Service Beyond a Cell Tower
Marquett Smith '85 lives by his values — engagement, giving back and helping others.
By Stephanie D. Overton
If Marquett Smith ’85 had a highlight reel, it would be filled with stories of hard work, determination and success. He set goals, reached milestones and earned new opportunities through dedication and staying the course. He has made some impressive moves along the way.
Smith’s career began at Sprint after graduating from Radford University. Five years later, he was recruited by America Online (AOL) to lead the company’s expansion from one to five customer support centers. By 2002, after completing the Executive Management Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holding positions at Cybercash and Interliant, he began his executive career at Verizon Wireless. He swiftly moved up through the Verizon ranks, with titles of director of customer service, director of retail stores, executive vice president of customer service, president of the upstate New York region, chief communications officer, vice president for Verizon Enterprise Services and then to his final role as region president of Verizon Wireless of Washington/Baltimore/Virginia. In this role, Smith was responsible for profit and loss and operations with a $2.8 billion revenue stream for the nation’s largest wireless company.
He earned numerous awards, including being a two-time winner of Verizon Wireless’ President’s Cabinet Award for sales excellence and the prestigious Verizon Chairman’s Award for outstanding business leadership. Among his achievements, Smith includes mentoring other leaders to become top-performing executives and raising the bar on corporate giving and engagement with the community.
“I believe that one critical measure of success is how many lives you positively impact along the way … making a difference in the lives of others is a blessing and not an obligation,” Smith said.
His Radford experience continued to impact him long after graduation. Professors used varying approaches to teach those who learned in different ways, whether it be written, verbal or hands-on, made an impression on him and his career.
“This multifaceted approach to education and teaching others worked for me as a student, and I subsequently employed it when developing high performance teams,” Smith said.
If there is a common thread woven throughout Smith’s life, it is his focus on engagement, giving and service.
In 2019, he was awarded the Radford University Alumni Association Outstanding Service Award, which recognizes a graduate who has made exceptional contributions to furthering the mission of the University and has demonstrated how alumni can continue to support their community and Radford University through their time, talent and resources.
In remarks given at the awards presentation, executive director of alumni relations Laura Turk praised Smith’s enthusiasm for Radford University and “his ripple effect on other alumni, students and the Radford community.”
“His commitment to Radford has never wavered. He is a humble leader, who provides selfless acts of kindness,” Turk said.
“I love the Radford culture — the solid mentoring, meaningful contributions and engagement. I want to see Radford University continue to gain prominence in the Commonwealth and nationally … growing with an unwavering commitment to education,” Smith said.
He values the opportunities Radford has created for him and his daughter, Cassidy Smith ’19. So much so, that he created the endowed fund CARE — The Cassidy Achievement, Resource and Equality Fund — to honor his daughter and assist students from diverse ethnic backgrounds that experience an immediate personal need for funds to continue their education at Radford.
“Service, to me, boils down to assisting those in need by sharing your personal resources — time, talent, treasure and a willingness to coach,” Smith said. “It’s important to me that we all take action and help others.”
In his community, he has been involved in a variety of initiatives, including serving on boards for United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Washington, D.C. Public Library.
Service, to me, boils down to assisting those in need by sharing your personal resources - time, talent, treasure and a willingness to coach. It's important to me that we all take action and help others."
He believes the most meaningful way to personally make an impact on others is by leveraging resources to assist them. Smith says it is “more than check writing, let’s roll up our sleeves and get involved.”
Reflecting on his journey, he is focused and appreciative of those who have helped him.
“I could not have achieved any of this alone,” Smith shared in his alumni awards remarks. “Yes, I worked hard, but there was also support provided to me by loved ones and people I encountered along the journey. For me, Radford University played a major role in my progress through life. Radford laid the foundation for my success.”
He encourages others to get engaged. “There’s no amount of time or money that’s too big or too small. The satisfaction that you will get from helping our leaders of tomorrow will prove to be life changing,” Smith said.
He achieved another major milestone in 2015 — retirement at the age of 53. Nowadays, he’s able to devote time to his hobbies, like playing saxophone at local gatherings of jazz musicians.
Smith once said that he doesn’t hang up awards or plaques. “I’ll put them up when I’m done, but for now there is more to be done,” he stated.
Whether he is officially “done” or not, maybe in retirement he will take some time to hang a plaque or two.