New book, speaking commitments push Alumni Association director to step down.

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

V.J. Smith announced last Friday that he will step down from his position as executive director of the SDSU Alumni Association come January.

“I am resigning because the alumni of South Dakota State University deserve a more focused and effective leader,” Smith said. “I’ve not been able to give full attention to the position for the past year.”

Smith has been contemplating resignation for several months.

“I don’t know if there is ever a good time to resign, especially from a job you truly love to do,” he said. “I really regret that I will not be able to work with Dr. David Chicoine, SDSU’s next president.”

Steve Erpenbach, Vice President of Development for the SDSU Foundation, said Smith has been a great asset to SDSU and the Alumni Association.

“It will leave a real void,” he said. “I’ve never seen another person who can speak to a group of alumni, who can make them laugh one minute and cry the next with stories about SDSU. Nobody makes you feel prouder to be a Jackrabbit.”

Resigning will allow Smith to become a full-time professional speaker.

“I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years on a part-time basis. However, since the publication of my book, ‘The Richest Man in Town,’ the speaking requests have increased to a point where I can no longer balance things,” he said. “Something had to change.”

Terry Nelson, president of the Alumni Council, said Smith’s resignation will present an opportunity, in conjunction with the new president, for the Alumni Association to grow and continue moving forward.

“He is a great individual and we’ll miss him,” he said.

Current SDSU President Peggy Miller said Smith was good at his job and an important player at the university.

“He has the spirit and enthusiasm of an undergraduate; the fondness of recollection of devoted alumni; the widest possible knowledge of the university’s history; a comprehensive understanding of the power of its traditions; and an unexcelled passion for its well-being,” she said. “He will be an enormous loss to the entire university family.”

Erpenbach said he expects Smith will continue working with the Alumni Association although he is no longer in the leadership role.

“He still bleeds yellow and blue and that isn’t going to change, though his title is,” he said.

Because the announcement is still fresh, Nelson said there are definite plans in how a replacement will be hired. He said he expects a search committee will be formed consisting of representatives from the Alumni Council, the Foundation and the university administration.

A replacement will probably be hired by Feb. 1, 2007, Smith said.

Smith was named executive director in 1996 after serving for six years as the assistant to the SDSU athletic director. A Eureka native, he graduated from SDSU in 1978 with degrees in political science and history. In 2003, he co-produced the book, “The College on the Hill,” and released “The Richest Man in Town,” in May 2005.