Craig Smith (B.A. ’04, Secondary Education – Math)
Hometown: Whitehall, MI
Current Location: Charlotte, NC
Campus Involvement: Intramural Sports (both active participant and employed)
Job Title and Company/Organization: Principal, Lake Norman Charter High School (Huntersville, NC)
Favorite campus memory: It is so difficult to pinpoint one "favorite" memory, when my entire WMU experience was so memorable. In totality, my social experience at Western is the most memorable, but nothing can really match the dorm-life as a freshman, 4th Floor of Hadley Hall.
I have an admission: Early on in the selection/application process, WMU was not my first-choice. I was going to be a first-generation college student and I can recall my mom giving me a lot of autonomy on where I committed to attend. That being said, from as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to be a math teacher and coach with the ultimate goal of being a high school principal. I am also a firm believer that things happen for a reason, even the most difficult challenges we face.
I took my official campus visit to WMU in a typical early-February Michigan Saturday, after a late night where we played our varsity basketball game without our head coach, who was battling some illness that day. The visit went extremely well and I quickly found WMU to be a place "I could see myself." We returned home that evening.
Upon arriving home, I was contacted by my co-captain to share that our head coach had suffered a massive stroke and was in the hospital battling. A few hours later, we received the shocking news: he had unexpectedly passed away. Mike Rohen was only 40 years-old. He was also a math teacher. He was a proud WMU alumnus.
This tragedy shook our small community (Whitehall, MI). As a leader, I spoke at the memorial and at the funeral. We finished our season with heavy-hearts and that team shared a bond that will last forever.
My proudest moment in high school was receiving the inaugural Mike Rohen Memorial Scholarship. By that point, I had made my decision to attend WMU. The presentation discussed "carrying on Coach Rohen's legacy" as I pursued a career in education at WMU, just as he had years before. As you can imagine, it was an extremely emotional moment.
Fast-forward to my third day on-campus, I remember feeling compelled to make a quick phone call home to my Mom, with a short, simple message: "Thank you so much for everything. I love it here."
I would not trade my WMU experience for anything in the world. It helped shape who I am today, professionally and personally. I have dedicated my career to secondary education as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and now in my sixth year as principal (all in North Carolina). Therefore, I will forever get to also thank WMU and the educators who made a lasting impact on my life as I now have the opportunity to do the same. And for the second consecutive year, we (Lake Norman Charter) have sent a graduating senior to Kalamazoo to attend WMU (11 hours away).
Things happen for a reason.