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MSU president given Lifetime Achievement in Business honor

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Outgoing Missouri State University president Clif Smart is Springfield Business Journal’s 2024 Lifetime Achievement in Business honoree.

An independent panel of judges selected Smart to be recognized July 25 during the Economic Impact Awards, along with corporate awards acknowledging excellence in business, including employee and revenue volumes and impact on the community.

Smart began his tenure as president in 2011, serving in an interim capacity for one year. Before becoming the university’s 11th president, he served as its legal counsel.

During his tenure, MSU set new records for undergraduate, graduation, underrepresented and international student enrollment and achieved record state funding, helping to keep tuition hikes below the level of inflation.

Smart’s presidency coincided with the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history, with the Onward Upward campaign bringing in $274 million by its conclusion in 2022.

MSU began offering doctoral degrees in occupational therapy, psychology, and defense and strategic studies under Smart’s leadership. A collaboration with the University of Missouri led to engineering and pharmacy programs in Springfield.

The Efactory, the university’s business incubator, opened in 2013 and continues to expand. During Smart’s tenure, the IDEA Commons Research Park and Brick City came into being alongside the Roy Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center and spurred an economic renaissance in downtown Springfield.

Glass Hall was renovated into a state-of-the-art business facility. New campus facilities include the Magers Health and Wellness Center, Davis-Harrington Welcome Center, Allison North and South Stadiums, the Foster Family Recreation Center, the O’Reilly Clinical Health Sciences Center, and John Goodman Amphitheater. Heitz House, the first new residence hall in 30 years, was built through a public-private partnership with Bryan Student Housing LLC.

Numerous programs were implemented under Smart’s leadership to increase diversity, inclusion and accessibility for staff and students. This year, Missouri State athletics stepped up to the Conference of USA.

Smart has served as chair of the Missouri Council on Public Higher Education, Missouri Valley Conference Presidents Council, Missouri Valley Football Conference Presidents Council and United Way of the Ozarks, among other board and committee roles.

Earlier this year, he was presented with the honorary Key to the City from the city of Springfield, as well as the Bronze Bear Award from MSU.

His legacy – and name – will continue at the university through the Clifton M. Smart III Advancement Center, expected to be completed on campus in 2026 to serve as the new home for university advancement, the Alumni Association and the Missouri State Foundation.

“I was stunned to learn someone had given an anonymous lead gift to name the advancement center in my honor,” Smart said. “I have loved being president of this university and am so pleased my name will be forever associated with it. Thank you.”

SBJ’s 24th annual Economic Impact Awards will also present company honors in five categories based on years in business. Top honors in each category will be announced at the event next month. Finalists, in alphabetical order, are:

Next Level Solutions and Smash My Trash, in the 1-10 years in business category.
Phoenix Home Care & Hospice, Sun Solar LLC and Toth and Associates Inc., for 11-20 years in business.
Ireland Architects Inc., Little Sunshine's Enterprises Inc. and Oasis Hotel & Convention Center, for 21-35 years in business.
Arc of the Ozarks, Gold Mechanical Inc. and The Kitchen Inc., for 36-74 years in business.
City Utilities of Springfield, CoxHealth and Crawford Murphy & Tilly Inc., for 75 years or more in business.

Find more information about the event at


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