Hailing from a familial background in education, Dr. Marshall S. Smith found the career path to be a natural one. While pursuing a doctorate degree, he served his alma mater, Harvard University, as an instructor from 1966 to 1970 before being promoted to assistant professor in 1970 and associate professor in 1972, a position he held for four years. Relocating to Washington, DC, soon thereafter, he served the National Institute of Education as a visiting scholar and assistant and associate director; the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the assistant commissioner of education; and the U.S. Department of Education as chief of staff to the secretary. Beginning in 1980, Dr. Smith was a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for six years before becoming dean of the Stanford University School of Education until 1994, where he also served as a professor until 2001.
On leave from Stanford until 2000, Dr. Smith served as the Under-Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education for seven years, and for four of those years, also served as the acting deputy secretary. After leaving the government, he resigned from Stanford and joined the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as the Director of the Education Program, and in 2009, rejoined the federal government as a Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Education, where he also was the Director of Foreign Affairs. He now serves as a part time Senior Scholar in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
During his tenure as Dean at Stanford, Dr. Smith broadened the diversity of the School of Education’s faculty and emphasized the need to focus research on ways of improving schools for minority youth. He also co-authored three papers that expressed the need for systemic change to American education by focusing school efforts to align instruction with common challenging education standards. He went on leave from Stanford in 1992 to be a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and, after Bill Clinton was elected, joined his transition team and then was confirmed as the Under-Secretary of Education. As under-secretary, one of his responsibilities was developing policy and preparing legislation. In this capacity, he oversaw the development of legislation in a variety of areas, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, where he helped make significant changes based on his earlier papers.
At the Hewlett foundation, Dr. Smith focused his work on improving the quality of education in California and on the development of “open education resources” (OER). The OER work was spurred by an initial grant to MIT in 2001 to make their course materials open and free to all on the world wide net. This extraordinary idea led to similar work all over the world.
Dr. Smith has contributed over 100 published articles, reports and book chapters to professional journals. The co-author of “The General Inquirer” in 1967 and “Inequality” in 1972, he holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate degree from Harvard University and has earned myriad accolades and honors in recognition of his service to education. He also recently co-authored “Opportunity for All: A Framework for Quality and Equality in Education” with Jennifer A. O’Day in August 2019 through Harvard Education Press. The proud father of four children, he also has seven grandchildren. In his spare time, he enjoys dedicating his efforts to environmental conservation and other philanthropic deeds.
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