Dr. Randolph “Rank” Smith Becomes Director

Near the entrance to 198 Bleecker Street is a small brass plaque that honors the man who led our school for 25 years between 1943 and 1968. Dr. Rank Smith, who succeeded Elisabeth Irwin, was considered by contemporaries as one of nation’s leading educators and served through enormously challenging times in the history of our nation. Indeed, it might not be inappropriate to remember Rank (as he was known to the school community) as the founder, or at the very least co-founder, of what we now call LREI, the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, the K through 12 school that was Irwin’s final achievement, although she only lived to see its first months with the addition of a 9th grade class in the 1941-42 year. Over the next quarter century, he served with distinction. He presided over a school community and its remarkable students, whose active engagement with the history of their times reflected the activism of the founding generation. He combined the philosopher’s breadth of vision with the born teacher’s empathy and insight into the needs of children and adolescents. For generations of LREI students, Dr. Smith was the perfect leader of the school during tumultuous and emotionally stressful times.