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From serial killers to musicals
Barton psychology teacher Eric Smith settles down in Golden Belt
Barton psychology instructor Eric Smith is shown teaching in his classroom.
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I love our community for all the wonderful people I have been honored to associate with, and for the great parks and zoo!
Eric Smith

U.S. Navy veteran, retired police officer, former family preservation therapist and business executive Eric Smith started the latest chapter of his life two years ago when he became a psychology instructor at Barton Community College. Today, he’s writing musicals and teaching courses that include “The Psychology of a Serial Killer.” 

After Smith bought a house in Hoisington for himself, his wife of 15 years and their four “amazing, rambunctious children,” he set his sights on a career at Barton. “It was a lifelong dream to teach, and I always knew that I wanted to teach at the community college level,” he said. “#GOCOUGS!”


The journey

Smith was born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in Columbus, Ohio, until 6th grade, when his family moved to Kansas. He graduated from Rose Hill High School in 1995 and later attended Purdue University, where he earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Educational Psychology.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1996-2000.

“Although I was a Missile Tech, I was retained in Groton, Connecticut, as a Sub School instructor,” he said. “I signed up after being recruited in Columbus, Ohio. I saw it as an opportunity to grow up and be part of a greater cause. It was my honor to serve and an experience I will cherish forever. Go Navy!”

In addition to other endeavors, after his law enforcement career, he was a business executive for the better part of 20 years and has been featured multiple times in “Who’s Who of Business Executives.” He was a restaurant owner in Tyler, Texas. Then, after he sold that restaurant, he became the area manager for Pizza Hut in Kansas. “I was the ‘Voice’ of Pizza Hut on the radio for three years here in Great Bend,” he said.

Musicals and serial killers

Smith has embraced life in Barton County and plans to stay awhile.

“I love teaching up here on The Hill and hope to do so for the next 20 years. I will be in this area as long as they will have me,” he said. “I love our community for all the wonderful people I have been honored to associate with, and for the great parks and zoo!”

His hobbies include singing and acting in musicals. Smith is also a playwright and penned two musicals this year that are slated to hit the Barton Community College stage in 2024 and 2026.

Smith’s background as a retired police officer has been put to use in his psychology classes. He teaches a course called “Psychology of a Serial Killer” in the spring and summer sessions. When the college reinstated the Barton Speaker’s Bureau in 2022, Smith made himself available to do community presentations based on that subject matter.

“Recently, the college challenged us to come up with collaboration ideas in order to create a neat learning experience for our students,” Smith said. He chose to collaborate with instructor Melissa Stevens in the Criminal Justice Department.

“Together, we developed a ‘murder on the campus’ experience,” he said. “Her class was to process the murder scene from a police officer and crime scene investigative perspective, while my class assessed the murder scene from a psychological perspective. My class was instrumental in creating a forensic profile of the killer, while the criminal justice program processed the physical evidence.”

Together, the classes were able to find the killer and arrest him.

“It was an awesome experience for the students and really cool to see them do such an amazing job,” Smith said.

Family activities

In addition to teaching duties, Smith is also a member of the college’s Faculty Council Committee.

Away from Barton, he can be seen most evenings beating his kids in “around the world,” or throwing “knuckle balls” to them at the baseball field. He has volunteered as a wrestling coach for seven years, starting back in Garden Plain in 2016, and now volunteers as an assistant coach of the Hoisington Jr. Cardinal Wrestling Club.

He is also a member of the Rose Hill United Methodist Church and attends virtually.

When commenting on the interesting life he’s led so far, Smith said, “I have certainly dabbled in a lot of ventures. Trying to live this short life on Earth to its fullest!”

Community Connections is a regular feature of the Great Bend Tribune. We welcome readers to submit names of individuals who are active in the community that they would like to see featured in a future story. Send suggestions to and explain their “community connections.”