Some people call him Rob. His passport says Robert Edward Smith Jr. But in the Communication Department at Purdue University, he is R.E.
Associate Professor R.E. Smith will be retiring on May 15 after more than 41 years at Purdue.
During the fall of 1969, Smith was hired to teach the performance of literature, a program that is no longer in existence. Over the years, he has taught several classes in the department, ranging from "Radio and TV Performance" to "Intercultural Communication."
Smith also directed COM 114, Purdue's introductory public speaking course, for 14 years.
During that time, he said he particularly enjoyed working with students with a high level of communication apprehension.
"You and I, we might get nervous an hour before a speech," said Smith. "These students would get it a week ahead of time."
Outside of the classroom, Smith and his family have enjoyed traveling. Last summer, he and his wife went to South Korea.
"After a trip like that, you start thinking ‘how can they be better?' " said Smith.
During his childhood, Smith's father was stationed in Paraguay for the Air Force. Smith learned Spanish and has also gone on medical mission trips with Health Talents International to Guatemala.
Smith uses his travel experiences for his Intercultural Communication class, which focuses on both verbal and non-verbal communication between cultures.
After retirement, Smith said he has no specific plans but will certainly be doing some traveling.
"There won't be much change over the summer," said Smith. "I've been in school continuously since I was 4 years old."
Smith said one of the reasons he became a professor is because he wanted to be like his favorite teachers. He also said he loved learning from a young age.
"When I realized that my dream to be a classic guitarist or a grand prix driver wasn't going far, it seemed like the right thing," he said, showing the wry sense of humor he is known for.
Every semester, Hank Scheele's students in "Advanced Presentational Speaking" gave a speech to entertain. The professor wanted them to practice speaking without academic pressure.
It wasn't for a grade; it didn't even take place in the classroom. Students selected a restaurant off campus in which to deliver this speech. They had to combat noise in the restaurant, dim lighting, and a lack of resources for the speech.
"Sometimes we used an empty case of beer for a lectern," said Scheele. "Students regarded it as the highlight of the semester and would often tell me in evaluations, 'don't drop the speech to entertain.'"
After 55 years in the Department of Communication, Scheele retired this spring.
Besides teaching and directing COM 314, he taught classes in political campaigns and presidential communication. He also authored a political biography about Charles Halleck, an Indiana congressman, that had a forward written by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"For decades, Purdue Communication has been ranked in the top programs in the U.S.," said Scheele. "But there was one element that I thought was neglected, that was the undergraduates."
For undergraduates, Scheele developed Speech Communication of Technical Information, COM 315, and also served as the co-director for COM 114, the basic public speaking course. Scheele also served as an academic adviser for undergraduates for 28 years.
In the fall of 1956, Scheele arrived at Purdue with his wife, Jessamine Scheele, straight from their honeymoon. In the following years, he finished his master's and doctorate degrees. Jess Scheele studied sociology and elementary education and began teaching shortly after.
"We came and rejected the temptation to leave because we loved Purdue," said Scheele.
During his years at Purdue, he also became involved in the West Lafayette community, coaching baseball teams and organizing a local children's football league.
Fall 2010 was Scheele's last semester teaching in the department; he will officially retire on May 15. His wife retired in December at the same time as Scheele's granddaughter, Elizabeth, graduated from Purdue.
Scheele said he will take memories of Purdue with him into retirement. His last lecture was reported by all local media.