Getting to know the First Lady of CIU

October 12, 2017

Wives Fellowship Welcomes Debbie Smith

By Naomi Balk, CIU Student Writer


Debbie Smith says if she could teach one class at Columbia International University it would be “Hospitality.”

Smith, the wife of CIU President Dr. Mark Smith, was the special guest of Wives Fellowship, a regular on-campus gathering of women, many of them the wives of CIU students. The women became better acquainted with the new First Lady of CIU through a Q&A session at the October event.

Before coming to CIU last summer, the Smiths lived in Circleville, Ohio where her husband was president of Ohio Christian University, and one of her roles was hospitality where she says you have the opportunity to “love people well and get to know them deeply.”

“Everybody has a story,” Smith said. “When you look at them with that perspective, you view people differently.”

Smith was born in Greenville, Pennsylvania, the seventh of seven children. She graduated from Hobe Sound Bible College in Florida with a degree in Elementary Education. It was there she met her husband. They’ve been married for 31 years and have two sons; 22-year-old Douglas who is married, and 13-year-old Micah, an eighth grader at Ben Lippen School, CIU’s Pre-K to 12th grade Christian school.

“Being with my boys is my happy place,” Smith said about her family.

As Smith continues to settle into a new home, city and campus, she says she wants to "learn form the best," referring to former CIU First Lady Debby Jones, the wife of Dr. Bill Jones who now serves as CIU chancellor. Smith says her constant prayer is, "Lord, where do you want me to be?"

She includes her mother among those most influential in her life, teaching her and her siblings to have a heart for people and looking for the best in them. 

"She taught us how to love well,” Smith said.

CIU senior Alicia Heatherly was among those who said they appreciated getting to know Mrs. Smith at the Wives Fellowship.

“She strikes me as a very personable and kind person,” Heatherly said.