With many thanks for his hard work and dedication, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies announces the departure of Robert T. Smith, who has served the Center as Managing Director since 2006. Beginning June 22, 2016, Bob will begin a three-year term of service as President of the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"For the past decade Bob has served the Center with grace and patience," said ICLRS Director Brett Scharffs, "often performing tasks of uncertain and almost limitless scope. He has always had a focus on students and helping prepare them for lives of service. We are confident that these are among the characteristics that have led to his call as a mission president, and it is these characteristics that will help him succeed in this exciting next chapter of life."
In expressing his own deep gratitude for Bob's work at the Center, Founding Director Cole Durham referred to Bob's longtime interest in and understanding of law and religion issues and their importance, extending back to his days as editor-in-chief of the BYU Law Review. Holding not only a law degree from BYU but also an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and having spent many years in both law practice and church service, Bob was, said Durham, "in a unique position to make a great Managing Director of the Center. Through his tenure I have been immensely grateful for his unstinting support. He is truly a person without guile, willing to put his own self-interests behind the concerns of the Center at every turn."
As a primary author and editor, along with Professor Durham and Professor William Bassett, of the Treatise Religious Organizations and the Law, published by Thomson West, Bob has played an extensive and visionary role in writing, organizing, and directing revisions for the annual updates of this important resource. In enlisting the contributions of law and religion experts nationwide, leading up to a major expansion into an upcoming second edition that will more than double the scope of the project as it was when he began his work on it, Bob has ensured that the Treatise will provide a comprehensive resource for lawyers representing religious organizations in the United States for years to come.
During his ten-year tenure, Bob also played a significant role in the fundraising efforts of the Center, including work with our many wonderful donors, and the receipt and management of major grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, and others.
Bob also contributed significantly to the growth of the Center's annual regional conferences, particularly in Africa. These conferences have become the premier law and religion events in many of these regions, drawing experts from throughout the areas and allowing for productive collaboration and follow-up among the Center’s many partners and friends. As Center Associate Director Gary Doxey said, "Bob was especially instrumental in contributing toward the creation of the African Consortium for Law and Religion Studies. This association of African scholars, experts, and partners is in the forefront of raising the level of religious freedom expertise and discourse throughout the continent."
Reflecting on the past ten years, Bob said it has been interesting watching religious freedom go from a peripheral issue in the United States to a main cultural issue. "It has been exciting to be a part of such an impactful and challenging work," he said. "It has been a privilege to work with the Center staff, particularly with Cole Durham, in support of freedom of religion or belief for all."
Center International Advisory Council Executive Committee member Lynn Anderson recognized Bob at a recent IAC meeting: "I feel tremendous admiration for you, Bob. It has been a blessing for all of us to work with you for these last years. The gifts that you have given to the Center and to us personally I know you will take with you to Argentina. Take with you our love and admiration and appreciation."
Bob will be missed by his colleagues at the Center. "His kindness and steady optimism have brought us through stressful times," said Center Senior Editor Donlu Thayer. "When there was too much to do, Bob kept us positive, watching for the lights at the ends of the tunnels." Center Administrative Assistant Deborah Wright has worked closely and daily with Bob throughout his tenure. "We will miss Bob's positive attitude and enthusiasm," she said. "He has always had the best interests of the Center in mind."
Bob Smith has "served so willingly for so many years," said Associate Director Elizabeth Clark. "His service has been marked by his enthusiasm and good cheer, which we've always appreciated. We wish him the best in his new responsibilities!"
Indeed, all of us at the Center join together to wish Bob, his wife, Kristine, and their family the very best in their new adventure. Vaya con Dios!