J. Eric Smith joined the University at Albany in 2008 as the Executive Director of University Auxiliary Services (UAS). During his exemplary service at the University, he implemented an array of institutional changes that have had a positive and meaningful impact across the campus . . . Despite the economic challenges over the past four years, Mr. Smith provided the steadfast leadership necessary to fulfill UAS’s mission, achieve major milestones, and improve the overall quality of life across University at Albany campus. As a graduate and senior officer of the University at Albany, we are proud to count Mr. Smith among our most distinguished alumni and to have benefited from his outstanding and tireless service to the University, which will undoubtedly have a lasting impact for many years to come.
— George M. Philip
University at Albany
When I joined American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), J. Eric Smith was our Director of Operations and Development and he now serves our Board of Trustees as Corporate Secretary. I cannot overstate the positive impact that Eric had and continues to have on AIER. A leader, strategic thinker, great communicator, and dynamic doer, Eric helped transform of our organization from a vertically integrated old economy operation to a streamlined mission focused company. The changes that Eric implemented put us a path to re-establish AIER as an important source of economic research and analysis, and a champion of the economic and financial interests of private citizens.
— David Michaels
Chief Financial Officer
American Institute for Economic Research
I’ve had the pleasure of working with J. Eric Smith throughout my professional career. Of all of his strengths, the one that really stands out is the rare ability to not only see the “big picture,” but also understand how every little piece can fit together to form this picture. This keen understanding allows Eric to be a masterful strategic planner, but also expertly negotiate even the most mundane contract. For non-profits and government agencies, this unique combination of talents is rarely seen and is of the utmost importance, especially during these difficult economic times.
— Ryan Goodenough
Director of Communications
J. Eric Smith came to the Rensselaer Newman Foundation at a critical time in its 35 year history in 2002. The founding members of the organization had died or left the organization, leaving the Foundation without a clear direction for the 21st century. It was critical to have a leader who would move us from 20th century success to a re-imaging of the organization in the context of 2002 and beyond. We needed a strategic planner, program developer, fundraiser, facility assessor, management reviewer and a person who understood the all important connection to the community.
Through his excellent prior experiences, innate understanding of management and a uniquely creative approach, he did in less than 5 years what no director had done in the previous 30 years. I think of his strengths as a series of “R’s”. This is not the old time Readin’, ‘Ritin and ‘Rithmetic, though he is a synthesizer of new ideas, an excellent writer, and an astute financial planner. The “R’s” that Eric tackled are fundamental to a successful organization that chooses to be in step with today. Eric was able to:
- Re-image the organization so it would succeed in the future.
- Reinvigorate the program of the organization so it reached the many people who were past attendees.
- Reconnect with the many ‘publics’ who are part of the Capital District community.
- Redevelop donor relationships.
- Reengage the volunteers who are key to the world of non-profits.
- Review and assess critical elements of the day-to-day operations, outsourcing items that did not require staffing, taking a creative approach in other areas.
- Reevaluate the facility, laying the groundwork for the national recognition that has now been bestowed on it in 2011 as a listed site on the National Register of Historic Places.
Relevance was the key to the daily and long term operation under J. Eric Smith. He had great understanding of what was important when prioritizing his day. However, Eric is not a person who was simply focused on tasks of ‘the job’. He was much more than a productive ‘working machine’. He was a person who you enjoyed talking with. Good relationships between volunteers and Eric were a key to the success of the ‘day to day’ business of the Foundation. He understood the importance of inclusiveness in decision-making in a volunteer organization.
J. Eric Smith is not only the consummate professional, but also offers any organization so many skills that make him a true Renaissance person. My leadership positions with many volunteer organizations as well as a 40 year career in higher education give me a unique view the quality of leader/manager/visionary that Eric can be for you.
— Richard Hartt
Past President of the Rensselaer Newman Foundation Board of Trustees
Director of the Union at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (Retired)
In coursing the labyrinthine challenges of the non-profit world, J. Eric Smith is an adept and inspiring captain. His intuitive and mastered abilities serve him well in a spectrum of executive responsibilities. He guarantees effective teamwork, strategic planning, the best administrative practices and successful results. Eric is also a very congenial fellow who makes work pleasurable and rewarding for his colleagues. He delights in the intricacies of even the most mundane tasks of resource procurement and contract management and instills that enthusiasm in others. I’ve never had a more supportive, trustworthy or smart colleague. I was proud to work hard in helping to achieve his vision.
— Susan MacBryde
Independent Development Consultant
J. Eric Smith called me in 2003 and asked me to perform at the Chapel + Cultural Center, and before I knew it, I was curating an entire performance series and art exhibition (yes, he’s a pretty smooth talker.) And then I was curating a second performance and art series, and then a third. He’s enthusiastic. He sees the big picture. He’s fun and easy to work with. He’s great at brainstorming. He gets things done. He smooths over kerfuffles. He manages the details. I would work with him again in a heartbeat.
— Sara Ayers
J. Eric Smith is a Naval Academy graduate and has a wealth of experience both within the Navy and after his naval career. Eric is a really polished individual, able to work with executive staff just as easily as the line staff. He’s a great organizer, never panics or makes a situation worse than it needs to be, and has a no-nonsense professional focus that reveals his Naval training.
— Steven Beditz
Vice President for Business and Finance
University at Albany
I started reading J. Eric Smith’s blog when it was parked on the Albany Times Union‘s site. I spend my days either trying to write well myself, or editing others’ work into something coherent, so I don’t have a lot of patience for tripe and piffle. And when he left the Times Union, I found that I was going over there far less often . . . his point of view was that unique and informed. Eric’s a damn fine writer, which I suspect stems from his native observational acuity and a background so interesting it includes both graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and spending time as a rock critic. I know numerous Academy grads and lots of rock critics, and Eric’s the only one who’s been able to merge those two Venn circles. Long story short, when he left the Times Union to start his own site, he asked me if I would be intereted in writing for it. I took it as a high honor to be asked. The man knows how to summon a sense of community within a scale that preserves that community’s sense of integrity and purpose.
Independent Writer and Editor
I served as University Auxillary Services (UAS) Board President while J. Eric Smith served as the Executive Director for UAS. Eric was very instrumental in the development of the UAS strategic plan. He kept on top of board and management to keep the process moving along. He recognized the importance of having a road map for the organization to work from. Eric proved to be a tough, but fair negotiator with UAS contractors and vendors. He set a positive tone and higher expectations for campus partners which resulted in service improvements on campus during his tenure. Eric always looked for service enhancement opportunities while successfully balancing his financial obligations to the organization. Eric’s understanding of risk management greatly decreased the identified risks to UAS and the University without impacting the flexibility necessary to serve the University. In fact, Eric found ways to increase flexibility by managing risk in a proactive manner. Particularly when dealing with corporate partners. Eric is a very ethical, strong, fair leader. He has a great attention to detail and is very effective and efficient in managing all his various responsibilities.
— Laurie Garafola
University Auxiliary Services at Albany, Inc.