot’s doctorate degree is in educational administration from the University of Kentucky. Her master’s degree in vocational education and her bachelor’s degree in vocational home economics are both from Morehead State University. Dr. Smoot attained a perfect 4-point-0 grade average in both her masters and doctoral work, and others have since replicated her studies of Cooperative Education and Leadership Behavior.
Dr. Smoot joined HCTC in 1996 as the result of the merger with Lees College in Jackson, which is now the Lees College Campus. While at Lees, she held the position of Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Prior to that, she spent five years at Horry-Georgetown Technical College serving as dean of the Grand Strand Campus in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and evening director at the Conway Campus in Conway, S.C. The remainder of her experience in higher education was earned at Northern Virginia Community College, Southern West Virginia Community College, Morehead State University, University of Kentucky, and the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service.
Dr. Smoot was born in Hazard. She and her husband reside in Jackson.