About The Smith Family Business Initiative

John and Dyan Smith

John Smith, MBA ’74, and his wife, Dyan, have created the John and Dyan Smith Family Business Initiative with a $10 million gift to the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Why Family Business?

Family enterprises are the major drivers of the global economy. They span the economic spectrum from start-up through the largest and often oldest businesses in the world. For any entrepreneurial venture to move beyond conception, family invariably plays a critical role; whether to help vet new ideas, to take care of the books, to be the first round of official hires or seed funding. For any family business to move beyond the founding generation, they must bake entrepreneurship into their corporate DNA. It involves constant innovation, attention to new opportunities in the market and continually supplying added value to your customers. The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell is dedicated to supporting and strengthening the network of businesses that are family and privately owned.

Founded in 2014 from a generous gift from John and Dyan Smith, the Smith Family Business Initiative provides education, networking and research for family business owners, successors and students from across the globe. John Smith, MBA ’74, and Chairman of CRST International, shared upon announcing the gift, “It is in the best interest of family businesses and the country for these businesses to be carried on for many generations. With a focus on family businesses at Johnson, good research will be conducted, educational seminars will address the unique needs of family businesses, and prospective students will be drawn to Johnson because of the family business expertise on campus.”  Dyan Smith adds, “One of the main reasons we are moving forward with CRST remaining within our family is because of education. The initiative is the next step to putting Johnson in the forefront of family business management.” (Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 21, 2014)

The history of the Smith family business traces back to its entrepreneurial founder, Herald Smith. In 1955, Herald and Miriam Smith started Cedar Rapids Steel Transport out of a refurbished chicken coop they bought for $125. At the time, they had no trucks and no customers, but Herald, known as “Smitty,” convinced firms he could save them money. He contracted with owner/operators who were hauling livestock to Chicago to return to the Cedar Rapids area with loads of steel instead of empty trucks. Family owned to this day, CRST has evolved from a trucking firm to one of the nation’s leading providers of transportation solutions. (CRST website).