Wendell Smith began his service to the adult education profession by conceiving and serving as the first editor of News Exchange, a quarterly tabloid published by the Missouri Association of Adult Education. He later served in each office in his state association. At the regional level, he has been active with the Missouri Valley Adult Education Association which recognized him as Outstanding Adult Educator of the Year in 1977. He chaired the national Adult Education Conference in 1980 and was Secretary and Board Member of AEA/USA prior to serving as the association's president in 1981-1982. During his term as President of AEA/USA, the merger with NAPCAE was successfully completed.
On sabbatical leave from his duties at the University of Missouri from 1982-1983, he served as director of a project for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that identified avenues of cooperation among 20 national, professional associations engaged in lifelong learning.
During his career with the University, he moved from the rural extension setting to the Deanship of Continuing Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Under his leadership, the University of Missouri-St. Louis Continuing Education Program has grown to become one of the largest in the nation, annually serving more than 85,000 students.
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