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Southeast Missouri State University

Alumnus Finds Unique Way to Give Back to Southeast

College of Business

Gary Smith is a man who believes in giving back to your alma mater. Aside from simply giving financially, Gary knows there are many other more unique and beneficial ways to give back as well.

During the last four years, Gary has worked with Southeast Missouri State University professor Nancy LeGrand in the Harrison College of Business, volunteering as an executive in resident. Together with Nancy, he has implemented an exercise in her business communications class that simulates a “real world” business communications experience for her students. 

“This exercise runs over a three-week period and leverages the communications skills the students are learning in Nancy’s class in a teaming project which ends with a ‘go – no go’ PowerPoint presentation on their project.  The exercise is intended to help them improve their skills and learn which ones matter the most in the real world of work. More than 300 Southeast students have completed the exercise,” Gary says. “It has been a personally rewarding experience to work with Nancy and her students.”

Professor LeGrand appreciates the perspective students receive from Gary’s experiences.

“Gary Smith has provided a realistic business experience in the classroom setting for my business communications classes. My students get a ‘feel’ of what they will encounter in the business world outside the classroom.”

Each marketing team has a set amount of money to sell their ‘product idea’ to their company.  The product idea this semester involves creating applications for smart phones.

The project is finalized with an oral PowerPoint presentation. Gary is in the classroom on presentation day, providing his expertise and critiquing the individual team work.

“My classes are given an excellent chance to work beyond their “imagined creativity” and work hands-on with a professional like Mr. Smith.  He ‘gives back to Southeast’ in a dedicated, personal and professional manner,” says LeGrand.

“There are many opportunities for alumni to contribute to Southeast directly with their knowledge, time and skills.  I would encourage everyone to think what they could do that would help a student or a program at Southeast and make the offer,” says Gary.

He also conducts the same exercise at Washington University in St. Louis for its business communications classes.  He has lectured at several major universities including Washington University, Maryland University, James Madison, University of Missouri – St. Louis, Southeast Missouri State University and the University of North Carolina.

Gary graduated from Southeast in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and a minor in economics. Since his graduation from Southeast, Gary has become an experienced upper-executive with more than 40 years experience in sales and operational leadership. His experiences were in Fortune 500 companies like IBM, MCI, EDS and Amdocs, and his roles have included such upper-level positions as chief sales officer, chief operating officer, executive vice president of sales, division president and branch manager. Gary recently retired and formed Smith & Associates, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in strategic business development and sales programs for companies seeking assistance growing their businesses.

Gary says his secret to success is “learning early that everyone in a business is responsible for business development and that every business can be a growth business; the key is to find ways to unlock the potential for sustainable growth in both.

“My hope is that I leave things better than I found them,” he continues. “I have been blessed in my career with rewarding assignments. Positions such as COO, chief sales officer and division president have allowed me to contribute to businesses on a global basis.  In the process, my family and I have traveled the world and lived in wonderful places.”

Gary appreciates the foundation the University gave him for his career.

“Southeast played a critical role in my success as a business leader.  The base skills I developed and the initial business knowledge I gained there prepared me well from the very start of my career,” he says.

He also offered some advice to current and future Southeast students.

“Soak up every business and communications experience, both in and outside the classroom, you can muster. Use the resources of the University, but, remember, it is your responsibility to develop and manage your career. Take ownership of your career early by defining what differentiates you, makes you valuable and memorable; then leverage that.” 

Gary says his favorite and most important memory from Southeast is that it’s where he met his wife, Jan.

“In addition to that, I am a member of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, and many of my favorite memories are associated with the lifelong friends I made there and the school events we enjoyed together,” he says.

In his spare time, Gary’s favorite hobbies include traveling, boating, golf and fishing with his grandchildren.  He also volunteers with INNOVATE VMS and ITEN organizations in St. Louis.  These organizations provide mentoring services to entrepreneurs and their new businesses.

Looking to the future, Gary says Smith & Associates, LLC will continue to be his focus for all commercial ventures and he will continue to volunteer services for the purpose of contributing where he can to people and organizations where his skill set and experiences can add value.

Gary and his wife, Jan, have two children and five grandchildren and reside in Clayton, Mo.