The Smith Rulers of Chemistry

Pictured above: RG and Donna Smith

From 1922 to 2001 Smiths ruled over Chemistry instruction at Bexley High School. It began with chemistry teacher and “Bexley’s Coach” Carlton Smith and was continued by Richard “RG” Smith who was hired by Principal C.W. Jones in 1969 and retired in 2001. 

RG Smith, who came to Bexley from Lancaster High School, knew he had big shoes to fill, “I think the only reason I got hired was that my name was Smith.” RG Smith, and the other young teachers hired in the late sixties and early seventies were proud to continue the tradition of academic excellence that had been established at Bexley but they also sought ways to highlight the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching. 

“I feel blessed to be a part of such a gifted group of teachers, many of whom stay connected today’” said Smith. That group of high school faculty connected with students by using field trips and unique experiences like Ameriflora, the King Tut exhibit to teach science, math and history concepts.  “Special programs and opportunities like that were unique to Bexley,” he said.  

RG also wrote science textbooks for many years and until recently, helped to train teachers around the country and world on science simulations programs to supplement and in some cases replace in-person labs. His work was especially helpful to schools without the ability or finances to provide great hands-on lab programs. Smith acknowledged that he owed his ability to teach in a well-equipped chemistry lab, and for other faculty members to have the resources they needed, to investment by the school district and the generosity of donors to the Bexley Education Foundation. 

Smith has many fond memories of his students. “Bexley students worked hard and made us look good!,” he said. They also were not above pranks including kidnapping “Chirpy” the pink mole who is pictured above with RG. Since a mole is a unit of measure in chemistry, Chirpy became sort of a classroom mascot. Chirpy disappeared one day and the next day an envelope showed up on Smith’s desk with a note and a few polaroids of Chirpy with a knife to his neck.  The ransom note demanded a modification to a chemistry test.  When that request was ignored, a second envelope showed up with a photo of Chirpy with two Barbies and a bottle of liquor with the message,  “Chirpy is taking our women and drinking our booze – please meet our demands so we can return him!””

Smith has many more stories and looks back fondly on his Bexley days. He is enjoying retirement living on the North Carolina coast with his wife, Donna. They have five grandchildren – three live nearby and two live in Singapore, where he was able to visit last month. RG keeps in contact with former students and colleagues on Facebook and sometimes in person when he has the opportunity to visit or host.