Kenneth R. Smith

Eller Distinguished Service Emeritus Professor of Economics (and former Dean)

Ken Smith is Eller Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and APS Professor of Technology Management (Emeritus) at the University of Arizona where from 1980 to 1995 he held the position of Dean of the Eller College of Management. From January 2004 through June 2005, he served as Interim Dean of the Eller College. From 1992 to 1995 he also served as Vice Provost of the University of Arizona and had responsibility for the development of an overall institutional strategic plan and a program that supported the application of total quality principles at The University of Arizona. 

A native of Vancouver Canada, Smith graduated from the University of Washington before completing a PhD degree in economics in 1968 at Northwestern University. Following his doctoral studies, he was a visiting research fellow at the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics, Universite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. Smith served on the faculties of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern University and the University of California, San Diego (visiting) and has held several directorships of academic and research programs. Prior to becoming Dean of the Eller College, he served as Professor of Managerial Economics and Director of the Program in Hospital and Health Services Management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Smith has published extensively in the fields of microeconomic theory and health economics. He has taught managerial economics, health economics, the economics of strategy, business strategy and innovation and technology strategy. These courses explore the economic foundations that allow successful firms to choose strategies to exploit the profit opportunities that exist or to adapt to changing circumstances. He has also organized the Business Foundations for Scientists Courses for the Professional Science Masters Program. He is currently studying how organizations can achieve growth by optimizing their innovation ecosystem. (See his article “Building an Innovation Ecosystem: Process, Culture and Competencies” in Industry & Higher Education Volume 20, No 4, August 2006)

In 1984, Smith developed the Eller College of Management’s nationally recognized McGuire Entrepreneurship Program. He also is the Director of the Advanced Technology Transfer Project, a partnership of The University of Arizona and the Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) of Mexico. In conjunction with Mexico’s major national research institutes, the goals of the project are to build each institute’s capacity by preparing scientists and staff to be skillful partners in the search for market opportunities, evaluating the market potential of the institute’s research endeavors, and conducting detailed commercial feasibility studies of the most promising technologies developed by the national institutes. He also teaches MBA courses on Innovation Strategy in which students prepare business plans for an innovation for a major corporation. 

From 1990-2011 Smith served as a member of the Board of Directors of Apache Nitrogen Products, a privately held producer of ammonia nitrates products for the agricultural and mining industries. He served as Chairman of the Board from 1996-2011 and currently serves as Chairman Emeritus and Executive Advisor to the Board. 

Previously, Smith served as a member of the Board of Directors of the FINOVA Group, Inc. and served as Chair of the Human Resources Committee and a member of the Audit Committee (1992-2009);  as a member of the Board of Directors of, Inc (formerly Ventana Corporation), a privately held software company distributing GroupSystems (1989-2004), where he served as Chairman from 1999-2004 and CEO from 2002-2004; as a member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Finance Committee of Pantheon Chemical (2004-2008), a producer of environmentally friendly industrial chemicals; as a member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Gas Corporation (1988-92), PriMerit Bank (1988-92) and the Health Providers Insurance Company (1987-95). He was a member of the Board of Directors (1990-96) and President (1994-95) of AACSB–the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.


  • PhD in Economics, Northwestern University, 1968