Gene Smith, The Ohio State University’s senior vice president and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director, will deliver the autumn commencement address next month.
Approximately 3,600 students will receive degrees or certificates at the ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Schottenstein Center.
“Gene Smith has led one of the nation’s premier athletic departments for nearly two decades and has been a dedicated and innovative supporter, leader and mentor to thousands of students and student-athletes over his career,” said Peter J. Mohler, PhD, acting president and executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge. “Beyond Ohio State, Gene has been a pioneer in shaping the future of collegiate athletics at the national level to support the student-athlete. He is an inspirational leader whose message will resonate with our graduates, their families and friends, and our Buckeye community.”
In August, Smith announced he would retire in July 2024. He has spent the past 18 years at Ohio State leading one of the largest and most successful athletic programs in the country, and he has worked 38 years as an athletics director.
“Commencement is an exciting day for our graduates and their loved ones. I am humbled and honored to serve as commencement speaker. I look forward to sharing a message to inspire these new Buckeye graduates as they embark on the next step of their lives,” Smith said. “I have become close to many of the students who will receive their degrees at this ceremony, and I hope to share some more wisdom and advice as they conclude their academic career.”
Smith leads with a philosophy of developing the “total student-athlete,” supporting academic achievement with athletic success. In 2022-23 alone, Ohio State reported 765 scholar-athletes, 190 Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholars and six Academic All-Americans.
During Smith’s tenure, Ohio State has dominated Big Ten Conference play, with 115 team and 369 individual conference championships. Nationally, Ohio State teams have won 32 team and 117 individual national championships during Smith’s tenure.
In addition to on-field accolades, Smith is renowned for preparing students for life after competition. He founded the Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute (EDSLI) at Ohio State to provide leadership, character and career development for all Ohio State student-athletes to prepare them for life after graduation.
EDLSI programs include Bucks Go Pro internships, job shadows/micro-internships, the Wolstein Leadership Academy, Buckeye road trips and more. As a measure of the institute’s impact, in 2022-23 a record 95% of the department’s graduating seniors had job offers, were accepted into graduate school or were pursuing professional sports.
Smith grew up in Cleveland and attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship. He played four years as a defensive end for the Irish and was a member of their 1973 Associated Press national championship team.
Smith received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Notre Dame in 1977.