“Clay Smythe has an abiding belief in the place of religion classes in the liberal arts tradition, which is at the core of the MUS curriculum.” Sanders said. “He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Tennessee, a master’s degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, as well as a master’s in education from Columbia University. Together with William Halliday ’82, he founded the Metcalf Symposium in 1998, an annual lecture series to encourage reflection on the ethical traditions of Western Civilization. He is well suited to hold this endowed chair.”
The symposium is a manifestation of Smythe’s educational philosophy: “What I love most about teaching at MUS is that we encourage academic freedom and inquiry in a culture of mutual respect,” Smythe said. “We rest on our liberal arts curriculum, which unifies our studies along the Western Tradition, and the boys learn as much about their vast world as they do about themselves. It’s a picture of the biblical call, ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’”
Smythe returned to his alma mater in 2001 to teach religion after a career in his family’s funeral home business. Smythe previously held the Hussey chair from 2001-05 but relinquished the honor when he became Lower School Principal, a position he held from 2005-18. Afterward, he returned full-time to the classroom where he has taught Comparative Religions, New Testament, and Ethics classes. In 2001 he was named the Alumni Executive Board’s Volunteer of the Year for his work initiating and overseeing a before-school Bible study for students.
He holds service to others and leadership training in high regard, as evidenced by his role in advising the Civic Service Organization (2002-05) and helping to launch TedxMemphis in 2015. In addition, he is assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 86, and he has served on the board of trustees for Moore Tech since 2010.
Recently, Smythe has been active with the MUS Inclusion and Belonging Committee, championing incorporation of the principles of the Honor Code, Community Creed, Mission Statement, and Philosophy in school life to promote the development of character and a sense of belonging among all students. He is now focusing on the Wingman Program, which pairs new students with older “Wingmen” to help them adjust and thrive, and he is assistant advisor to the Student Council.
Edwin ’63, Richard, and Robert J. Hussey, Jr. established the Robert J. Hussey, Sr. Chair of Religion in 1984 to honor their father, a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the new MUS and a longtime benefactor of the school.