Rankin: Smiley’s legacy lives on in Prescott

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PRESCOTT — Around the Prescott High community, Jack Smiley embodied Tigers athletics for years as athletic director and physical education teacher.

“I’ve been here 15 years, and Jack is probably the best Tiger supporter ever,” Prescott social studies teacher and current middle school coach Jeff Foertsch said.

Jack passed away in May 2012 from a rare form of liver cancer.

“Since then, teachers and coaches have tried to come up with something we could do to remember what Jack meant to Prescott,” Foertsch said. “The gym was already named, and the baseball field had a name, so we thought if we had a scholarship and hung a banner in the gym, that would be the best way to remember Jack.”

Enter the Jack Smiley Memorial Scholarship, intended to be awarded each year to a Prescott High student recognized for their involvement at the school, whether through athletics or other extracurriculars.

The first $1,000 scholarship was presented at Prescott’s graduation last week, to 2013 Class Valedictorian Claudia Soriano. Soriano served as senior class president, was a National Honor Society member, organizer of the St. Jude Marathon, a Knowledge Bowl and SADD member, in the Drama Club, a soccer manager and Canned Food Drive volunteer.

“Jack was truly about participation,” Foertsch, the head of the committee organizing the scholarship, said. “He felt the reason kids are in high school athletics is for fun. He was all about having the right mindset to get kids to turnout. If you look at his time here, you’ll see that high turnout.”

The scholarship started with humble expectations, Foertsch said.

“Our initial goal was real small, we weren’t sure how it’d work,” he said. “We thought we could get $250 and give it to one of the graduating seniors.”

But when people around the area — which include’s Jack’s stints in Hermiston, Pendleton, Davenport, and at Walla Walla Community College before he went to Prescott in the late 1980s, as well as Waitsburg and Dayton later in his career — heard about the memorial, those expectations quickly grew.

“We’ve collected $1,300 so far, with former students, colleagues and Jack’s family contributing,” Foertsch said, pointing out that support even came from Hermiston, where he and wife Judy spent time some 30 years ago. “We’ve certainly found a lot people in the area, I think we’re doing pretty well in that regard.”

A website, jacksmileymemorialscholarship.com, has been created to facilitate contributions and for more information.

Soriano’s name is the first on the memorial banner in the Tigers’ gym, but Foertsch said each year another graduating Prescott student will join her.

“That’s the point, to make sure people remember what Jack meant to Prescott,” he said. “Everybody still coaching at Prescott looks at him as a mentor. He had everything set up for you to be successful. He was never adamant you do things his way, but his leadership took you in the right direction.

“He was the most loyal person I’ve ever met,” Foertsch, who also played a lot of golf with Jack, said. “He always had your back, he was there to help you. He was incredibly loyal and a good friend.”

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