Ken Smith, who won a state championship in 1972, is the newest member of a growing group

by: KEVIN SPERL - Ken Smith is the latest to be named a Crook County High School Distinguished Alumnus.

Ken Smith is part of Crook County High School’s wrestling history, winning a state championship as a senior in 1972. Today, he joins another segment of the school’s legacy as the newest member of the district’s distinguished alumni, recognized for giving back to the local community after leaving town to attend Oregon State and Pacific University.

“It came as a surprise and I am honored,” said Smith. “There are a lot of people out there as deserving as I am. It is nice.”

Smith was born and raised in Prineville and upon graduation attended Clackamas Community College, placing fourth at the national junior college level as a sophomore wrestler. He transferred to Oregon State for one year and then moved on to Pacific University, earning a degree in physical therapy.

Smith returned to Prineville in 1989, practicing physical therapy with his father-in-law, Wally Boe.

Distinguished Alumni Nominating Chair Chuck Holliday explained that the distinguished alumni designation started six years ago when his committee started looking at people who had graduated and what they had achieved since leaving high school.

“We put people into different categories of philanthropy, being leaders, having military service and other things,” he said. “We wanted to consider those who had done well in athletics as well.”

According to Holliday, Smith was an obvious choice as he has been a big contributor to the school and community since returning home.

“Ken has worked with the boosters club and been very instrumental in the wrestling program,” said Holliday. “He sponsors kids so that they can compete in athletics.”

In his nominating letter, Holliday noted that Smith helps coach the Cowboy Mat Club and assists with the high school’s wrestling team weight monitoring program.

He has also assisted in the treatment of athletic injuries at football games and wrestling matches.

As a distinguished alumnus, Smith will address the underclassmen assembly, traditionally held during graduation week.

“I will talk to the students about giving back to their community,” said Smith. “Had it not been for people giving back to me I would have had a difficult time getting through school.”

Smith believes that giving back is a two-way street, knowing all too well that people you help may one day be in a position to help you.

Doing so in Prineville is an honor for Smith.

“This is a great community and I can’t think of a better place to grow up,” he said. “This is a great place to raise my family and grow my practice.”

Smith will always remember the advice given to him by his high school wrestling coach, Russ Thurmond.

Coming off the mat after a match, Thurmond told Smith that, in order to be successful, he had to learn to get out of his own way.

“People can be their own worst enemy,” said Smith. “If I had had more confidence back then and been surer of myself, I would have accomplished more.”

Smith feels that social media has been a huge game-changer for today’s students.

“Our society has become full of takers,” he said. “Years ago there was a more giving spirit then there is now.”

His advice for this year’s graduating class?

“The harder you work the further you will make it,” he said. “It’s what you know after you think you know it all that really counts.”

For Holliday, this year’s choice was easy.

“If every community had a dozen like Ken, they would be better off,” said Holliday. “He has done a tremendous amount for the youth in this community.”

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