Tribute to Shannon

On behalf of the Wyoming Humanities directors and staff, it is my privilege to honor and thank Shannon Smith, who on November 1 assumed a new role as Executive Director Emeritus of our council.  

Prior to her arrival in 2013, the Wyoming Humanities Council was like a well-worn and comfortable slipper.  She kicked off the slippers and pulled up, by the straps, her sassy cowboy boots and hit the trail.  She rounded up new partners and believers—from the business community to elected officials.  Shannon embedded herself in Wyoming’s communities, especially those that too often get overlooked.  The Governor and Legislature took note and she was able to secure a recurring budget appropriation from the State of Wyoming for local engagement and outreach.  Because of Shannon, Wyoming Humanities has become a lead and respected voice in charting Wyoming’s economic future—a future that will increasingly value and support the knowledge and creative sector.

Shannon’s crowning achievement among many is a portfolio of work that raises cultural awareness and history of Native Americans, more specifically the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone people and other tribes of the Plains States. Shannon’s efforts created the most impactful and far reaching initiative in the 50 years of Wyoming Humanities.  So far, the initiative has resulted in Indian education curriculum support, amplification of American Indian voices, and the development of a unique and far-reaching collaborations.  Shannon’s work in this realm will continue in her new role.  

In her many lives, Shannon has been a computer scientist, a golf course owner, an entrepreneur, scholar, instructor, historian and author.  Her 2008 history “Give Me Eighty Men” Women and the Myth of the Fetterman Fight earned her the Wyoming State Historical Society best non-fiction book award in 2009.  In her book, Shannon writes about women “adeptly maneuvering between the public and private spheres by taking advantage of society’s respect for [women’s] moral authority.”

For those of you who know Shannon, you know she is a deeply spiritual woman with the tongue of a sailor.  She embodies the yin and yang of the sacred and profane. My good friend continues to teach me the essence of the humanist perspective as well as the business of humanities and running a successful non-profit.  She is a maximizer and a fireball.  A proud and pragmatic intellectual.  

Wyoming Humanities is one of the first state humanities councils formed in the early 1970s—another challenging time in American history.  Shannon has positioned our organization to embark on the next 50 years to strengthen Wyoming’s democracy through the humanities.  Wyoming is a better place because of Shannon.  

(Presented by Shawn Reese at the National Humanities Conference 2020)