Ohio’s Extension leader retires after long, productive ride


Keith Smith is retiring after 35 years at Ohio State, the last 23 as director of OSU Extension.

COLUMBUS — This cowboy isn’t riding into the sunset.

Come Tuesday, June 30, Keith Smith’s last official day as director of Ohio State University Extension, you will find him on campus bright and early, riding herd over a series of business meetings and sporting his signature cowboy boots.

Smith retires after 35 years at The Ohio State University, 23 of them as head of Extension. Leading up to his last few weeks in office, he showed no signs of slowing down.

“I promised to stay engaged until June 30, and I am,” Smith said, after working until 9 p.m. the day before. “I’m trying not to leave too many untied ends.”

“Keith has led the organization through significant growth and has been a steady guide all the way through his final days as director, as the organization continues to adjust to rapid, societal changes,” said Bruce McPheron, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Extension is the college’s outreach arm.

“Ohioans, and indeed individuals across the country, will benefit from Keith’s leadership for years to come,” McPheron said.

Smith said his successor will inherit one of the top Extension organizations in the country. “The faculty and staff are eager to be creative and innovative. They are in constant search for better ideas,” he said.

The organization’s support for educators to attend national meetings and collaborate with their peers has helped build a strong organization, Smith said. OSU Extension employees have held leadership positions in all four national Extension program area professional organizations in the last five years and are frequent presenters at national meetings. In addition, OSU Extension educators can earn faculty positions at the county level.

Smith, who also serves as the university’s associate vice president for agricultural administration and the associate dean of the college, will continue in his role part-time as Gist Chair in Extension Education and Leadership after taking a couple of months off. He will also teach and advise students in the college’s Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership.

To honor his service, the university has established the Keith L. Smith Lecture on Innovation in Extension, fund 315170. Those who wish to contribute can do so at give.osu.edu.

Smith and his wife, Kathleen, live in Hilliard, and have eight children and 14 grandchildren.

A search for Smith’s replacement is underway. Until a successor is named, Greg Davis, OSU Extension’s assistant director of Community Development, will serve as interim director beginning July 1.

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