Helpful hand leaving CCC
Smith to retire from chemistry department
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 15:09
For Dr. Leverett Smith, 63, coming to Contra Costa College was a personal choice.
He felt working at CCC would offer him a place where he could have a say and his voice would be heard.
After 18 years at the college, Dr. Smith will no longer lend his voice to the students and staff of the chemistry department, as he will be retiring at the end of this semester.
“It just seemed like it was time,” Smith said. “Like I’ve done what I can.”
Smith has been married to his wife for 34 years. He has three brothers, one sister and 13 nieces and nephews. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UC Santa Cruz, a master’s degree in chemistry and a Ph.D. both from Cornell University.
Smith said he was once selected for a full-time professor position at Diablo Valley College.
He, however, turned their offer down and decided to come to CCC because of its good students, faculty and a great committee.
“It was most suited to me,” he said. “ I never regretted it.”
Dr. Setiati Sidharta, director for the Center of Science Excellence, said she has been a friend to Smith since arriving at the college in 1992.
“He’s someone I can ask for help and opinions. He’s dedicated,” Dr. Sidharta said.
Smith has not only been a chemistry professor, but the chairperson of the department and division dean. From October 2010 to June 2011, he served as Interim Dean of Natural, Social and Applied Sciences.
Sidharta said that he helped proofread grants and proposals for the CSE program.
“He was very good at that,” Sidharta said. “He supported us and listened.”
Chemistry department Chairperson Thuy Dang said Smith has been supportive and a great friend to her.
She said he is easy going with a great sense of humor and is approachable to staff and students alike.
“Students can talk to him. He genuinely cares for them,” Dr. Dang said.
Part-time professor Vernon Small previously worked as a research chemist for Chevron before being hired by Dang and Smith as a professor. Small said he had a student-mentor type relationship with Smith as he took the time to help him understand the teaching profession and how to excel in the classroom.
“He would let me know when I was doing something wrong,” Small said.
Smith’s retirement took Small by surprise as he thought Smith was still relatively young to leave the college. However, Dang said the department knew it was coming.
“What do we do? We need to find a replacement,” Dang said.
Smith’s retirement is a blow to the department because it is now down to two full-time faculty members, Dang and chemistry professor Joseph Ledbetter, Sidharta said.
It is difficult when a department has to rely greatly on part-time professors.
“He’s a great teacher, good at what he does,” said Sidharta.
“(It’s) a tremendous loss for the CSE.”
Dang said that Smith retiring leaves a hole in the department because it’s hard to find an organic chemist. Small agreed.
“Years of experience he had, we lost,” he said.
Smith said that, for the college, it’s a transitional period — a chance for re-shaping. He said retiring is also a chance for him to climb out of the current rut in which he finds himself.
While on sabbatical last year, Smith was able to travel and visit friends and family.
He said he plans to do more of that after he retires.