Remebering Loren Smith


Professor Loren Smith

Sarah Vorn and Sarah Vorn

Beloved psychology professor passes away at the start of the new semester

Colleagues, students, and family members remember Loren Smith for the funny, passionate, and caring man that he was.

His sense of humor, infectious laughter and reputation as an excellent listener are among the many “Lorenisms” that both students and faculty will miss.

On Aug. 23, Loren Smith, professor of psychology at American River College for the past 25 years, passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 65 years old.

Longtime friend and colleague Tori Bovard, chair of the behavioral and social sciences department, remembers Smith donning a black hat, glittery pink glasses and a necklace of gold beads as he grinned for a photo booth picture at her Nov. 13, 2010 birthday celebration.  His vivacious personality was one of the reasons he became one of her “absolute best friends at school.”

Smith was born on June 15 in Banning, Calif. His modest beginnings took him all over the county before he completed high school in Humboldt County. He served in the National Guard Reserves and thereafter attended American River College and graduated from California State University, Sacramento with his Bachelor of Arts degree and master’s degree in psychology. In 1986, Smith joined the ARC faculty and recently received his 25-year award at the Fall Convocation.

Smith was revered for his leadership in human sexuality. He “created a very safe environment to share and learn from each other,” said Bovard. He was a big supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and often invited guest speakers and participants to join in his renowned panels to encourage human connection, understanding and acceptance.

“He touched so many people,” Carol Pottorff, dean of behavioral and social sciences, said. After learning of his passing, colleagues poured into her office to share stories and conversations they had with Smith in the days prior.

He was also very popular among the students. “A lot of students connected with him,” said Kayla Crews, 19, a social science student at ARC, who created a Facebook page for the professor. “He was very open-minded,” Crews said, “You could (talk) to him about anything and he’ll help no matter what.”

“Professor Smith was a wonderful man,” said former student Rachid Frihi, 26, a public relations major at California State University, Sacramento. “He was always full of life … That was the best part about him.”

In addition to being an excellent teacher, Smith was a licensed contractor. After years of being colleagues, Brian Bates, professor of humanities, encountered Smith doing work at his new neighbor’s house. He soon discovered his new neighbor’s father was none other than Smith. Bates recalls the surprise he felt upon seeing him, and remembers with fondness Smith’s great sense of humor. “Every time (we) talked, conversations turned funny. He always had a joke ready.”

Smith shared 44 wonderful years of marriage with his wife, Elaine, and was a proud, devoted father to Joshua, Tyler and Stephanie. Although his passing has been “hard and shocking,” Elaine recalls her husband’s strengths and the inspiring stories he shared to “keep pushing” forward and being a survivor. “(Things) are going to be OK,” he often told her.

The loss has been both “heart-aching and heart-warming,” she said, “The outpour of support from the community has been so comforting.” She will miss his laughter, as will the many who called him a friend.