Ex-Intuit CEO Brad Smith chosen as new Marshall president

October 28, 2021 GMT
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Marshall University introduces Brad Smith as the 38th president of the university during a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)
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Marshall University introduces Brad Smith as the 38th president of the university during a ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Brad Smith was introduced as Marshall’s 38th president on Thursday, a higher education newcomer who was CEO of software company Intuit for more than a decade.

The university’s board of governors announced Smith’s selection during a meeting on the Huntington campus. The five finalists visited Marshall earlier this month.

Smith, who is a Marshall graduate, grew up in nearby Kenova and is a well-known donor to the university, was the only finalist without experience in higher education.

“Well, it’s good to be home,” Smith said at an introductory event after the announcement.

Among those who Smith thanked were his two grown daughters, who “coached me and encouraged me to get back into the game and to pursue this dream.”

Smith also specifically addressed skeptics of his candidacy.

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“It was your courageous conversations, it was your constructive debate, it was your willingness to challenge my qualifications and my track record that exemplified the civil discourse we need to have at Marshall University and the diversity of thought that makes every outcome better,” he said. “And I will assure you, you made me a better candidate. And I will be a better president because of your perspectives.”

He said his reason for seeking the job “can be summed up in one word: purpose. Mark Twain once said the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you discover why.”

He said his “why” is to “level the playing field of opportunity in West Virginia and in Appalachia, and to invest in those who have invested in me. And I see Marshall University and the education that it offers as the great equalizer. It transforms obstacles into potential and possibility.”

Marshall President Jerome Gilbert announced in April that he would not seek an extension when his contract expires in July 2022.

Smith is expected to have a say in the direction of the university’s conference affiliation in athletics. Various media outlets have reported the Sun Belt has interest in adding Marshall, which is currently a member of Conference USA.

Patrick Farrell, chairman of the Marshall board of governors, has said the conference affiliation decision would come after the new school president was in place.

“A lot of Marshall sports fans are understandably anxious about conference realignment,” Farrell said Wednesday on Twitter. “No decision has been made and discussions about our future are ongoing. I can confidently say that the timing of our decision won’t impact which conference we choose.”

The other finalists were Bernard Arulanandam, vice president for research, economic development, and knowledge enterprise at The University of Texas at San Antonio; Bret Danilowicz, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University; Clarkson University Provost Robyn Hannigan; and Kathy Johnson, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.