James C. Smith, president and chief executive officer of Thomson Reuters, will deliver the keynote address at Marshall University’s 176th commencement Saturday, May 11, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington.
Smith, a native of Carlisle, Ky., is a 1981 graduate of Marshall, which he attended on a football scholarship. He will speak at the 9 a.m. commencement for undergraduates. Commencement for graduate students begins at 2 p.m. that same day at the arena.
“It’s humbling, absolutely humbling, and gratifying at the same time,” Smith said of being selected to not only speak at commencement, but to receive an honorary doctoral degree of humane letters from the university.
Smith leads a company of 60,000 people in 140 countries who provide critical news, information and technology to leading decision makers around the world. The company’s products primarily serve professionals in the legal, regulatory and financial markets and reported revenues of $12.8 billion in 2012.
Smith is a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum and the board of directors of the Brazil-U.S. Business Council. He also serves on the international advisory boards of British American Business and the Atlantic Council.
“We are extremely honored and excited to welcome Jim Smith, a true son of Marshall, back to Marshall to address our graduates,” President Stephen J. Kopp said. “He is someone who took what he learned at Marshall, both in and outside the classroom, and applied it to his own life and career as he climbed the ladder of success in the business world. He grew up in a small town in Nicholas County, Kentucky, and now is CEO of this multi-billion dollar, multinational media and information firm based in New York City, traveling the world on behalf of its business interests. I am certain his commencement message on May 11th will be very insightful and motivating for our graduates.”
Smith’s football career at Marshall was cut short by knee injuries in each of his first two years, but he still enjoyed a full, engaging college experience. He stayed involved with the football program, serving as a student assistant on Coach Sonny Randle’s staff. He also was active in student affairs and participated in the university’s honors program before graduating magna cum laude. He was and remains a good friend of Mike Hamrick, Marshall’s director of athletics, who was his teammate for a while at Marshall.
“Marshall was great to me,” Smith said. “I loved the environment, I loved learning. I loved discovering that I loved learning. The environment there was just perfect for me. It was big enough to offer everything but small enough that you could actually have relationships with the professors.”
Except for the 1970 plane crash, Smith said he knew nothing about Marshall before being recruited to play football. But he accepted the scholarship – which he continued to receive until graduating, despite not playing – and never regretted choosing Marshall.
“I absolutely loved the classroom environment at Marshall,” he said. “Sitting in class was life changing for me.”
Smith began his career as a journalist and was managing editor of the Charleston Daily Mail when it was acquired by Thomson Newspapers in 1987. He rose through the ranks at Thomson Newspapers to become responsible for operations in North America.
Following the divesture of Thomson’s newspaper business in 2000, Smith moved to the professional publishing side of the company where he was responsible for a number of businesses serving the legal, regulatory and academic markets.
He also served as global head of Human Resources before becoming Chief Operating Officer of The Thomson Corporation. Following the acquisition of Reuters in 2008, Smith ran the professional division of the combined company. He was named chief executive in January 2012.
“I don’t really feel successful; I’m engaged,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have a job that I love and to be engaged in something worthwhile. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great people and to wind up in a company where teamwork is valued. We can be very proud of what we do.”
He also is very proud of Marshall.
“Marshall is a special place,” Smith said. “It really opens the door to lifelong learning. It can change lives, profoundly. It certainly did mine. I didn’t know I loved learning. It defines who I am.”
In his current position, Smith spends much of his time traveling, often to other countries. He splits time among offices in New York, London and Stamford, Conn., where he and his wife, Pam Kushmerick, maintain their home. He has four sons.