FAU and Friends Honor Phil Smith for His Generosity

Friends and colleagues gathered at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale recently to honor Phil Smith, a leading Broward County businessman who recently gave his alma mater, FAU, a generous gift.

FAU officially announced a $5 million gift in August from Phil and Susan Smith to establish the Phil Smith Center for Free Enterprise at FAU’s College of Business. The main tower at the College will be named Phil Smith Hall in honor of the FAU alumnus.


By james-hellegaard | 11/1/2016

Friends and colleagues gathered at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale recently to honor Phil Smith, a leading Broward County businessman who recently gave his alma mater, Florida Atlantic University, a generous gift to further its College of Business.

FAU officially announced a $5 million gift in August from Phil and Susan Smith to establish the Phil Smith Center for Free Enterprise at FAU’s College of Business. The main tower at the College will be named Phil Smith Hall in honor of the FAU alumnus.

“Phil really worked hard and had a great career. He always came and gave back to the university and always supported others,” FAU President John Kelly said to the more than 135 attendees at the Oct. 4 event. “Phil, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for us as a university and all the wonderful gifts you’re giving the next generations of young people who come through.”  

The Phil Smith Center for Free Enterprise will support the vision and strategic plan of the College of Business to advance thought leadership in business, adding chaired professorships and supporting research and educational programs for faculty members and students. The Center will also support distinguished visiting faculty along with a lecture series and other educational programs focused on the principles of free enterprise and how those principles affect growth and prosperity. Faculty will conduct research and develop programs based on the business philosophy and principles that have guided Smith over his career.

Phil SmithSmith is a native South Floridian and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance in 1969 from FAU’s College of Business. He is president and CEO of Phil Smith Management, Inc., operating 11 automobile dealership locations representing 25 franchises in Florida and North Carolina; as well as the Coral Ridge Country Club. He has more than 30 years of experience managing auto dealerships and built his organization from the ground up, starting from his first equity venture in a Toyota dealership in Homestead in 1980.

Daniel Gropper, Ph.D., dean of FAU’s College of Business, recalled the first time he met Phil Smith two and a half years ago, when they first discussed teaching students about the free enterprise system. Smith, he said, is one of the great American success stories that all of us can learn from and model our behavior after. A member of the FAU Foundation Board, Smith was named a distinguished alumnus of the College of Business in 2015.

Like many FAU students of his time, Smith commuted to school and balanced his studies with the demands of work and family. He worked as a lifeguard and a valet parking cars before getting a job in the automotive industry selling cars during his senior year at FAU.

“Some 20 years later he and his business partners in Phil Smith Automotive came back and bought that automotive dealership where he got his start selling cars,” Gropper said. “That is the kind of thing that getting an education, and taking advantage of the opportunities that are available in a free enterprise society.  It is never easy – it takes insight into what consumers want, a willingness to take risks, some good fortune, and lots of hard work, but Phil shows us how solid businesses and strong communities are built.”

Michael Dayhoff, partner and CFO of the Phil Smith Automotive Group, thanked FAU for hosting the event at Phil Smith’s favorite place, Coral Ridge Country Club. He thanked everyone on Smith’s behalf for attending and also thanked Phil and Susan Smith for their generosity. Dayhoff recounted Smith’s accomplishments, making special note of the four-year scholarship program Smith established for the children of the company’s employees, the time he’s spent on charities and boards and the and millions of dollars he’s raised and given to various charities.

“Phil, this gift will help educate the business students at FAU on the free enterprise system for many years to come,” Dayhoff said. “At a time when many of our leaders’ words don’t match their actions, it’s refreshing and it’s an honor to see how you’ve consistently walked the talk that you do. And we thank you.”

In September, Smith donated $7 million to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale to expand neurological care and establish the Phil Smith ALS and Movement Disorder Clinic and rename its Neuroscience Institute after him. Smith, 69, was diagnosed with ALS two years ago.

The Smiths also continuously give back to the community through their active involvement with the Humane Society of Broward County; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; American Cancer Society; Holy Cross Hospital; Northwood University; Nova Southeastern University; Orange Bowl Committee and Junior Achievement.

“We’re very, very proud of Phil and the opportunities he’s opening up for students to follow, and the prosperity he has helped create for his customers, his employees, and his community,” Dean Gropper said. “As dean I’m very proud to come to work every day in Phil Smith Hall. So, Phil, thank you so much for what you and your family have done. Thank you to all of his friends who are here to support him, and thank you very much for the example you set.”

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