Dr. Ralph Smith is Recipient of the 2010 Alumni Recognition Award

Ralph Smith is a well respected and much admired Professor Emeritus in Recreation Park and Tourism Management department at Penn State. He joined the faculty in 1987, receiving rank of Associate Professor in 1993 and retiring in 2009. Ralph came to Penn State with undergraduate teaching experience from the University of Maryland as well as previous lecture experience as a Masters student at Penn State. From 2000-2005, Ralph served as the Professor in Charge of the undergraduate program in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management. (He was also on my thesis committee and as the PIC was the person to call me to offer me a teaching position so I have Ralph to thank for this brilliant career move).

Ralph has a distinguished career in the field of Therapeutic Recreation. Through teaching, research and service, Ralph has lived his life in support of the provision of recreation services for people with disabilities. Based on his many years as a practitioner, Ralph’s professional focus on inclusion and awareness of disability and as well on helping students evaluate their own attitudes and the attitudes of others about disability. In the early 1980, Ralph wrote a document that first used the phrase “inclusive programming.” That term and the concept of inclusive programming have served as the basis for opening opportunities for all people for decades. Ralph is famous on campus for teaching the “wheelchair” course in which students spend a day in a wheelchair and then to write about experiencing activities from the perspective of someone with a disability. Ralph used guest speakers in class, letting students hear first hand, how people experience living with a disability. In addition to RPTM 277, Ralph was instrumental in the supervision and administration of RPTM- Therapeutic Recreation option.

Ralph is a member of numerous professional organizations. He has served the community by volunteering and/or serving on the organization boards for Special Olympics, Little League – Challenger Division; Eastern Amputee Golf Association, League for the Handicapped; and was inducted into the Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame for his considerable service to the sport of Wheelchair Basketball.

Recently, Ralph has been a leader in providing diversity and inclusion training as an extension of Penn State through his work with the Military Morale Welfare and Recreation program. He has been a key contributor to the MWR Academy which trains recreation professionals to facilitate the inclusion of Wounded Warriors into recreation and hospitality programs. Working with other members of the RPTM team, Ralph is a key contributor to three year training program being held for Department of Defense, Veteran’s Administration and Military/MWR as a “certificate” program for professionals who are welcoming back the wounded warriors from our war efforts abroad. Ralph’s leadership and expertise, particularly as a wounded Viet Nam Veteran, offers professionals who work with our soldiers and their families the tools to include everyone.

Ralph has received numerous professional and teaching awards in his tenure as a faculty member in Recreation Park and Tourism Management. He has written several textbooks to further extend his teaching impact on students in the field of Therapeutic Recreation and through internship. Ralph’s wife, Tammy Smith, is also a member of the RPTM faculty. He remains committed to his Washington Redskins even in the face of extreme adversity. Ralph has 5 children and 6 grandchildren to keep him busy during retirement. Congratulations Ralph!