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VIProfile: Clay Smalley

By Emily Robertson

When Clay Smalley first came to WKU in 1976 from his hometown of Springfield, Kentucky, he had his sights set on a degree in Art. But, after some time at school, he worked to walk on for the WKU Men’s basketball team, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and decided to make a change to his major. He recalled something he watched his father do growing up, and it would go on to shape his whole life.

“I changed my major to Recreation Administration, because of my father,” Smalley says. “He ran a community center when I was growing up and it fostered in me a love of sports, recreation and outdoor activities.”

Smalley obtained his bachelor’s degree and ever since then he’s been working in the Warren County community in several different capacities facilitating health and wellness, especially in the younger population. In his career, he has worked at an intermediate care facility for children and adults with disabilities, for Bowling Green Parks and Recreation special population, Rivendell Psychiatric Hospital working with children, teenagers and adults, Reveille Alternative School for Rivendell Learning, Warren County Middle School Learning Center and Bellewood Boys Home. While working these jobs, Smalley taught aerobics at several facilities in the area and at WKU, and also worked on aerobic conditioning for WKU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and the swim team.

Smalley went back to school to receive his Master’s Degree in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities. “Probably my greatest accomplishment in my career was going back to WKU for my Master’s degree, which gave me the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa,” he says.

Outside of his love for health and wellness, Smalley focuses much of his attention on his family, as well as working in the community. His father passed away, but his mother still lives in Springfield and he has two sisters and five brothers. Smalley and his wife, Donna, have three sons: William L. Lee II, a retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class, James E. Lee, a Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer, who is currently stationed in Italy, and Bryan Joseph Lee, owner/founder of CNTR ARTS, a creative agency to consult, produce and lead. He also has three grandchildren: Ethan, Gwen and Tristan. He and Donna enjoy traveling to see their sons, their wives and grandchildren, who reside in Texas, Italy and New York.

The influence of several family members, especially his parents, pushed Smalley to work so hard to achieve so much in his life. “Watching my dad and mom work, watching my grandparents, watching people like my wife’s dad and mom working in the community, even though there was a racial and financial divide, that was so important to me,” Smalley says. “I also had different basketball coaches in high school and college and different older fraternity brothers and leaders in the community who helped mentor me.”

Smalley is also passionate about raising money for different causes, such as St. Jude, Children’s Cancer Research Center and Wounded Warriors, as well as supporting local causes. “I really enjoy working in the community on different projects and boards, such as Bowling Green Human Rights Commission, Bowling Green International Festival, Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, B.L.A.C. Black Leaders Advocating for the Community, International Center, Warren County Public Schools Equity Board, NAACP, former Polemarch President and as an active member of Bowling Green Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.”

Looking into the future, Smalley does not appear to be slowing down. He wants to continue to do the hard work of helping future generations be successful and continue to create better opportunities for those around him. “I hope to continue to influence and train young people to do what I do,” Smalley says. “I want to continue to give back to the community and I want to work with my grandchildren and help them develop into productive members of communities, while teaching them about all history. I love that in my work, I have the opportunity to change someone’s life for the better and help them to see an opportunity for growth. I love being a positive influence.”

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