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MU business college gets $25M gift

November 10, 2018

Marshall University announced Thursday that alumnus and Intuit Chairman and CEO Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys, have made a $25 million gift to the university's Lewis College of Business.

HUNTINGTON — One of the largest monetary gifts in the history of Marshall University was announced Thursday by school officials.

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert broke the news of a $25 million gift from alumnus and Intuit Chairman and CEO Brad D. Smith and his wife, Alys, to the university’s Lewis College of Business.

“It is with great excitement that the university announces this magnificent gift from Brad and Alys Smith,” Gilbert said. “Their generosity will provide a strong foundation for the redesign, reorganization and re-energizing of our College of Business.”

Brad Smith, who graduated from Marshall in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, said he and his wife are enthusiastic about aiding the school and its students through continued education and academic expansion.

“Alys and I are passionate about education and economic empowerment in West Virginia, Ohio and the surrounding Appalachia area,” he said. “We believe in

supporting programs that are strategic, enduring and making a lasting impact on students. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to work with Marshall leaders to bring new insights in business programs to reality.”

Gilbert said in August he had the honor of introducing Brad Smith as he was inducted into West Virginia’s Business Hall of Fame during the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Business Summit at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs.

During the induction ceremony, Smith said his heart has never left home.

“After a lifetime of grand pursuits, I came to realize my heart never left — not for a moment,” he said. “I may have spent the first 22 years of my life dreaming of a way out (of West Virginia), but I can tell you with clear eyes and a full heart, I’ve spent every day since looking for a way back home.”

Gilbert said it was at that time when he, along with other Marshall officials, sat down with Brad and Alys Smith to talk about the vision of what a major gift of this magnitude would mean to the university.

“Since that time we have been in the process of refining the language of the gift and how it would be used,” he said. “It has been a delightful process.”

Gilbert described the Smiths’ gift as “transformational.”

“The commitments Brad and Alys have made to Marshall over the past five years are changing the lives of our business students for generations to come,” he said.

Avinandan “Avi” Mukherjee, dean of the Lewis College of Business, said the gift will allow Marshall to rework its business curriculum and build new facilities.

“In addition to redesigning our programs through experiential learning and close industry-academic partnerships, we will build new facilities with spaces to nurture collaboration, creativity and entrepreneurship,” Mukherjee said. “In appreciation for the Smiths’ vote of confidence, we will name our new business building the Brad D. Smith Center for Business and Innovation.

“In this new building intended to promote teamwork and hands-on learning, students will find creative ways to apply problem-solving strategies, which will be invaluable to them in the workforce,” Mukherjee added. “The new iCenter space will allow our students’ and community members’ dreams to come to fruition. This generous gift is truly a game-changer for our business programs, as we can now aspire to the next level of excellence.”

Mukherjee said the location of the new business building will be announced at a later date.

Gilbert said the cost of the new building is estimated at $50 million, with a goal of starting construction within the next five years or so.

“The Lewis College of Business will keep its name, but in recognition of the Smiths’ gift, the College of Business will name its undergraduate and graduate schools the Brad D. Smith Undergraduate School of Business and the Brad D. Smith Graduate School of Business, respectively,” he said.

Gilbert said the university is proud of its alumni, like Smith, who have built outstanding careers with the education they received at Marshall. In 2011, Marshall inducted Brad Smith into the Lewis College of Business Hall of Fame.

“They are setting a prime example of career and philanthropic goals for our students, as well as generating great enthusiasm in our donor base,” Gilbert said. “We hope others see this example and will also want to see how and what they can do to join in the efforts to advance the university.”

The Smiths previously established the Brad D. and Alys Smith Family Scholarship at Marshall for West Virginia and Ohio students, with preference for first-generation college students. Their past support was recognized by the Marshall University Foundation board of directors in 2015 when the board named the foundation’s building the Brad D. Smith Foundation Hall.

Brad Smith has been involved in a number of other Marshall projects over the years, including 2017′s Design for Delight challenge.

Ron Area, chief executive officer of the Marshall University Foundation, said he also hopes the Smiths’ leadership gift inspires others.

“Brad and Alys are caring individuals who fervently champion the success of students,” Area said. “The fact that Brad believes Marshall prepared him for the business world and is willing to allow us to propose that our undergraduate and graduate schools be named for him truly represents the quality of our curriculum and our programs. We are honored this fine couple continues to invest in Marshall students and are excited for this new phase of educational excellence.”

Brad Smith, who has led Silicon Valley software giant Intuit for 11 years, and Alys Smith, an attorney, live in California. They have two daughters, Payton and Devon.

Brad Smith was born in Huntington and grew up in the nearby town of Kenova. In August of this year, he announced that he would step down as Intuit’s CEO at the end of 2018, while staying on as the company’s executive board chairman.

Marshall’s Lewis College of Business is among only 1 percent of business schools worldwide to be accredited in both business and accounting by AACSB International. Current enrollment at the Lewis College of Business is 1,400, which includes undergraduate and graduate students. The college boasts more than 12,000 alumni around the world.

“This is a great day of celebration at Marshall University,” Gilbert said.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

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