HGSE Awards First Medal for Education Impact to Mike Smith, Ed.M.’63, Ed.D.’73By Jill Anderson
Marshall “Mike” Smith, Ed.M.’63, Ed.D.’73, was awarded yesterday the first Harvard Graduate School of Education Medal for Education Impact for making a lasting difference in the field of education and on the lives of learners across the nation and beyond. Smith received the honor at the celebration of the new Ed.L.D. Program.
“In recognizing Mike, we honor an exemplary researcher, policymaker, and philanthropist whose leadership has truly transformed the education sector through his four decades of service to the field,” Dean Kathleen McCartney said, calling Smith the ideal inaugural recipient of the award. “We hope the work of tonight’s medal recipient will inspire our first cohort of Ed.L.D. students, as well as Ed School students for years to come.”
Upon receiving the award, Smith acknowledged that he could not have accomplished everything without the help of others, particularly his wife, Nicki, also an educator, whom he met at the Ed School as a student. “The message is you cannot grow alone. You have to be working with other people all the time whether spouses or other people important to you,” he said, noting the Ed.L.D. cohort are starting with powerful connections and encouraging them to “rise up and help each other.”
Smith, who has dedicated much of his career working toward educational equity for all students, was an early leader in the standards-based reform movement. In 2009, Forbes Magazine recognized Smith for his work by naming him a “revolutionary educator.” He served as dean of the Stanford University School of Education from 1986 to 1993 before heading to the U.S. Department of Education where he held the positions of undersecretary of education (1993-2000) and then acting deputy secretary of education (1996-2000). In these roles, Smith help define the Clinton administration’s education agenda and was a leader in Clinton’s major education initiatives including Goals 2000 – Educate America Act, the Improving American Schools Act, and the School-to-Work Opportunities Act.
Smith continued to focus on education reform, particularly standards-based, as director of the education program for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. He returned to Washington in 2009, when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked him to become director of international affairs and a senior counselor, a position in which he stayed until his retirement last spring. Speaking via video at the awards ceremony, Duncan congratulated Smith “for a lifetime of commitment to helping young people fulfill their tremendous academic and social potential.”
The Medal for Education Impact will honor practitioners, policymakers,
and researchers who work across their individual spheres of influence
and whose careers are dedicated to education opportunity, achievement,
and success for all children. It recognizes those who have a
transformative effect on the sector through their entrepreneurial
spirit, innovative strategies, collaborative work, and superior