CBE Spotlight - Eugene Smithart, BCE 1973

By. Elizabeth Jackson

Adapt, improvise, overcome! Eugene Smithart (BCE ‘73) still remembers these key leadership skills from his days in the Marine Corps. From his time as an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa to his successful career, Smithart has utilized his Chemical Engineering degree and learned invaluable lessons along the way.

Growing up on small farm in rural Iowa, Smithart joined the Marine Corps and spent time in Vietnam before attending the University of Iowa. His interest in Chemistry was sparked in high school due to an excellent teacher and later during his time at Iowa a roommate introduced him to the engineering program.

After receiving extensive job opportunities, Smithart accepted a job with Trane in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He spent over 40-years with Trane and became one of five people in the world to receive the prestigious U.S. EPA Climate Protection award. Now, Smithart travels the world specializing in professional presentations as owner and CEO of Smitty Consults.

What did you do during your time at Iowa?

I had the opportunity to play in the Hawkeye Marching Band as a member of the drum section and after my first year at Iowa, became a Resident Assistant in Rienow Hall. I also was a member of Tau Beta Pi, an Engineering Honor Society. There were tremendous faculty members and professors in the Chemical Engineering department. There was just a great opportunity to learn at the University.

What is your favorite memory about the University of Iowa?

Some of the best times were at 7:00 am on game day. The feeling of walking into the stadium and playing base drum with great friends. You cannot believe how great a base drum sounds in the stadium – it echoes like a cannon. The percussion and tuba sections had the best time together.

How has your Chemical Engineering degree led to where you are today?

With an engineering degree there are so many opportunities to go after it’s mind boggling. When you’re sitting there getting your degree you have no idea how many paths it can take you down.

During my time with Trane, I was able to travel all over the world giving presentations on how to effectively use air conditioning in an environmentally responsible manner. The climate protection award is based on doing something both good for business as well as the environment, the combination of both is so important. Trane showed me that there is much more beyond the chemical approach, but my Chemical Engineering background was a plus.

After my time with Trane, I went into retirement for about a week before my wife encouraged me to pursue my own business. So, I created Smitty Consults LLC and specialize in presentation coaching. The ability to present and effectively communicate in many different areas; businesses or engineering, is important. The goal is to take an idea and effectively communicate both internally and externally. It is so important to learn the fundamentals of presenting and we teach those fundamentals.

What advice do you have for our current students?

Getting that degree feels like a huge wall to climb over. Years later you’ll look back and realize it wasn’t such tall wall to get over. But my advice is to not fail climbing that wall. Don’t give up. It’s intended to be tough, but you cannot afford to give up. Junior year, I remember physical chemistry being so difficult, but I just had to do it. Something I keep in mind is a quote from a very famous coach, Zig Ziglar. He once said, “You can get anything you want in life as long as you are able to help, as long as you are willing to help other people get what they want.” It’s always important to think of the needs of others. You will receive so much in your life, but think about what you can give back.


CBE alumnus Eugene Smithart