May 13, 2022

Gene Smith Receives David Williams II Leadership Award  


COLUMBUS, Ohio Gene Smith, Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director at Ohio State University, was honored with the David Williams II Leadership Award by the Lead1 Association at its 2022 Collegiate Sports Summit, held in Dallas.

The award is presented to an athletics director who personifies exemplary leadership, vision, service, and dedication in intercollegiate athletics.

And like the award’s namesake, the honoree of this award has a strong admiration for people, and for helping them achieve to their fullest potential on and off the playing fields.

“Gene is completely and passionately focused on making a difference for young men and young women,” Sandy Barbour, recently retired athletics director at Penn State, said.

Pat Chun, director of athletics at Washington State University and an athletics administrator at Ohio State for 15 years, culminating as executive associate athletics director, also focused on the people aspect of Smith’s leadership qualities.

“We’ve been so fortunate to learn from Gene for so many years, to watch him do it with a servant’s heart, with humility, toughness, integrity and living his values every single day,” Chun said.

“Gene is a walking example of leadership, regardless if it’s college athletics, business or families. He understands the role of a leader and how his role can help people accomplish their goals.”

David Williams II was at Ohio State for 14 years, from 1986-2000 and was vice president for student and urban/community affairs when he left for Vanderbilt University and positions as vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs, and athletics director. He passed away in 2019.

“I feel so honored and privileged to have the opportunity to receive this award in David’s name,” Smith said. “He was a trailblazer. We’re both very different in where we came from, but we shared one passion and that was the student-athletes that all of us in this room serve.

“We cannot forget the ecosystem we serve: it’s those young people that we’re blessed to serve every day. We need to help them understand that they have a chance in our society to be leaders.”

Smith is in his 18th year at Ohio State. He is a Buckeye through and through, a fan and a cheerleader. And his efforts influence and touch more than 1,000 student-athletes across an athletics program that features 36 varsity sports.