Voices of Simmons

Remembering Dr. Lydia Smith, Founder of MAT Program

It is with deep sadness that I write today to share news about the passing of Dr. Lydia Smith, who founded the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program here at Simmons. Dr. Smith was an author and a pioneer in the field of education, known for her passion and commitment to teaching.

At Simmons, our mission is to prepare and empower students for their life’s work. Although I did not have the opportunity to personally know Dr. Smith, her colleagues have shared how she lived this mission daily, as education and teaching were infused into nearly every aspect of her life. Dr. Smith earned an EdD from Harvard in 1960—a major achievement for a woman during that time, and soon after joined Simmons as a faculty member. She believed strongly in open education and spoke eloquently about how students not only needed to understand the subject they taught, but that they should “learn how to teach by doing it.” Dr. Smith also understood the crucial role of education in society and culture. These principles became central features of the MAT program at Simmons under her leadership.

Professor and Faculty Senate President Cathie Mercier, who is Director of the Children's Literature Program and Director of the Center for the Study of Children's Literature, recalls Dr. Smith as a strong and warm person who always put students first—even placing a sofa in her office to make students feel comfortable and welcomed.

“Dr. Smith said ‘that, after all, is our job: students learn so much better when they're at ease,’” Mercier explains. “I've never forgotten those words and I'll not likely forget the woman who went out of her way to make me, too, comfortable and at ease.”

As a beloved and dedicated faculty member at Simmons for 28 years, Dr. Smith leaves behind a lasting legacy through the many colleagues and students she has mentored and inspired—including students who are now serving as teachers in their own classrooms. Simmons has benefited greatly from Dr. Smith’s service and we’re incredibly grateful for her many contributions to our community.

For Dr. Smith, education didn’t end in the classroom. She was an avid Scottish Country Dance teacher and the author of multiple books, including Activity and experience: Sources of English informal education. In partnership with her late husband, Alan, the two also helped found two nonprofit organizations in New Hampshire to protect Chocorua Lake and Chocorua Mountain—an area they loved. Today, those organizations exist as the Chocorua Lake Conservancy.

On behalf of Dr. Smith’s colleagues, former students, and the entire Simmons community, we send our deepest condolences to her family, including her sons and daughters, brothers, grandchildren, along with her and the many colleagues, students and classmates.

- Lynn Perry Wooten

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