February 5, 2004 - Lafayette Journal and Courier: Micronesia RPCV Jim Smyth to retire as director of United Way of Greater Lafayette

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Micronesia: Peace Corps Micronesia : The Peace Corps in Micronesia: February 5, 2004 - Lafayette Journal and Courier: Micronesia RPCV Jim Smyth to retire as director of United Way of Greater Lafayette

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Micronesia RPCV Jim Smyth to retire as director of United Way of Greater Lafayette

Micronesia RPCV Jim Smyth to retire as director of United Way of Greater Lafayette

Longtime director of United Way to step down

By Max Showalter, Journal and Courier

After a three-decade association with United Way of Greater Lafayette, the last 23 years as executive director, Jim Smyth is preparing to retire.

When they meet next week, the United Way board of directors will consider Smyth's request to step down at the end of July, which works well with the timetable for the organization's 2004 fund-raising campaign.

"From a planning perspective, our planning and allocation sequence is done. Our goal is set and our Pacesetter kickoff will be held at the end of July," Smyth, 58, said Wednesday. "You've got to know when it's time. I started to feel that over the past year."

Ed Price, who will become United Way's board president at the Feb. 11 meeting, said it won't be easy to replace Smyth.

"It's miraculous what he's been doing," Price said. "Jim has done a really good job for United Way, the agencies and the community and has always gotten some really good support."

Price said the organization's board and executive committee must decide how to replace Smyth after accepting his resignation.

A native of Chicago and graduate of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., Smyth spent two years in the Peace Corps in the Palau Islands of Micronesia, owned and managed a restaurant in Daytona Beach, Fla., and served as a consultant with the Florida Division of Family Services before becoming affiliated with United Way.

He received a graduate school scholarship from United Way and worked briefly with the organization in St. Louis before moving to Lafayette in 1974.

After serving seven years as associate director for planning and allocation, Smyth was named executive director of the organization in 1981.

His wife, Carolyn, retired from a management position with the Caterpillar Large Engine Center in Lafayette three years ago. The couple has two sons and two grandchildren.

"The funny thing is, in retrospect, when we came here I'd never been in Indiana. We thought maybe we'd be here three or four years and then move on to a bigger city or a bigger United Way. But this community and its quality of life just sort of wrapped its arms around us. Work life and community life, we just didn't think we could beat it anywhere."

With a staff of eight employees and hundreds of volunteers, United Way raises funds to assist 25 agencies that benefit the elderly, children, families and individuals.

Accessible, a gentleman

Through her position as executive director of the Hanna Community Center, Sana Booker has worked with Smyth the past two years.

"He is extremely accessible. I could always pick up the telephone and talk with him and he is great on follow through," Booker said. "If he told you he'd get an answer for you, that's what he did.

"He was personally supportive of our center. He has an easy manner and I enjoy what appeared to me to be a kindness that he had and a caring for the agencies that were part of his charge."

The campaign goal has been met in each of the past 29 years, but extraordinary efforts were necessary in 2002 and 2003 to keep the continuous streak alive by reaching the target of $4.665 million each year.

A last-minute allocation from Greater Lafayette Community Foundation allowed the goal to be met last year, but the struggle to raise funds was not a factor in Smyth's decision to retire.

"I've been around long enough to see business cycles and changes. United Way has always been there to help," he said. "I'm confident, based on that ability to keep in touch with the community, that United Way will be a problem-solving force for many years."

John Willis, chairman of the 2003 campaign, describes Smyth as "a gentleman," and said that trait didn't change through the tension-filled final days of last year's fund-raising effort.

"Jim knows his job and does it with an element of class. But he's a fighter. He's always fought for the agencies," Willis said. "From my perspective, (being chairman) was a labor of love, but it was not nearly as traumatic as I had been led to believe.

"A lot of that has to do with the support volunteers receive from Jim and the staff. They take a lot of pressure off. He has always been truly a part of this community. From the health and human services standpoint, he's a fixture."

Smyth has no immediate plans for his retirement, but a love of hunting and fishing will undoubtedly be involved.

"It was kind of dumb luck to land in one of the best communities in the nation, with one of the best United Ways in the nation. And that's not because of me. You can always find a good mechanic," he said. "The volunteer spirit, the opportunity to work with some of the best people in this community -- it's a great organization. I'm proud to be part of it.

"I'm pleased to know long after I'm gone it will be a community force. It's been exciting to see young leadership come up through the ranks and be as committed as they are. United Way is alive and well in the community."

What's next?

The board of directors of United Way of Greater Lafayette will hold its 80th annual meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11. The meeting will be held at United Way headquarters, 1114 State St. in Lafayette.

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Story Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier

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