In 2001, electrical enginineering alumnus James M. Smith, who was at that time the CEO of the EDO Corporation, established the James M. Smith ’67 Scholarship Fund at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Today, the fund, established to support excellent engineering students in need of financial assistance, has helped 206 Smith Scholars earn their degrees from the College of Engineering. In addition, Smith has sponsored numerous summer research projects for undergraduates seeking enrichment beyond the academic year. In recognition of this generous support of students at UMass Amherst, his prominent business career, and his contributions to national defense, the university presented James Smith with an honorary degree in 2007.
A Boston native, Smith is internationally recognized for his proven business strategies and leadership of the EDO Corporation. After receiving his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from UMass Amherst in 1967, he joined AIL Systems, a company specializing in electronic warfare, satellite communications, and radar systems, eventually becoming president and CEO. Meanwhile, he earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York.
In April of 2000, AIL and EDO Corporation merged and Smith was appointed CEO and president of EDO. The merged companiesdesigned and manufactured a broad range of products for defense, intelligence, and commercial markets for both domestic and international customers. In 2002, he took on the additional role of Chairman of the Board for EDO.
Smith’s extraordinary business successes have been widely acknowledged. Under his leadership, EDO received international recognition for its growth. In its October 31, 2005 edition, Forbes Magazine listed EDO among its “200 Best-managed Small Companies.” In the February 14, 2006 issue of Forbes, EDO was listed among the “25 Fastest-growing Technology Companies.” Fortune Magazine included EDO in its “Annual List of the 100 Fastest-growing Companies” in 2003 and 2004. In January of 2005, Research Magazine reported that EDO’s 10-year total return was in the top 3 percent of all companies. The Deloittte and Touche LLP “Technology Fast 50 Program” also listed EDO in its “Fast 50 for New York” several times.
Following its significant growth under Smith, the company was acquired by ITT Corporation in 2007.Over the course of his tenure, Smith participated in several key national defense positions, including serving on the Board of the National Defense Industrial Association, the Board of Trustees of the Naval War College Foundation, and the Executive Committee of the Aerospace Industrial Association.
While building his career, James Smith never wavered in his advocacy for education and philanthropy. As the keynote speaker at the 2003 College of Engineering Graduation Celebration, he encouraged graduates to form a practical career plan, act with integrity, and maintain a healthy balance between work and “the rest of life.”
He established the James M. Smith ’67 Scholarship Fundin an effort to provide annual scholarships to sophomore, junior, and senior engineering undergraduates from all disciplines within the College of Engineering. Meritorious students are selected based on recommendations from faculty of those with strong leadership skills, many of whom also have unmet financial need. (July 2013)