Campus security officer dies

By Mandy Treccia

Longtime Columbia Security Officer Clyde Smith died on June 29 due to complications from pneumonia. He was 41.

Smith worked at Columbia for about 17 years. He spent most of his time working in the Residence Center, 731 S. Plymouth Court, during the 3 p.m.-11 p.m. shift. Martha Meegan, director of Campus Safety and Security, said this was one of the harder shifts.

Meegan said that [working in a] residential facility has its own set of challenges, but there is no better opportunity to mentor and provide guidance to the students.

“He was an exemplary officer, and it represents how good of an officer he was to have him in that position in a residential facility in that shift,” Meegan said. “He was an asset, and it was an honor to have him working for us.”

Meegan said Smith, who was also a minister, represented someone who was very willing to listen to students, give them advice and still be calm and professional.

“He always had the students’ best interests at heart,” she said.

Security Officer Betty Willis worked with Smith for 16 years and said everybody on campus knew him, from the president down to the students.

“He was a great man who would do anything for anybody. The kids adored him,” Willis said.

Willis said Smith had been experiencing shortness of breath for a while, and his co-workers continually urged him to go to the doctor. She said he kept putting it off so he wouldn’t miss work.

Willis said security had to call the paramedics during Smith’s shift because he was having trouble breathing. Smith was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago where he was diagnosed with pneumonia, Willis said.

He had a condition called Acute Respitory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), which prevents the normal breathing process from taking place.

In conjunction with the pneumonia, ARDS led to lung failure. Smith died in the hospital.

“I still find myself saying, ‘I’ll let Clyde know,’ when something happens on a shift that the next officer needs to know about,” Willis said.

Residence Life receptionist Henrietta Collins worked with Smith for about nine years and described him as “a wonderful son.”

“I always called him ‘son’ and he called me ‘mom,'” Collins said. “In the winter, he would never let me walk to my car. He always made sure the snow was cleaned off and [my car] was warm.”

Collins said Smith was always very helpful, friendly and basically always kept a smile on his face.

“He is greatly missed,” Collins added.

Smith is survived by his 21-year-old son Quincy Smith.