Smith’s Legacy

A Collegial Learning Community
March 1, 1996

Dr. Ronald L. Smith is retiring as president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy after nearly ten years. Since his arrival in August 1986, he has dedicated his efforts to strengthening the administrative operations of the Institute, expanding its teaching and publications programs, and refining its research agenda. In 1990-91 he oversaw the Institute’s move into historic Lincoln House, a state-of-the-art conference and office facility within blocks of Harvard University.

Smith’s management experience in industry and at universities prepared him well for the task of leading the Institute through its second decade. He created the current organizational structure of departments dedicated to education, research, publications and administrative services.

But more important than the functional breakdown is the style of working and learning that Smith brought to the Institute. The following excerpt from the Institute’s vision statement captures his goal.

“We strive to be a collegial learning community and to provide a rewarding place for study and work. With people and ideas, we seek the highest standards of integrity, mutual respect and devotion to truth. We believe that discovery and consensus also require listening and learning with open minds. We invite diverse points of view representing different cultures, from many intellectual disciplines and streams of thought, employing different methods of inquiry.”

Through new staff appointments and collaborations with related organizations concerned with interdisciplinary land and tax policy analysis, Smith has enhanced the Institute’s contributions to the field. Institute-sponsored education programs now teach several thousand people annually throughout the U.S. and in parts of Latin America and Eastern Europe. Expanded publications and research programs provide information in various printed and electronic formats to tens of thousands of policymakers, academics and citizens throughout the world.

Smith grew up in Indiana and earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute (GMI). He received his M.S. in industrial relations and his Ph.D. in organizational psychology and communication from Purdue University. From 1963 to 1973 he returned to work at General Motors Institute. After heading GMI’s Department of Communications and Organizational Behavior for six years, he became the fifth dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1973. Four years later he went to Georgetown University as professor of management and dean of the School of Business Administration, where he served until he came to the Lincoln Institute.

Among his professional and volunteer activities, Smith chairs the Advisory Committee for the Land Tenure Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is a past president of the Theta Xi national collegiate fraternity; the chapter at GMI recently established a scholarship award in his name. Smith and his wife, Betty, have three children and two grandchildren. They are active members of Old South Church in Boston. In his retirement Smith plans to spend time with his family and in his ongoing volunteer endeavors.

During the period between Smith’s retirement in late February and the appointment of a new president, Kathryn Lincoln will serve as interim president. She is the vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Institute and vice president of the Board of the Lincoln Foundation.