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New Alumni Association leader looks ahead

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OSU alumnus and former Atlanta Falcons executive Jim Smith was recently appointed leader of the OSU Alumni Association. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

OSU alumnus and former Atlanta Falcons executive Jim Smith was recently appointed leader of the OSU Alumni Association. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

Ohio State alumnus and sports-marketing industry expert Jim Smith will return to his alma mater to serve as senior vice president of alumni relations, as well as president and CEO of the Ohio State University Alumni Association.

After earning his master’s degree in sports management at OSU in 1991, Smith worked for more than 20 years in the sports-marketing industry. He will step down from his most recent role as the executive vice president and chief marketing and revenue officer of the Atlanta Falcons NFL team. His appointment will be effective March 21.

“I am so excited to begin my new position as president and CEO of The Ohio State University Alumni Association,” Smith said. “It’s truly a dream job, which allows me to come back to campus to serve the university and alumni, to help work on all the successes already achieved and to work with the students as they go through their education.”

Smith will succeed the OSU football legend Archie Griffin, who stepped down from the role last year after serving in the position for a decade to take on the new role of senior adviser within the Office of Advancement.

“No one replaces a legend, but I am honored to be succeeding him,” Smith said. “An organization with Archie is a high-achieving and high-integrity organization.”

As the president and CEO of the OSUAA, Smith will serve as the campus leader in engagement and will be tasked with helping continue OSU traditions, as well as creating new opportunities for engagement by alumni. He is set to earn $375,000 per year, said Benjamin Johnson, the director of media and public relations for University Communications.

Smith is now the leader of an organization that has more than 50 societies and 200 clubs across the globe and more than half a million living OSU alumni, according to a recent OSU press release.

“There are a large number of programs that the Alumni Association coordinates, but really it’s a continuing engaging role. We are really trying to keep the pride of the OSU alumni alive, and we want to keep our alumni connected,” Smith said. “It can be a bit overwhelming when you’re looking at the number of people you’re representing, but it’s a critical mission for the university, and I’m ready to begin this great opportunity and get started.”

One aspect of the OSUAA that attracted Smith to the position is the inclusion of current and former students, he said.

“The student involvement is a really unique part of the of the Alumni Association,” Smith said. “The students are the alumni, so they shouldn’t have to wait until they graduate to get them involved in the Alumni Association.”

Although the two have never met, Smith praised Chris Page for his work as the student representative of the OSUAA.

Page returned the praise when asked about Smith, adding that Smith’s experience in the marketing and communication makes him a great successor to Griffin.

“(Smith) definitely has some big shoes to fill, but I think he’ll be great,” Page said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. He has a great mix of professional experience, not just in sports, but in marketing and in communication as well.”

Before working with the Atlanta Falcons, Smith served as the president and general manager of the Columbus Crew from 2000 to 2004, where he earned the MLS Executive of the Year Award in 2001. From 1995 to 2000, Smith was the associate athletic director in OSU’s Department of Athletics, and from 1994 to 1995, he served as director of live event programming for the World Wrestling Federation, according to an OSU press release.

“In each of my jobs, I have been the chief engagement officer. The reason I have had success is because I have been able to connect with people. Sharing that passion and engaging with people is the big strength I bring to the table,” Smith said. “That’s how you build the passion for the property you are working for, and in this case it is just furthering the passion for OSU.”

Smith is returning to work for the university where he met his wife Polly, who is also an alumna of the class of 1991. In addition, three of their four children were born at the OSU Wexner Medical Center, Smith said.

“Ohio State is where I became an adult and a professional. It’s where my career started and where I came back to,” Smith said. “I am incredibly thankful and indebted to Ohio State for what they gave me and equally indebted for being able to come back and serve in this role.”

3 comments

  1. There really isn’t an alumni association as most people think of it. There used to be, complete with real elections of leadership. The problem with that is that sometimes a real alumni association can express the views of alumni, which can trouble trustees and administrators. Imagine what a real alumni association would have said about Jon Waters, the parking transaction, the vacancies in the leadership of the medical school, etc.

    • Agreed. The (former) Alumni Association under the 30-plus year leadership of Dan Heinlen truly represented the alumni viewpoint while forging strong relations across campus and throughout the Ohio State alumni universe. I certainly hope Mr. Smith is a quick study, because it’s concerning that my alumni association is now led by someone that has no actual alumni experience. And what sort of statement does this hire make about the prominence of athletics within the Ohio State alumni function?

  2. Great job, osu! Take money from poor students and give an already-rich guy a lucrative job going to parties and schmoozing other alumni. The trickle-up theory in action. Lantern journalists should find out if he gets a commission on the funds he “raises”.

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