THE INTELLIGENCER, Oct. 24, 2014 - A Wheeling Jesuit University alumnus - who is now Maryland's secretary of transportation - believes the key to a renaissance in Wheeling is more partnership between WJU and the city.
Jim Smith, a 1964 graduate of the university, is the 2014 WJU Alumni Scholar in Residence. He has been teaching classes on campus this week, and provided a lecture to the public at the Center for Educational Technologies building Thursday night on the campus.
Smith is also a member of the WJU board of directors.
He suggested more residential opportunities are needed downtown, and WJU students should be encouraged to take internships and get involved with programs and professionals in Wheeling.
He praised Wheeling Jesuit officials for renovating space in the Stone Center in downtown and locating its physical therapy department there.
"Wheeling Jesuit is more than a major employer in Wheeling," Smith said. "It is an integral part of the city's pulse, and the city of Wheeling is our university's home. A significant university-city partnership should not only be a priority, but also celebrated as an advantage to the city and its businesses, and to the students and potential students of Wheeling Jesuit University."
Wheeling must continue to renew itself, meet the needs of its residents and create activities to bring people downtown and support shops and restaurants, he said. Meanwhile, WJU needs to expand housing opportunities for its students in the city, and find more places for them to learn.
"Academic and graduate programs need space," Smith said. "Clinical programs and our student volunteers need outlets to enhance their academic and college experience - of which Wheeling is a great part."
The growth that students would receive through experiences in the Wheeling community is the goal of a Jesuit education, he said.
Smith received a bachelors degree in English from WJU before returning to his native Maryland to pursue a law degree at the University of Maryland.
He went on to open his own law firm, and became a circuit court judge for 16 years in Baltimore County.
Later, he left the bench to join Baltimore County council and later become county executive - the equivalent of a city's mayor. Baltimore County has about 812,000 residents, compared to 650,000 living in the nearby city of Baltimore.
His two-term limit as county executive was over in 2010, and he was tapped to be Maryland's secretary of transportation.
As transportation secretary, Smith oversees Maryland's highways, as well as operations in the Port of Baltimore.