HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The next president of Marshall University is a familiar face to the campus community and West Virginia.
The Marshall University Board of Governors passed a resolution to appoint Brad D. Smith as the university’s next president during a meeting Thursday. Smith, an alum of the institution and former Intuit CEO, will be the 38th president of Marshall.
During Smith’s introductory press conference Thursday afternoon, he said he has three mindsets to bring to the position including to dream bigger, deliver faster and define excellence.
“We can and should be the standard on which all other colleges and universities measure themselves,” Smith said.
Smith will succeed Dr. Jerome Gilbert, who came to Huntington in January 2016. Gilbert announced during the BoG meeting that he will terminate his presidency in December, but will remain at the university in a different role to help the transition with Smith. His contract as president was set to expire July 2022.
Gilbert said he is going to miss everything about Marshall but said the institution will be in good hands.
“When I made the decision to step away from the presidency, I knew it would be difficult,” Gilbert said. “I love Marshall University, I love the students, I love the faculty, I love the staff. I want nothing but the best for Marshall.”
“With President-Elect Smith at the helm, I know Marshall University has a bright future ahead of it.”
Smith then thanked Gilbert for his service to the university.
“President Gilbert, I want to thank you and Leigh. Your collective leadership exemplified the passion, purpose and the profound commitment that you hold in your heart for all of our students, faculty, staff, our community, and for me and Alys,” he said.
“I will tell you that no one will ever fill your shoes but it will be a privilege to walk in your path and to build on the foundation that you’ve left at Marshall University.”
Smith, a Kenova native, was the only finalist of the five that did not have experience in higher education. He said Thursday that after stepping down as CEO of Intuit in 2019, he figured out the purpose in his life was to come back to West Virginia and serve others.
“My why is to level the playing field of opportunity in West Virginia and Appalachia and to invest in those who invested in me. I see Marshall University and the education that it offers as the great equalizer,” Smith said.
Smith has a background in philanthropy, leadership and entrepreneurship with substantial credentials in Silicon Valley. He served as the CEO of Fortune 500 company Intuit for 11 years. He is the executive chairman of the board of Intuit, chairman of the Nordstrom board and a board member of Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey). He formerly served on the board of Yahoo as well.
As MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval wrote in his commentary Thursday, Smith’s success in Silicon Valley has made him very wealthy. Smith and his wife have given back to Marshall and West Virginia.
He is a well-known donor to Marshall giving multiple gifts of millions of dollars including a $25 million gift for the college of business in 2018. In recognition of the Smiths’gift, the college of business named its undergraduate and graduate schools the Brad D. Smith Undergraduate School of Business and the Brad D. Smith Graduate School of Business, respectively.
The Smiths most recently co-founded the Wing 2 Wing Foundation that supports education, entrepreneurship mentoring, and investment to showcase West Virginia for the nation. The foundation most recently developed the Ascend West Virginia program, paying talented individuals to move to the Mountain State.
Smith stated he understands some of the criticism that has come from him being the only non-traditional finalist for the position. He said he has a background that makes him unique and one that he believes can make a difference.
Additionally, Smith thanked those who did not support his candidacy.
“It was your courageous conversations, it was your constructive debate, it was your willingness to challenge my qualifications and my track record that exemplified the civil discourse we need to have at Marshall University and the diversity of thought that makes every outcome better,” he said.
“I will assure you, you made me a better candidate and I will be a better president because of your prescriptives.”
Smith earned his bachelor’s degree from Marshall University and his master’s degree in management from Aquinas College in Michigan.
His first order of business may be to decide an athletics conference affiliation for the Thundering Herd. Interim Athletics Director Jeff O’Malley stated Thursday that they want to give the new president a chance to look over the issue and have input on a decision.
Marshall, a current member of Conference USA, has long been rumored in a move to the Sun Belt Conference. Conference USA has lost several institutions in recent weeks.
Smith told the Herald-Dispatch Thursday afternoon he is excited for the opportunities ahead with the athletics department but did not detail those opportunities.
WVU President E. Gordon Gee tweeted out his support for Smith following his selection:
I am so pleased to welcome my friend Brad Smith into West Virginia’s family of higher education institutions as the next president of Marshall University. Brad’s love for this state and his passion to move it toward a brighter future is unmatched. pic.twitter.com/emOFeWk7bj
— E. Gordon Gee (@gordongee) October 28, 2021
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice tweeted out his support for Smith, as well:
I am thrilled to congratulate and welcome Brad Smith as the new president of @marshallu! I know he will lead my alma mater to even more greatness. What an exciting day for West Virginia and the Thundering Herd! 💚🦬🤘 pic.twitter.com/onbenY1g3x
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) October 28, 2021
Cabell County Commissoner Kelli Sobonya told MetroNews the community should rally around Smith.
“I think he will bring a fresh perspective that will be beneficial for Marshall,” she said. “I think we should give him the opportunity and rally around him. I wish him well and I think you’ll see good things. I am very optimistic.”