George "Bill" Smith

George "Bill" Smith
2002 Award of Honor

Reflecting on the success in his life, George "Bill" Smith credits East Tennessee State University with opening many avenues in his life. The initial road led away from ETSU; however, after many years, Smith returned to the Tri-Cities and the university. Both have truly benefited from his return.

In August of 1951, a road opened for a beginning with Redstone Arsenal (now NASA) in Huntsville, Ala., in the space program. However, another avenue was calling that led Smith back to the place he called home. He joined the Celotex Corporation, which left him traveling in East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. While on his travels, Smith began volunteering at ETSU and getting involved with the university's activities.

After staying with Celotex for 17 years, Smith was hired by the Paty Company as General Sales Manager. That's what led him back to East Tennessee, where he has left his mark and probably helped many attend sporting events. Smith convinced the Paty Company to sponsor and build the first exterior ticket booths at Memorial Center.

With his love of sports, Smith became involved with the BUC-O-MO Club, which is now the Pirate Club (ETSU's athletic booster organization). Smith left the Paty Company after working 15 years and proceeded to buy two Ace Hardware stores -- one in Bristol, the other in Kingsport where he lived. While in Kingsport, Smith not only gave back to ETSU, but also to that community as president of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.

Smith later went on to work for Heritage Federal Bank, serving as the Executive Vice President of the Johnson City, Boones Creek, and Elizabethton branches. ETSU was a prime account for Heritage Federal Bank, which was another road that brought Smith even closer in supporting his alma mater. As usual, Smith's love for his community spearheaded him to become the chairman of Springfest for the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, along with being involved with the Kiwanis, Munsey United Methodist Church, and a director for the Appalachian District Fair.

Smith says that many things enticed him to go to East Tennessee State University, but his family's influence was probably the most prevalent. His mother, father, aunt, and sister, as well as many friends encouraged him to travel the road to ETSU. Smith claims that ETSU is one of the best places he has ever been in his life and in his words, "it opened up many roads now that I look back."

Smith and his wife Mary Lee enjoy spending time with each other and spend six months each year in their Florida home. Their children, Scott Smith of Gray and Sherry Honeycutt of Johnson City, are a big part of their lives.