Born at Emporia State University
He didn’t draw his first breaths on the campus, but Doug Smith will tell you that Emporia State University was the birthplace of a set of ideals and values that have guided him throughout his professional career.
John “Doug” Smith (BSB ‘82, MBA ‘84) delivered the inaugural Sam E. and Jeannene Hayes Lecture during ESU’s Homecoming week last fall. Smith is the president and chief executive officer of B. E. Smith, an executive search firm for health care industry professionals started by his father, B. E. “Pete” Smith (BSB ‘56).
“When I left Emporia State, I was a changed person because of this university,” Smith told the audience.
Exhibiting a degree of humility—a quality he also credited ESU with instilling in him—not often associated with leaders of $60-million annual revenue companies, Smith talked about a journey of faith and hard work that has led him to the success he now enjoys.
The adventure started at 708 Peyton, a two-story house about a mile east of the ESU campus. Originally owned by his great-grandparents, Jack and Faye Mowl, the house was where Smith lived while attending ESU.
The home had already sheltered three generations of family members with ties to Kansas State Teachers College when Doug Smith moved into the bedroom upstairs over the front porch. “Every Sunday, we’d have a big dinner at the house,” Smith remembered. “I’d have friends come over, and a lot of them would stay and do homework.”
Along with classroom work, Smith’s ESU experience stretched to include Blue Key. He also worked in the office of Dr. Bill Schulte, former director of institutional studies and planning. “That was a great experience for me, in that it polished me up,” Smith said.
Visitors to B. E. Smith’s office in Lenexa immediately notice that polish in the understated atmosphere of confidence and respect. “If you’re going to come to work at my company, you’re going to be a humble person,” Smith advised.
“You’re going to say please and thank you. That’s something I feel like I learned here at Emporia State.”
The importance of giving back is another quality Smith took with him from ESU. Demonstrating his belief in the concept, Smith announced that he and his wife, Nanette (BSE ‘84, MS ‘84) are creating a fund to award scholarships at future Hayes Lecture events.
“Never underestimate how important this university is to the people who graduate from it,” Smith said. “It’s the lessons that I took away from Emporia State that have sustained me and have made me the man that I am today.”
“I was born here at Emporia State. Not literally, but I did a lot of growing up here, and this is where I feel like my birthplace is.”