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College of Business Receives Gift for New Global Finance Lab Named After Former Starbucks CEO

February 22, 2022

Orin Smith sitting at a Starbuck's Cafe

One transformational contribution has left the Idaho State University College of Business with three notable gifts in the past several months. Thanks to the Michael C. Ruettgers Endowment, the College of Business has recently announced the establishment of the Michael C. Ruettgers Endowed Professorship in Marketing awarded to Dean, Dr. Shane Hunt and the Walter P. Brown Center for Sales Excellence. Today, the College of Business is proud to make our third announcement under this gift, the Orin C. Smith Global Finance Lab.

“The new Orin C. Smith Global Finance Lab will be a modern space with a trading room feel for College of Business students and faculty to use, learn and apply current, in-demand finance and analytical tools,” said Hunt. According to the dean, the new space will be located on the second floor of the Business Administration building and will feature state of the art equipment for student use including a Bloomberg Terminal.

Hunt said the room will be located across from the recently constructed Student Community Center and will house many of the upper-division finance courses as well as the new Idaho State University Student Management Investment Fund.

“The recent gifts from Mike Ruettgers have been some of the most transformative in the history of the Idaho State University College of Business,” said Hunt. “His gift will lead to the most significant improvements to our College of Business building in over a generation benefiting students and faculty across our College. His gift allows us to build the largest Sales Center in the state of Idaho and one of the nicest Finance Labs in this region of the country.”

Although the funding for the lab was donated by the 1964 marketing graduate, Ruettgers decided to dedicate the space to former Starbucks Chief Executive Officer, Orin Smith.

“Orin was a roommate of mine at the Harvard Business School. We were among the few Westerners in the class of 1967,” said Ruettgers. Smith grew up in the small town of Chehalis, Wash. where his family managed to get by due in part to the hard work of young Smith.

In high school, Smith gained attention as a member of the first and only basketball team to bring home the state basketball title in Chehalis’s history. With the mentorship and encouragement of his coaches, Smith was able to apply for and attend college on scholarships. Before earning his Harvard MBA, Smith attended Centralia College and graduated from the University of Washington with his degree in business. 

“Orin went from HBS to Idaho State University’s College of Business before returning to Washington,” said Ruettgers, who is a retired CEO of EMC Corporation (now part of Dell).

After graduating from Harvard with his Master of Business Administration, Ruettgers went on to work for Raytheon Missiles & Defense for several years before joining the technology industry.

In Seattle, Smith held a number of roles, including partner at Deloitte. Then, he became Starbucks’s first Chief Financial Officer.

According to an article in the University of Washington Magazine, Starbucks called Smith in 1990 seeking to find someone to take the “local coffeehouse to international powerhouse.”

“[Orin] was an important advisor to Howard Schultz of Starbucks,” said Ruettgers.

Smith went from being CFO to Chief Operating Officer to CEO, all while Starbucks continued to grow to 10,000 locations throughout the globe and over $5 billion in sales according to the University of Washington Magazine. According to the article, Smith was also responsible for connecting Starbucks coffee production to rain forest conservation.

After retiring from Starbucks in 2005, Smith went on to join numerous boards including The Walt Disney Company and Nike as well as numerous boards at his alma mater.

“[He was also] an important advisor to Michael Eisner [a former CEO of Disney],” said Ruettgers. “I was always impressed with the wide range of roles both public and private in which Orin was very successful.”

Ruettgers’s education began at Idaho State with his journey leading him to success and friendships with some of the country’s most influential businesspeople. And as such, Ruettgers said he hopes these gifts will help launch students into their own success.

“I hope the Orin C. Smith Global Finance Lab will give students exposure to experiences, tools and techniques that helped Orin and I rise to be successful businessmen anywhere in this country or the world,” said Ruettgers.



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