One of the great things about being a member of the Odyssey family is you have the opportunity to meet amazing leaders. In the Odyssey Hall of Fame, John “Sandy” Smith holds a special place of reverence. No trustee has served longer or done more to shape Odyssey than Sandy. As Sandy describes it, “I feel a strong connection to the program that has taken me on a personal odyssey of growth as a lifelong learner.”
In 1959 Sandy enrolled in kindergarten at The Westminster Schools ultimately graduating in the Class of 1974. After Westminster, Sandy earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Stanford University, where he met Susi, his bride of 38 years now. Sandy went on to complete his MBA at the Dartmouth Tuck School of Business and earned his JD at Duke University Law School. After law school, Sandy’s career led him to Coca-Cola, partnerships at some Atlanta’s most prestigious law firms and to Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton where he serves today as Corporate Securities, Mergers and Acquisitions Partner.
I asked Sandy, “Why Odyssey?” “Of all the charities in all the world why this one?” After thinking it over Sandy expressed he couldn’t give just one answer.
“Part of it is that social justice is part of my Judeo-Christian values. It is who I am and how I see the world. I can’t imagine it any other way. Partly it was helping Westminster, an institution that meant so much to me, take its rightful place as a beacon of public scholarship and a magnet that brings diverse talented populations together on common ground to learn from each other.” With a wry laugh, Sandy shared, “And because there was no one else willing to take the job.”
Sandy explained that in 1990 Westminster President, Bill Clarkson asked him to serve on a committee to advise the Collective Education Partnership (CEP). When asked about Sandy, Bill said, let me say this, ” Sandy is a quiet, elegant, and caring leader who prefers to stay under the radar in order to be effective with and relevant to the core vision of Odyssey. His contribution in these way and others has been so instrumental in the growth and success of this important gift to the Atlanta community.”
At the time of Sandy’s appointment, CEP was a hodgepodge of pop up summer learning experiences driven by the passions of individual Westminster teachers. Sandy shared he never had the aspiration to chair this initiative. He just wanted to help and he loved the idea of creating something from scratch. As the program developed into the modern form we know as Odyssey, Sandy became its first chair. In 1994, based on Sandy’s experience as a trustee of Stanford University, Sandy and Bill recommended to the Westminster board that Odyssey become a separate supporting organization to Westminster in the same way Stanford Hospital is a supporting organization to Stanford University.
In 1996, fellow Westminster alumnus Chris Schroder designed the Odyssey logo and alumnus Scoot Dimon sold it as the greatest thing since the British Invasion. With a talented team of Westminster staff, alumni and friends, the program eventually grew strong enough to attract new leaders such as Richard Courts and Janie Stratigos. “I still see this as my greatest achievement,” shared Sandy. “With a dedicated team of community leaders and educators, I was able to create something worthwhile and then was able to recruit the next generation of leaders passionate enough to take over the stewardship of Odyssey. When I look around the boardroom today I realize with pride that Odyssey has grown up.”
When asked what advice he would give an Odyssey scholar, Sandy said without hesitation, “Don’t sleep! Grab Odyssey and every opportunity you can to improve yourself. Most of all enjoy the ride!”