Ohio State University Alumni Association President and CEO Jim Smith to depart
Smith returning to his family in Atlanta after four years leading the association
The Ohio State University
Family has been, and always will be, Jim Smith’s top priority, and that is why he plans to step down as president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association later this year.
“My definition of family has grown significantly the last few years to include more than 570,000 of my fellow alumni. But as my parents have gotten older, their needs have changed, and I need to be closer to them and the rest of my family in Atlanta,” Smith said.
“I am eternally grateful to have served in this role and have done my best to represent the interests and needs of Buckeyes around the world.”
“Jim is a true Buckeye, through and through. He is 100% authentic, and he’s done an exceptional job advocating for our alumni and Buckeye Nation,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “We are thankful for his service and know that he will continue to be a prominent and active member of the Buckeye family.”
Smith, who earned his master’s degree in sports management at Ohio State in 1991, returned to his alma mater to lead the association in March 2016. He plans to continue in his role through April 1.
Smith and his wife Polly met at Ohio State. They have four children: three daughters and a son.
“My time here has been so meaningful and it’s impossible to do it justice in just a few words. But I’m especially proud of the leadership team we have assembled, and I am grateful for the support and guidance of our Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Alumni Advisory Council,” Smith said. “And, of course, our staff is the best in the business.”
Smith brought more than 20 years of experience in sports and entertainment marketing to his role leading the association and before that served as executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer for the Atlanta Falcons football club.
The university is launching a national search for the next president of the university’s Alumni Association.
During Smith’s tenure, the association awarded more than $310,000 in scholarships to nearly 50 students. The organization celebrated other noteworthy accomplishments, including the development of a five-year strategic plan. The plan was approved in 2017 after extensive work by the board and staff and continues to guide the association’s future. The alumni magazine underwent a full redesign that debuted in autumn 2017 to overwhelmingly positive feedback as a gathering place for Ohio State graduates and, late last year, the Ohio State Alumni App launched with news and information for Buckeyes wherever they call home.
“Engaged alumni are at the heart of how our Buckeye community positively impacts the world,” said Catherine Baumgardner, chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
“Jim has been instrumental in enriching the firm friendships our fellow alumni have with each other and with our university, helping us to truly make a difference wherever Buckeyes visit, work and live.”
Buckeye alumni are in all 88 Ohio counties, 50 states and more than 150 countries worldwide. Half of them, nearly 286,000, are also recognized donors to their alma mater.
The association has more than 50 societies and 125 clubs throughout the world. During Smith’s tenure, those groups awarded nearly $4.5 million in scholarships to almost 2,700 students.
“Buckeye alumni are unique in their dedication to each other, to their alma mater and to our community,” said Senior Vice President for Advancement Michael C. Eicher. “Jim helped more deeply connect graduates with each other and with their passions at Ohio State.”
Affordability initiatives for students, enhanced outreach to recent graduates and supporting lifelong learning opportunities were also among Smith’s top priorities. The Student-Alumni Council and Young Alumni Academy are two groups he championed, and Buckeye Smart events featuring faculty innovators as speakers sell out in minutes.
“Since the day I came back home to Ohio State four years ago, I have been committed to listening to our alumni, whether they are 21 or 101, and doing all I can to ensure their voices are heard by each other and our university community,” Smith said. “Telling their stories is so important to me. Our magazine features incredible profiles in every issue, our awards garden honors more than 60 years of Buckeye pioneers, and scholarships empower our future alumni to go out and change the world. The Ohio State University Alumni Association is such a special organization because of the selfless, steadfast support of Buckeyes everywhere.”