Smith completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aerospace engineering at Auburn in 1961 and 1970, respectively. During his 40-year career, Smith held leadership roles at the U.S. Army Electronics Proving Ground, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and General Electric. While he formally retired in 1995 as deputy director of NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, he later served as acting director of research operations at the Georgia Tech Research Institute; president of Thiokol Propulsion, the world’s largest producer of solid rocket motors; and executive director of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville.
Smith has led rocket and propulsion research teams assigned to the Saturn V moon rocket, Skylab, J-93 (B-70) and TF-39 (C5-A) jet engines, and the Space Shuttle program. His accolades include NASA’s Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank, Distinguished Public Service Award, Exceptional Achievement Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank, Outstanding Leadership Award, and Silver Snoopy Award. He also received the U.S. Army Commendation Medal and the Auburn Alumni Association’s 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was a 2012 inductee into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.
In addition to degrees from Auburn, Smith received a master’s degree in administrative science from The University of Alabama at Huntsville and completed Harvard Business School’s advanced management program. He chairs the Engineering Alumni Council’s Research Committee in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and is a member of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame board of directors. He is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, as well as a member of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Ginn Society and Auburn’s James E. Foy Loyalty Society. He and his wife Joyce, a 1961 language arts education graduate, have four children — including son Randall who graduated from Auburn in 1991 — and 10 grandchildren.