Dear campus community,

It is with a heavy heart that I let you know of the death of Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El early this morning.

“A force to be reckoned with.” “A champion of the students.” “Relentless.” “The strongest person I ever met.”

Those are just some of the comments that I’ve heard about Dr. Smith-Wade-El in my brief time on campus. I know many of you have known her for years, and each of you will have your own story to share.

A professor of psychology and African-American Studies at Millersville University, Dr. Smith-Wade-El received many, many awards over the years including the prestigious Essence of Humanity Award presented by the Crispus Attucks Community Center. The award recognizes those who demonstrate remarkable human qualities including courage, love, strength, determination and persistence when dealing with adversity, beyond the requirements of their work. Strength. Love. Persistence. Those are the qualities that everyone

Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El

familiar with Dr. Smith-Wade-El said that she brought, not only to campus, but to every encounter.

In March of this year, she was recognized at the 50th Black Student Association/Black Student Union Anniversary Celebration at Millersville University. In May she gave the graduate commencement address. In September I had the honor of joining hundreds from the community who came together to “Celebrate Rita” in Marauder Courts on campus.

Torren L. Cooper, left stars as Jefferson, with Dr. Rita Smith Wade-El as Emma Glenn.

Her courses at Millersville encompassed General Psychology, Psychology of Racism, Psychology of Religion, Psychology of African Americans, Human Relations, History and Systems of Psychology, Learning and Motivation, Cognitive Psychology, the Black Women and Human Growth and Development. Her additional responsibilities included: tutor coordinator, advisor for secondary education social studies majors with psychology option, co-op coordinator, certification evaluator, pre-law advisory committee, undecided advisor and colloquium coordinator.

Some of her research interests were race as a self-schema, racial identity, and self-reinforcement, stereotype threat, gender and racism. Dr. Smith-Wade-El also served as the director of Millersville’s African-American Studies Minor and co-director of the Ethnic Studies Learning Community Freshman Experience. She was published in the areas of Learned Helplessness, Race as a Self = Schema, African American History, Multicultural Education and Black Male-Female Relationships.

Since 1995, when the Living the Dream day of volunteering became a part of the local Martin Luther King Day observances, Dr. Smith-Wade-El was integral to its success. For most of those 20 years, she recruited the many volunteers who donate a day out of their lives to fulfill King’s vision of community service.

Before coming to Millersville, Smith-Wade-El was a tenured faculty member of psychology in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. She also taught in women studies. She held teaching positions at East Stroudsburg State University, St. Joseph’s University and the University of Pennsylvania. And, she was a consultant in the areas of Black Family, Male-Female Relationships, the Black Child, Development and Parenting, Racism, Race Heredity and IQ, the Black Woman, Black Psychology, Leadership, Stress Management, Group Developments and other topics for various private, city and state institutions. She has been involved with approximately 30 different organizations and has received numerous honors.

Dr. Smith-Wade-El attended Barnard College where she obtained her bachelor’s in psychology. She received both her master’s and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.

A Lancaster resident for more than 30 years, Dr. Smith-Wade-El enjoyed books by Isaac Asimov and watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. She is a native of Washington, D.C., and is survived by two sons.

Information on funeral services will be forthcoming.

Warm regards,

Dr. Daniel A. Wubah


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