Born in 1943, Jim Smith grew up in the lumber and dairy farming region of Northwestern Pennsylvania, desiring first to become a dairy farmer. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1958 when he was a high school sophomore and science and engineering became a national focus. Wanting to pursue human excellence in the best way conceivable, Jim began university life as an aerospace engineering major at The Pennsylvania State University. In his first senior year he encountered other forms of human excellence and earned a BA and MA in Philosophy there before traveling to Tulane University in New Orleans where he completed a Ph D in philosophy while on a National Defense Education Act fellowship.
He came to the East Carolina University Department of Philosophy in 1969 and has been a member of the philosophy faculty here since then, and a full professor since 1986. From January, 1990 through June of 2007, he held several full-time administrative positions at East Carolina outside the Department of Philosophy. He has taught continuously over this 48 year career except from 1990-1992, when he successfully directed the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools regional accreditation effort at ECU. He has taught over 50 courses for continuing studies through the University at such military locales as Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, and also at several community colleges in eastern North Carolina. He has over a dozen published articles in philosophy, including several in internationally recognized journals. He was Chair of the Philosophy Department from 1981-1990, Chair of the ECU Faculty and Faculty Senate from 1983-1985 and secretary and then Chair of the Faculty Assembly of the UNC system during the last three years of William C. Friday's UNC system presidency and the first year of President Spangler's term. He chaired ECU's only two NCAA certification self-studies, 1995-1997 and 2000-2002. He was executive assistant to the ECU chancellor [1993-2003] and assistant secretary of the ECU Board Trustees [1993-2005], Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs effective September 26, 2003 and in April, 2005, he was chosen from a national search as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at East Carolina University. He left the latter position in June, 2007.
From 1969-present, he has taught courses in logic, history of philosophy, ethics, philosophy of education, medical ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy in the Department of Philosophy; political theory in Department of Political Science; and, honors seminars in the East Carolina University Honors Program. Selected publications include:
"On the Nature of Ultimate Values in the Fine Arts," Tulane Studies in Philosophy, 1970.
"F. David Martin's Art and the Religious Experience," review in Process Studies, 1973.
"Nihilism and the Arts," The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 1975.
"On Whitehead, Marx, and the Nature of Political Philosophy," Tulane Studies, 1975
"Marx and Ruskin: Romanticism and Political Theory," Victorians Institute Journal, 1976.
"The Problem of Abortion and Negative and Positive Duty," Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 1978.
"Meaning and Poetic Expression," in Philosophy as Literature/Literature as Philosophy, University of Iowa Press, 1987
"The Logic and Pedagogy of Approaching the Canon," in The Core and the Canon: A National Debate, University of North Texas Press, 1993
Since returning to full-time professorial work in 2008, he teaches applied ethics and is working on a book to be entitled Leading the Modern University, investigating the philosophical, cultural, historical, and sociological factors in and the possibilities for leading a modern university as a repository of human excellence in an on-going post-modern, morally relativist, historicist, and nihilistic era of human history.