Return to Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Awards

George M. Smerk, Bloomington, Indiana, has received the 2012 Gerald M. Best senior achievement award for lifetime achievements in railroad history.

Smerk was cited for his accomplishments as a professor in urban transportation and as a traction historian. He joined the faculty at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, in 1966, and retired from teaching in 2003 at age 70. He remains active as editor of the Railroads Past and Present series at Indiana University Press.

He proposed, in the late 1990s, the idea for the Encyclopedia of North American Railroads, published by IU Press in 2007 with William D. Middleton, Roberta L. Diehl, and Smerk as coeditors. He is author of landmark books on urban transportation, most recently The Federal Role in Urban Mass Transportation (1992).

He founded the Institute for Urban Transportation at IU in 1969, an organization that continued for 36 years. Under a contract from the office of the governor, it advised small Indiana cities developing public transit plans. He is proud that in 1972 he and a colleague from the IU geography department advised the city of Bloomington on a system. Today the city and university systems carry 7 million riders annually.

For 30 years, from 1977 to 2007, he represented the Indiana governor on the board of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore electric interurban railroad from South Bend to Chicago. He writes a transit column for Railfan & Railroad magazine.

The announcement appeared in Railroad History, Fall-Winter 2012.