The late Jim Smith, who elevated construction education at Texas A&M as an administrator and professor after a stellar industry career, was honored Feb. 24, 2017 with a posthumous lifetime achievement award by the American Council for Construction Education. Smith died April 20, 2015.
The honor, the ACCE Mark Benjamin Lifetime Achievement Award, was announced during the Orlando, Fla. midyear meeting of the ACCE, a leading, global advocate of quality construction education that promotes, supports, and accredits quality construction education programs.
An ACCE committee recognized Smith after reviewing submissions for the award, which honors an individual who has demonstrated a profound effect on construction education over a lifetime of achievements, or activities that promote quality construction education and support the development of the next generation of professional construction leadership in the United States.
“He led the significant expansion and academic advancement of what was already one of the largest and most mature construction science departments in the country,” said Mike Holland, president of the ACCE. “He also oversaw the development of faculty who now teach at Texas A&M and many additional universities.”
Smith also chaired the ACCE’s accreditation committee for seven years and led many of the group’s additional projects and initiatives.
Smith arrived at Texas A&M in 1996, heading the Department of Construction Science until September 2004 when he began to focus on teaching.
In 1996, Smith founded the Construction Industry Advisory Council, a group of leading builders who play a multifaceted, critical role in Texas A&M construction education by advising department administrators and faculty about contemporary construction developments, connecting with students looking for jobs or internships at departmental career fairs and providing financial support to the department.
“Over the years, Smith’s creation has turned into the largest advisory group in the nation, with more than 160 member companies that are eager to hire our graduates,” said Joe Horlen, head of the department. “Since CIAC’s inception, builders have contributed more than $13 million to the department for student scholarships, professorships and the renovation of Francis Hall,” he said. Francis Hall is the home of construction education at Texas A&M.
Smith, who held the Harold L. Adams '61 Endowed Interdisciplinary Professorship in Construction Science, also established a strong legacy as a professor and mentor, said Leslie Feigenbaum, senior lecturer of construction science and assistant dean of academic affairs at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture.
“He challenged his students with complex and innovative assignments that left them well prepared for their professional careers,” he said. “He devoted the preparation time and performed the advance planning necessary to integrate multiple disciplines into a single class while placing assignments into a professional practice context.”
Smith’s excellence in the classroom was recognized in 2012 with the Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Achievement award for teaching. In an award nomination letter, a student wrote that “Dr. Smith has shown complete dedication to the students in his class. It seems as if he is always in his office with students.”
Smith arrived at Texas A&M already having established a lengthy, distinguished career as a military builder, congressional staffer and project administrator.
As a member of the Army Corps of Engineers from 1962-75, Smith oversaw building projects supporting U. S. armed forces in Japan and Vietnam.
From 1975-85, Smith was a member of Mississippi Senator Senator John Stennis’ staff, helping to execute Defense Department construction projects that, in 1985, totaled $9.3 billion in more than 7000 projects at 1500 locations around the world.
He also managed Army research, development and procurement programs as well as intelligence programs for the Department of Defense and the CIA.
Between 1985 and his 1996 arrival at Texas A&M, Smith was an executive with CRSS Inc. and Brown & Root, Inc., overseeing the design and construction of transportation, water resource and Department of Defense projects throughout the world.
He earned a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering in 1976 at Texas A&M, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering at Texas A&M in 1970 and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in 1961.