Beginning of the Semester Message from President Smith

Headshot photograph of Marshall University President Brad D. Smith

Dear Marshall University Community,

I am honored to have been selected to serve as our university’s 38th president. I am grateful for the faith you have placed in me, and I will work hard to justify your faith each and every day.

Mark Twain once said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why. Simply stated, YOU are my why.

I believe access to affordable, high-quality education is the great equalizer that transforms obstacles into opportunities. Marshall served as that aspiration and catalyst for me, and I view the opportunity to serve Marshall as its next president as the ultimate privilege to pay it forward.

As many of you know, I am a native of West Virginia, a graduate of our state’s public education system, and a proud son of Marshall University. The combination of my upbringing and my education prepared me for a career leading large, global organizations through turn-around, transformation and high-growth environments. I am now blessed to have the opportunity to return home to serve the institution that invested in me, and I look forward to working with our outstanding faculty and staff to serve Marshall’s students.

Marshall University has a storied history with a strong foundation upon which to build. Since our founding in 1837, we have driven 185 years of growth and advancement that have produced more than 100,000 alumni, many of whom have reached the pinnacle of their chosen professions. Our academic standing has risen from our academy origins to a comprehensive research university. Along the way, we have tasted the bitterness of athletic loss, including the pain of the tragic 1970 plane crash, only to rise to the thrill of glorious victories and national championships. Through it all, we have remained student centered and community oriented, and have much to celebrate with national brand recognition and tremendous opportunities ahead.

We will build on this foundation of strength while continuing to innovate and adapt in this fast-changing world. We now live in a global economy connected in the cloud through the “Internet of things,” powered by big data, artificial intelligence and much more. This is fueling a pace of change that is exponentially faster, with 90% of the world’s data having been created in the past two years. In this world, massive dislocation and the need for reinvention surrounds us.

The role Marshall plays in this environment has never been more important. We serve as a prosperity platform in our community, and for the broader society, that accelerates individual success, innovative ideas and economic impact. Increasingly, we will need to challenge ourselves to ensure our programs and experiences provide in-demand knowledge through on-demand access, with areas of distinctive achievement.

Michelangelo famously warned that “the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” Marshall has an international brand and we can and should be the standard by which others choose to measure themselves. That is our aspiration.

I want to hear your ideas and input, and hope you are planning to attend one of the upcoming listening sessions I will be conducting over the coming weeks. I want to learn all I can about our opportunities and challenges as a university community.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the many sons and daughters of Marshall who came before us. Specifically, we owe much to President Jerome Gilbert and his wife Leigh for their leadership over the past six years. Their example reflected the purpose, passion and profound commitment they feel for our university and our community. While it will be impossible to fill their shoes, it will be an honor for me and Alys to follow in their footsteps and to build upon the tremendous foundation and momentum they have established.

But it is not about a new president. It is about us. We Are Marshall, and it is now our turn. Let’s do this together.



Brad D. Smith