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Austin Peay State University Department of Music establishes scholarship in honor of Norma Jean Smith

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – A scholarship to benefit students has been established by the Austin Peay State University (APSU) Department of Music to honor the memory of the late Norma Jean Smith.

Smith was an administrative assistant at APSU for 36 years. She worked in the Department of Music from 1990 to 2015.

The Norma Jean Smith Scholarship has been created by the Austin Peay State University Department of Music. (APSU)
The Norma Jean Smith Scholarship has been created by the Austin Peay State University Department of Music. (APSU)

Smith was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the only child in a military family.

She grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi, and later moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, where she graduated from Clarksville High School. Her mother, Flora Hand, was the proprietor of Flo’s Café in downtown Clarksville. Smith began her career at Austin Peay in 1979 as a secretary in the Continuing Education division.

“She went above and beyond the call of duty in her work, representing the very best of Austin Peay’s spirit of service,” Dr. Ann Silverberg, APSU professor of Music, said.

Smith developed numerous systems for managing the department’s many activities, including student recitals, concerts, holiday dinners and the annual APSU Halloween Percussion Concert. She tracked student data and managed scheduling for faculty and students.

“Miss Norma Jean” was the recipient of the university-wide Staff Service Award in 2012. She was also selected as the Sweetheart of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Theta Tau chapter, on two occasions during her career. She served under five different chairs of the Department of Music, beginning with Dr. Solie Fott in 1990 and ending with Dr. Douglas Rose in 2015.

“Anyone who knew Norma Jean well would likely agree with me when I say that it is difficult to sum up what she meant to our faculty and to the thousands of students she served over the years,” Dr. Douglas Rose, professor and department chair from 2009-2017, said. “When I think of her, a few words do come to mind immediately.”

“Norma Jean Smith was dependable, trustworthy and gracious. A woman of strength and resolve, she did not suffer fools, yet always acted with empathy and compassion. Having a great and abiding faith, she possessed that quiet confidence that comes when you know who you are. She was kind-hearted, thoughtful and she was a loyal friend. As I think back on it, what I miss more than anything is her ever present laughter and her pure love of being with her music department family,” stated Rose.

Smith passed away due to complications following heart surgery in May 2017, leaving behind her husband, Paul Smith, several cousins and in-laws, a strong church family and admirers who remember her fondly at Austin Peay State University.

“Norma Jean Smith was a ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ in the Music Department during the 25 years she served,” Dr. Solie Fott, professor emeritus and department chair from 1978-2000, said. “She managed the Department’s many activities with great efficiency and grace. I urge those who remember how significant she was to contribute to the scholarship in her honor.”

The scholarship will be awarded annually at the Music Department’s annual Honors and Awards Ceremony. To qualify, each applicant must be a rising senior and a music major with an overall GPA of 3.0 who has demonstrated outstanding service to the department. Transfer students do not qualify for this scholarship and it is non-renewable.

To give to the Norma Jean Smith Scholarship, visit www.apsu.edu/advancement or contact the APSU Office of University Advancement at 931.221.7127.


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