Mike Smith and his two brothers, Jim and Ed, grew up in Lafayette, Indiana in a blue-collar family. Like his brothers, Smith went on to an incredibly successful business career, inspired in part by the adults who believed in him. Equally important, he says, was the belief instilled in the brothers that education could transform lives.
“We were fortunate to have high school teachers and counselors who helped us really see that higher education was a way to escape poverty,” says Mike Smith. “That truly opened our eyes to what our many opportunities could be.”
As epiphanies go, it was a big one. Smith’s business career was successful by any measure: After his initial position in the Indianapolis office of Arthur Andersen & Co., he became Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mayflower Group, Inc. before joining Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield where he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer until his retirement in 2005. In 2008 he co-founded Cardinal Equity Fund, a mid-market private equity investment fund headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Through it all, Smith never forgot the power of education or the role it played in his life. A 1970 graduate of DePauw University, Smith and his wife, Susan (Leet) Smith, who graduated from DePauw in 1971, have been tireless supporters of the power of education. Mike has served in leadership roles for numerous charitable and civic organizations promoting education for all Hoosiers and is currently serving on the Board of Trustees of DePauw University, the board of the Lumina Foundation and is also a past Chairman of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
In addition to a commitment to educational causes, Mike is involved with Shepherd Community Center, School on Wheels, the Community Challenge Network, Riley Children’s Foundation and Eskenazi Health Foundation. In 2010, Smith was inducted into the Indiana Academy on its 40th anniversary for a lifetime of achievement and contributions to the cultural, scientific, literary, civic, religious and educational development of Indiana. After retiring, he served as a leadership volunteer with several organizations, including Legacy Fund and Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Susan Smith has been involved with numerous Indianapolis-area not-for-profits, including Junior League of Indianapolis, Children’s Museum Guild and St. Margaret’s
Hospital Guild. She has also served as a board member for Dress for Success Indianapolis, as an advisor to Women’s Fund of Central Indiana and as a board member for Outrun the Sun.
In 2003, the couple established the Michael L. Smith and Susan L. Smith Family Fund at CICF. “Being on CICF boards and working with the staff as a grantor, we’ve been moved to streamline our philanthropy to make it more meaningful,” says Smith, whose fund focuses on four core areas of community improvement and is managed in part by the couple’s two children, Michael Smith and Sarah Hawkins.
“Having our whole family involved – both our kids with our fund and my brothers and their wives with the ASAP program – has represented a wonderful, special family opportunity.”
Working together with the Lumina Foundation, in 2010, the Smiths helped organized and endowed an accelerated associate degree program, called ASAP, for low-income Hoosier high school graduates at Ivy Tech. In 2013, Ivy Tech reported that 86 percent of ASAP students had earned a degree after 12 months or were still enrolled in the program, a rate that was five times better than the average Ivy Tech student. “It’s remarkable to witness these high-achieving youngsters model to their own families that higher education is accessible,” says Smith. “We have one student whose mother is returning to school and whose younger sister is now planning on getting a degree. These kids are an inspiration in their families.”
The Smith’s should know about inspiration: their devotion to community and to the power of education as means of creating opportunity for everyone serves as the highest standard for Central Indiana and beyond. Please join us as we recognize Mike and Sue Smith as 2015’s recipients of the Celebration of Philanthropy Living Legacy Award!