Stephen B. Smith, chairman of the board of Haury & Smith Contractors Inc., one of Nashville’s oldest development and home-building companies, received his bachelor’s degree in liberal studies Dec. 17 from MTSU.
A successful businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Smith studied finance at MTSU in the 1970s and earned three letters on the varsity baseball team. He left college before completing his degree.
“It’s never too late to go back to school,” Smith said amid the noisy celebration following the afternoon ceremony in Murphy Center. “And it’s important to the people who love you. I’m proud of the time and effort of all 1,700-plus students who went through the line today in order to advance in life.”
Even without a college degree, Smith’s advances in life have been prodigious. He served as the national finance co-chair for Lamar Alexander’s presidential campaign and was the finance chairman for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s leadership political action committee.
He has served on numerous business and civic boards as well as the Metropolitan Nashville Planning Commission and the Regional Transit Authority. He also was board chairman for Nashville Parks and Recreation.
Smith’s passion for horses earned him administrative positions in the walking-horse industry, and as a rider, he won 10 world championships. In 1992, he was named amateur world grand champion, and in 2001 he was inducted into the Tennessee Walking Horse Hall of Fame.
In 2007, he received the MS Hope Award by the National MS Society Mid-South Chapter. In 2008, the Tennessee Board of Regents honored him with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy. And in 2010, he received the Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award from MTSU’s College of Business.
Smith led the effort to raise $5 million to build the University’s new baseball facility: the Reese L. Smith Jr. baseball complex, named after his father. In addition, the Stephen B. Smith Baseball Clubhouse and Indoor Training Facility is a first-class addition to MTSU’s athletic program. In 2004, he was inducted into the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame and has served on both the BRAA board and the President’s Council.
“What all the Smiths have been good at is keeping up with something until it’s finished,” Smith said of his academic accomplishment. “When I realized I could do it, I did it. If you can, you should.”
— Tom Tozer (Thomas.Tozer@mtsu.edu)
Watch a video from the day’s events below.
You also can watch a fall 2011 commencement slideshow below.