News - Calling: Coach's Helper

Calling: Coach's Helper

By Robert "Ish" Smith, retired president of Greenville College


As president of Greenville College from 1993-1998, Robert E. Smith was known for encouraging students to engage in servant leadership. This story from his personal "memory album" offers a touching portrait of the man who helped Smith embrace the call to be a helper rather than a star.

In 1955 I came to GC as a junior transfer from Central College in McPherson, Kansas. Loving athletics, I had hoped to come and play both basketball and baseball, although I knew that my talents were marginal and I would not be a "star.”

Fortunately for me, Coach John Strahl had another idea, and when he came out to McPherson to speak at our athletic banquet and talk to several of us who were planning on coming to GC, he offered me the "opportunity" to be the "student manager" of his athletic teams.

A Lifetime of Assists

This job was to pack the uniforms for trips; get the sack lunches and keys for the school cars; and do all that kind of stuff . . . none of which I had thought would be my role. But, I said "yes" to Coach's offer and that began what would be a lifetime of working with Coach Strahl.

Strahl-Smith1957When I arrived in 1955 he ask me to not only be the student manager, but to be his junior varsity coach and also to help him coach the baseball team. In 1957 Coach Strahl was responsible for opening the door for me to get my masters from SIU in Carbondale; and then he was the key contact to help me land my first coaching job at Taylor University (Coach's alma mater); and in 1961 he invited me back to be his assistant basketball coach, the GC baseball coach and the head of the physical education department.

Door of ServiceIsh Smith 1957

That "door of service" that Coach offered me in 1955 was truly the beginning of my life-time of being on the staff of Greenville College.

To no surprise on my part, it was also Coach Strahl who opened the first door of opportunity that resulted in my having the chance to be involved in the leadership of USA and World baseball from 1977 until 1993.

I have thought many times, what if I had chosen to try and be an athlete rather than be Coach's helper back in 1955? God certainly had better ideas than having me "sit the bench" as a GC athlete, and I am forever thankful to my Heavenly Father and to my dear Coach John Strahl.

Pictured, Robert "Ish" Smith '57, The Vista Yearbook

GC Vision: We inspire our students to embrace God's call. Go here to tell us your story about embracing God's call, and here to view our collection.

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This story was published on March 21, 2017

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