James R. Smith - Honored in 2017
Distinguished Person of Honor
(Nov. 18, 1938 — May 15, 2015)
Biology teacher, principal, coach, and director of Community Development are among the ways Olatheans knew Jim from 1962 to 2009 when he retired. Except for a few years during that period when he left to pursue other dreams, Jim was dedicated to students of Olathe. Upon receiving the Kansas Master Teacher Award in 1980, Jim said teachers need a sense of humor, must be willing to trust children and give them freedom to accept responsibility, and “the teacher needs ‘that something’ which is the spirit that sparks us to do our very best.” After leaving the classroom and going into administration, Jim continued to develop and implement many initiatives including Linking Education and Public Service, internships for students in 21st Century High School Programs, developing a Jobs for Graduates program, and leading the Olathe Public Schools Foundation for a period of time. He also implemented the Retired Employees Association, helped establish an international partnership/student study with Maebashi, Japan, introduced business partnerships, and began working with representatives of the Olathe Alumni Association to revitalize that organization. Outside of his career, Jim was active in several civic organizations, the Olathe Chamber of Commerce, his church, and Boy Scouts.