Silicon Valley CEO, Kenova native Brad Smith to deliver speech at Marshall’s spring commencement

BradSmith_squareBrad Smith, a Kenova, W.Va., native who says he owes his incredible success in Silicon Valley to Marshall University, will be the guest speaker at MU’s 177th commencement Saturday, May 10, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in downtown Huntington.

Smith, a 1986 Marshall graduate, will speak at the 9 a.m. Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony. Commencement for graduate students begins at 2 p.m. that same day at the arena.

Smith is President and Chief Executive Officer of Intuit, the accounting software giant that makes Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax. He was just 43 years old when he was named the CEO of Intuit, which employs more than 8,000 people worldwide. Under Smith’s leadership, Intuit has cultivated an agile, experimentation culture, despite being a 30-year-old Silicon Valley company. This start-up mindset, combined with the ability to reinvent and transform itself along the way, has established Intuit as an innovative company that is consistently ranked as one of the top 100 best places to work, placing at number eight this year, and is among the most-admired software companies in the world.

Smith is recognized worldwide as a motivational and inspirational leader. In April, he was featured in a New York Times interview in which he talked about career advice and life lessons. He is expected to share those lessons and advice during his address to Marshall’s graduates.

“I am honored to be returning to Marshall,” Smith said. “Everything I have accomplished I owe to Marshall and the spirit of teamwork and perseverance that I experienced there.  I look forward to speaking with the class of 2014 as they set out to make their own marks on the world.”

President Kopp said the university community is elated to welcome Smith back as the guest speaker at MU’s spring commencement.

“Brad is a shining example of what makes a true Son of Marshall,” Kopp said. “He is a very humble person who, though remarkably successful, has never forgotten his roots and his love of his alma mater and hometown. His story is incredibly inspiring. Brad is one of those people you can point to and know that life’s horizons are limitless with a solid education, hard work, humility and strong conviction that never loses sight of what got you where you are. I am really eager to hear him speak to our graduates.”

Smith also will become the 169th person in Marshall history to receive an honorary degree.

Born in Huntington, Smith grew up in nearby Kenova, population about 3,500. He was just six years old when the Marshall plane crash occurred on Nov. 14, 1970. He said he lived so close to the crash site that he could look out the window and see the mountain glowing red.

Smith graduated from Ceredo-Kenova High School, a school known for decades for its football prowess. He played football for the Wonders until his sophomore year when he decided to focus on martial arts rather than football. By the time he was a senior, he had earned his black belt. Following high school, Smith was accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point, but decided he would return to his roots and enroll at Marshall.

At Marshall, business was the focus of his studies, but he truly excelled in marketing. Smith earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in marketing. After graduating from Marshall, he went to work for Pepsi, moving several times before landing in Grand Rapids, Mich.

In Grand Rapids, Smith earned his master’s degree in management from Aquinas College, where he attended night classes. He did well in sales management and business development at Pepsi before leaving for ADVO, the largest direct mail marketer in America. Later he excelled at ADP, one of the world’s largest providers of business outsourcing solutions. He then joined Intuit and began his five-year climb within the company before becoming CEO.