Coming Home: New Finance VP Not So New
Ron Smith has come full circle. His first job in higher education was at the University of Idaho, starting as an internal auditor in 1987. He returns now to start what he expects to be his last job before retirement: the University’s vice president of finance and administration.
“It’s like coming home,” says Smith. “This opportunity to come back to the University of Idaho has felt really good.”
His path wasn’t straight, though. Smith had risen to the director of business and accounting services by the time he left Idaho for the assistant vice president and controller post for the University of Arizona position in 1994.
In addition to his time in Arizona, the Montana native also served as vice president for finance at Berea College in Kentucky. But the appeal of the northwest was strong, so Smith returned to the region to serve as vice president for administrative services at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston and then as vice president for finance and business affairs at Seattle University. Then Idaho caught his attention again.
“When I saw the position, I said, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great to end my career at the same institution where it began?’” says Smith, who earned his doctorate at the University. His wife, Sue, also is an alumna.
From the beginning, Smith says it felt like the right decision, as everything fell into place from the day he accepted the position, June 1, to the day he started, July 1.
“Ron Smith has distinguished himself as an exceptional steward of institutional assets in both the private and public sectors,” says President M. Duane Nellis. “He has a strategic and forward-looking vision, and understands our goal as a 21st century land-grant university to become a more entrepreneurial institution. Ron will provide expert leadership in finance and administration to support the university’s strategic plan.”
Now that Smith has had roughly a month on the job, he is reacquainting himself with the campus, learning about current issues and opportunities as the University’s financial steward, and mapping out his goals.
“My main objective is to support the vision that has been set by the President and the rest of the executive team. As we move forward I think it will be important to be transparent
,” says Smith. “I want people to see, on the board level and on campus, what we are doing, and why we are doing it.”
He also is looking forward to supporting the institution’s strategic plan, and keeping the University financially strong in a challenging economic climate. Smith says economic downturns run on a cycle, and once the economy rebounds, he plans to prepare for the next downturn.
“We are the flagship University of the state, and I want to make sure we maintain that position and our integrity,” says Smith.
With fewer funds coming in from the state, Smith is reviewing the entrepreneurial efforts across the institution statewide to identify alternative sources of funding for the University and find more opportunities can be found to keep the momentum going.
Smith has a lot on his plate, but he says people have been very helpful and supportive as he learns his way around the budget and strategic plan.
“I really feel good about being here,” says Smith. “It’s good to be home.”
Smith succeeds Lloyd Mues, who retired to pursue other interests.