John Smith ’71, 2012 Distinguished Achievement Award

John M. Smith, Class of 1971, you have the distinction of earning degrees from both Cornells, and we consider ourselves fortunate that Cornell College is the school you’ve chosen to benefit so greatly.

View the award presentation and acceptance speech

John Smith '71
John Smith ’71 and Cornell President Jonathan Brand.

Since 1983, when you took over CRST International from your father, the company has grown tremendously, with revenues of more than $1 billion annually and more than 5,000 workers. You have been a leader in your industry, serving on the boards of the American Trucking Association and the Iowa Motor Truck Association. Your business acumen in guiding the company through deregulation and into its current success has been recognized in the highest echelons of shipping and transport.

Former Kansas Governor Bill Graves, who serves as president of the American Trucking Association, has said that while many firms did not survive deregulation, CRST was at the forefront of the transition because you worked hard and worked smart. He has called you a national opinion leader who does not just sit on boards but is an active, passionate participant.

Your success goes far beyond the boardroom—your philanthropy and leadership have enhanced Eastern Iowa in particular and the world in general and have immeasurably strengthened your alma mater. You and your wife, Dyan, an honorary alumna, support causes across the spectrum of education, healthcare, economic development, and the arts. Your support of the community was never more evident than four years ago, when floods devastated Cedar Rapids. Your support of Block by Block, which is still working to return homeowners to flood-damaged properties, allowed what has been hailed as a model of community-supported disaster recovery to thrive.

Among your numerous awards are the 2010 Cedar Rapids Rotary Community Service Award and the 2008 Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa Business Hall of Fame Laureate. You are a fixture on the Corridor Business Journal’s list of the most influential people in the Corridor. In 2011, you and Dyan were named the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation’s Philanthropists of the Year.

Few places have benefited from your philanthropy as much as Cornell College. Your leadership as chair of the college’s Board of Trustees and as chair of the record-breaking Extraordinary Opportunities Campaign includes a $5 million personal contribution. Extraordinary barely begins to cover your dedication. You will go anywhere to seek financial support for Cornell, and as a trustee, you never say no to any request that will help advance your school.

John, your leadership and success in business and philanthropy capture the highest ideals and aspirations of a liberal arts education. It gives me tremendous pleasure to award you the highest joint honor of the college and the Alumni Association. I hereby bestow upon you, John M. Smith, the Distinguished Achievement Award.

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