Lisa and Greg Smith
Giving Students the World
GREG (HCB, ’85) AND LISA SMITH share a passion for helping students succeed and experience the world. The couple became interested in supporting the Global Leadership Scholars (GLS) program at the Haslam College of Business about a decade ago. In 2016, they invested a naming gift, creating the Greg and Lisa Smith GLS program.
“The thing I like most about it is the international aspect,” Greg Smith says. “Students are exposed to different cultures and environments, which opens up windows of insight and opportunity that they might have never experienced otherwise.” The couple enjoys reading letters from students each year and meeting GLS participants when they’re in Knoxville. “It’s really heartwarming to hear some of their experiences and how their lives have been changed,” says Lisa.
STEPPING INTO SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT
Greg’s interest in fostering international perspectives mirrors his own career interest in global supply chain management. After earning a degree in finance from the Haslam College of Business, Smith was uncertain about which path he wanted to take. He looked at sales opportunities, banking, and manufacturing before visiting a factory early in his career to see what was involved in supply chain and operations. He came away intrigued. “I’ve always been mechanically inclined and I enjoy solving problems, and that’s what supply chain management is all about,” he says.
After several years in the industrial engineering field, Lisa chose to become a full-time mom to their four children. Meanwhile, Greg’s work took the family on a series of moves. As his career progressed, he gained broader exposure to the overall supply chain and started to build skills in procurement as well. While he held positions in other areas, Greg was always drawn back to supply chain and operations.
His varied experience includes roles at Quaker Oats, ConAgra Foods, and The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, where he was responsible for purchasing, manufacturing, and supply chain management.
In 2017, Greg became the executive vice president of supply chain at Walmart, which operates one of the largest supply chains in the world. He began his role as new processes, systems, and approaches were transforming the retail giant into a more digital environment. “Walmart has made significant investments in e-commerce, and I had the opportunity to lead the combined supply chains between stores and the e-commerce side of the business.” His responsibilities involved planning, warehousing, and transportation.
In 2021, Greg joined Medtronic as executive vice president of global operations and supply chain. The company’s compelling mission makes the work incredibly satisfying. A healthcare technology company, Medtronic innovates solutions to treat more than 70 health conditions, including Parkinson’s and diabetes, with devices such as insulin pumps and pacemakers. “Our products help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. It’s a very rewarding place to work because of the impact on people’s lives.”
At Medtronic, Greg oversees products all the way from the planning stages to final delivery. The role has meant moving back into end-to-end global supply chain and operations, something Greg says he missed. It’s also meant a recent move from northwest Arkansas to Wayzata, Minnesota, just west of Minneapolis. While they haven’t yet weathered a full winter there, they love the community.
During his years at the forefront of global supply chain management, Greg has developed a vision of what it means to direct others well. “I believe in servant leadership,” he says. “You engage, enable, and empower associates to reach their fullest potential—and then get out of their way so they can achieve what they didn’t believe was possible.” At Walmart, he led 135,000 people on supply chain operations teams and at Medtronic, he’s at the helm of 41,000 supply chain-focused team members.
Another responsibility Greg takes seriously is staying active with the Haslam College of Business. He serves on the Dean’s Advisory Council and the Global Supply Chain Institute. “It’s a great experience,” he says. “I enjoy interfacing with both groups, hearing their points of view, staying current with the college, and being able to participate and make an impact.” He also mentors a number of students, some through his participation in Haslam’s Executive in Residence program and others who are part of the Smith GLS program.
Mark Moon, former director of the Smith GLS program, says Smith’s contribution at Haslam includes the gifts of time, talent, and treasure. “Greg’s impact goes far beyond financial support,” says Moon. “The time he spends with the undergraduate students during his annual visits to campus is incredibly impactful. He provides guidance to students, equipping them with wisdom as they head off into their professional lives. He is a humble and positive role model, and the students benefit tremendously from his guidance.”
Jim Newsome, president and CEO of South Carolina Ports Authority and Smith’s longtime friend and colleague, agrees. “Greg Smith is one of the most accomplished leaders in supply chain and operations management in US industry,” Newsome says. “The Smiths’ sponsorship of the Global Leadership Scholars program is a tangible sign of their deep commitment and love for the University of Tennessee and Haslam.”
Ultimately, the Smiths’ generosity reflects their deeply held values. “Whether it’s monetary or time commitments, it’s about giving back,” Greg says. “We’ve been successful and blessed, and being able to influence and help other people in ways that can improve their lives is very important to us.”