Bill Smith

“My education at the community college gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to know better how to learn, to know I can lead.”

Every good structure starts with a good foundation. And the structure of one’s life is no exception. A prime example of this is William “Bill” Smith, who credits his community college experience as providing the fundamentals that launched his life’s work.

Bill graduated in 2001 from the former Jefferson Community College, now Eastern Gateway Community College, and immediately parlayed his associate’s degree in computer information systems into a promotion.

He credits the leadership skills he learned in the classroom and through Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and other student events for his career advancement. Through the economic downturn and job eliminations, Bill moved up the career ladder through several management positions. Recently, he took advantage of the growing oil and gas industry, securing a job as an environmental health and safety field representative for Great Plains, an oil field rental division of Chesapeake Energy. His territory covers Eastern Ohio.

A few years after gaining his associate’s degree, Bill obtained his bachelor’s degree from West Liberty State College, where he was awarded the Regents Degree which combines life experience with required classes. In 2010, he earned his master’s degree in safety management from West Virginia University.

Bill said it was harder to earn his associate’s degree than his bachelor’s or master’s degrees. “My education at the community college gave me the confidence to believe in myself, to know better how to learn, to know I can lead,” Bill said. “I know it has led me to a better life and to help others.”

He credits two brief encounters to be the heart of his career and life catalyst. During preparation for an honor society event, Bill was allowed to use the community college president’s office to make calls to community and government leaders to participate in a future-focused event. “I thought as I was sitting in the president’s chair: I can do this. I was a guy from the local mill, but I realized I could step up and do this.” The second incident was following his graduation when the dean of his division said to Bill that she was looking forward to his return to the college as a teacher. “That drove me to get my bachelor’s,” he said.

Without his education, Bill said he would still be a worker on the machine line. “My degrees opened the doors I wanted to enter. They have led to the experiences that make me marketable in today’s changing workforce,” he said.
Moving through his education and supervisory experiences, Bill has been a wonderful role model for his son. During a recently successful job interview for a supervisory position, his son was asked how he knew he would be capable of leading workers old enough to be his parents. His son said he would give the interviewer his father’s number because he was the one who taught him what it is to be a supervisor.

Bill gives back to his community on several fronts. He is one of the lead organizers for a 5K fund-raiser for cancer victims. (His wife, a cancer survivor, walked slowing in her first race but the following year ran to complete the race.) As a volunteer recently named to the board of directors for Brooke Hills Park, Bill set up the park’s safety program and leads fund-raising efforts for equipment to support the program. A youth baseball umpire for years, Bill recently took on the role of EGCC Alumni Association Council member.

Taking on the role of chairman of the Brooke County, WV, Republican Executive Committee, Bill rejuvenated the party’s presence in the county. He also served on the state platform committee to develop the statewide party agenda.

Bill Smith is an outstanding nominee for the Ohio Association of Community Colleges Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2013. The launching of his career and personal growth through his educational experiences at the community college is nothing short of life-changing.

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