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Clifton M. “Clif” Smart III named Missouri State’s 11th president

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

President Clifton SmartClifton M. “Clif” Smart III was named the 11th president of Missouri State University. Smart, who served as interim president for the past 16 months, will begin his duties immediately (Oct. 16).

Smart was one of two candidates invited for on-campus interviews between Oct. 8-11. The other finalist was Dr. Randy J. Dunn, president of Murray State University in Kentucky, who withdrew via email Monday afternoon (Oct. 15).

Smart was introduced as the new president today (Oct. 16) in a ceremony in the Plaster Student Union Theater, with Board of Governors members on stage flanking Smart and his wife, Gail.  Members of the campus community and Springfield community filled the 450-seat theater.  Missouri State band members played the fight song as the Smarts walked onto the stage.

“First, I want to pay tribute to the Search Committee, headed by Joe Turner and Jim Anderson,” said Gordon Elliott, chair of the Board of Governors. “That committee provided the Board with two outstanding candidates. We were very impressed with Dr. Dunn and many of his ideas. We wish him well in his future endeavors.

“In the end, the Board believed that the 16-month experience the university had with Clif Smart was so positive and productive that it didn’t want to change direction or lose momentum. In many ways, it was the equivalent of a 16-month intense 24/7 job interview. Based on his performance during that time, we believe President Smart will lead the university well for many years to come.”

Smart joined Missouri State as general counsel on Dec. 1, 2007, after a successful 20-year legal career. He was named interim president June 27, 2011, when Dr. James E. Cofer Sr., the 10th president, announced his plans to return to the faculty.

“Gail and I are excited to take on the leadership of the university permanently,” said Smart. “I’ve challenged our folks to think bigger and bolder so this university becomes what we all want it to be as we truly grow into our name. I want to thank the search committee and the board for their confidence in me, and I look forward to working with the board and our faculty, staff, students and alumni for many years to come.”

During the 16 months under interim president Smart, Missouri State accomplished much, including:

  • Collaborating on a variety of initiatives with other higher education institutions, both in Springfield and around the state, including finalizing the new cooperative Doctor of Pharmacy degree program with the University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Setting an enrollment record on the Springfield Campus this fall
  • Breaking the record for private gifts in a single year with more than $20 million contributed
  • Providing a salary increase to employees for the first time in three years
  • Hiring the first permanent vice president for diversity and organizing the division of  diversity and inclusion
  • Changing policies to eliminate car allowances for administrators and alter provisions for administrators returning to faculty
  • Establishing a shared leave policy
  • Restoring and building relationships on campus, in the community as well as statewide

Smart signed a contract that runs through June 30, 2018, with the first year salary of $275,000. He also will receive a housing allowance of $40,000 per year in recognition of the events that will be hosted there, and he will retain the presidential memberships to Hickory Hills Country Club and The Tower Club.

At this morning’s event, Smart announced that he and Gail would donate the $40,000 housing allowance to the Missouri State Foundation.

“To show my commitment to the university,” Smart announced, “earlier this morning we created the Gail and Clif Smart Professorship in Agriculture ($30,000 per year for 10 years) and wrote a check for $10,000 to support Tent Theater in its 50th year of operation and join the 50 for the 50th Fund.

“We wanted to support our William H. Darr School of Agriculture because of the great research it is doing at the research campus in Mountain Grove; because I support improving faculty salaries and this is one of our strongest departments, but has no endowed faculty positions;  because the School of Agriculture has grown in enrollment and, therefore, needs additional resources; and because I wanted to honor my grandfather, who is one of the people I pattern my life on – the original ‘Clifton Smart’ – and who farmed cotton in Mississippi County, Ark., for 60 plus years.”

President Smart Background

Before being named general counsel, Smart was with The Strong Law Firm for 15 years from 1992-2007. He was a shareholder in the firm from 1995-2007 and vice president from 1998-2007. In the firm, his practice consisted primarily of representing individuals and entities in catastrophic injury, medical malpractice and commercial cases.

Smart was selected to the panel of three applicants submitted to the governor for the vacant Missouri Supreme Court positions in 2002 and 2004. In February 2009, he was elected for a five-year term as one of the two lawyer members of the 31st Circuit Judicial Commission.

Smart was listed in Best Lawyers in America for 2007-08 in the fields of product liability, personal injury and professional negligence.

Prior to joining The Strong Law Firm, Smart worked for two years with the firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings in Little Rock, Ark. From 1986-90, he was with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. in Ft. Knox, Ky.

Smart graduated from Fayetteville High School in 1979 where he was valedictorian. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University in 1983, graduating Summa Cum Laude.

In 1986, he graduated with his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law with high honors. While in law school, he received the Leflar Scholarship, was an Oxford Scholar and was on the Law Review.

The Smarts have two sons: Murray, who along with his wife, Amy, both graduated in 2012 from Southwest Baptist University and live in Rogers, Ark., with their daughter, Addy (who will soon be one); and Jim, a sophomore at Hamilton College in New York.

Summary of Search Process

The Board announced on March 8 that it would go forward with a search for the 11th president.  The committee was named March 30 with its first meeting on May 11. The preferred date to receive applications was July 15. On Sep. 24, following an in-depth review and evaluation by the Search Committee, the Board announced the two finalists who had been recommended. The interviews occurred Oct. 8-11.

The Board met in executive session on Monday (Oct. 15) to discuss the search and make a final decision. In accordance with the Missouri Open Meetings, Open Records Law (Sunshine Law), the university has 72 hours in which to announce personnel actions taken in closed session. The vote to hire Smart was unanimous.

Media Contact

  • Paul Kincaid
  • (417) 836-5139


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