The Henry Nash Smith Award is given to a Twain scholar who has demonstrated exemplary service to the Center for Mark Twain Studies. During Elmira 2017: The Eighth International Conference on the State of Mark Twain Studies, the Henry Nash Smith Award was given to Dr. Barbara Snedecor.
Dr. Snedecor earned her PhD while working full-time at Elmira College as a Writing Lecturer, Associate Director of the Writing Program, ESL Director, and then Director for the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Her dissertation was an annotated critical edition of Olivia Langdon’s letters. She wrote an important article on Twain’s “A True Story Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It” which has proven to be fundamentally important to the work and legacy of CMTS. Her scholarly interest has been focused on Olivia Langdon and the life she lived in Elmira. She has contributed to the Mark Twain Annual and American Literary Realism and is the editor of the second edition of Mark Twain in Elmira.
While her scholarly work is noteworthy, it is her role as Director of the Center that merited this award. Under Snedecor’s eleven-year tenure as Director she personally initiated a number of programs and achievements which we continue to benefit from today:
- The Mark Twain Literacy Program, which helps place hundreds of Mark Twain books in the classroom of local teachers at no cost to the teachers or students
- The creation of a digital archive of “Trouble Begins at Eight” lectures.
- The creation of the Mark Twain Summer Teacher’s Institute, which educates regional teachers, reinforcing Mark Twain’s legacy for local students in a meaningful, deliberate, knowledgeable way.
- The facilitation and solidification of the quadrennial conference as an international, rigorous academic conference.
- The facilitation of a number of Mark Twain symposia, including symposia on “The Mysterious Stranger,” Mark Twain’s travel writings, Twain’s biography and autobiography, and the memory of Twain scholar and Elmira College professor, Michael Kiskis.
- Installing permanent exhibit of Clemens and Langdon related artifacts in Cowles Hall.
Dr. Snedecor undoubtedly steered CMTS in a positive direction. She proved to be a keen budget manager and handed over a financial situation which gives CMTS the potential to complete numerous new, large-scale projects.
The most important legacy of Barbara Snedecor is the goodwill she has fostered with in the Twain academic community and local Elmira community. Dr. Snedecor’s professional goodwill and grace has impressed many. While her hardworking benevolence is appreciated by everyone who gets to know her, it also had a pragmatic side. Scholars were willing to work with her, a vitally important quality for the CMTS Director responsible for scheduling Quarry Farm Fellowships and the “Trouble Begins” lecture series.
Dr. Snedecor grew and solidified various functions of CMTS for over a decade. The current staff and the Twain scholarly community at large are very grateful for her service.