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VIDEO: UND aerospace dean Bruce Smith honored at retirement reception

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Bruce Smith received a standing ovation when he took the stage at his retirement picnic Wednesday.

Smith has served as dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences since 2000 and will retire effective June 30.

"It hasn't always been smooth, but everybody has truly, truly worked from the bottom of their heart to do everything that was right, and in the end it worked out, and I really appreciate that," he said. "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the dean of the Odegard school for the last 16 years."

During Smith's tenure, the aerospace school has grown to offer master's and doctorate degrees and the nation's first unmanned aerial systems degree program.

At the reception, which was punctuated with laughter and applause, Associate Dean of Academics Paul Lindseth said Smith also increased the school's operating budget from $25 million to about $100 million. Lindseth thanked the retiring dean for making the aerospace school one of the best in the world.

"Our mission statement for the Odegard school starts with the words 'working together' ... and that's crucial we have that right in our mission statement up front," Lindseth said after the reception. "We work together, and we're a family."

Lindseth is the remaining finalist to take Smith's place. He said the search committee forwarded a recommendation to the offices of UND's president and provost and he expects to hear in the coming days whether he will be hired for the job.

'Nowhere but North Dakota'

After graduating from UND in 1970, Smith left North Dakota to earn a master's degree from Arizona State University and a doctorate degree from Florida State University. He then went on to serve as director of training for Delta Airlines corporate in Atlanta.

Diane Odegard, the widow of John Odegard who met Smith as a college student, said she is glad Smith chose to come back to UND.

"I think he came back because he knew somewhere deep down in his heart that nowhere but North Dakota could you meet the most wonderful people in the world and lead what was to become under his leadership for the last 16 years at the premier aerospace college in the world," she said.

A scholarship endowment has been created in Smith's name, which Aerospace Director Advancement and Alumni Affairs Josh Christianson said had a balance of $36,225 as of Wednesday.

Smith has won the North Dakota State Meritorious Service Medal and is a published author, penning a book about aerospace at UND titled "Nowhere But North Dakota." He also was named to the NCAA football All-American team while attending UND.

At the reception, students and numerous friends and colleagues spoke fondly of Smith, including UND Aerospace Foundation Board Member David Williamson, who led the crowd in singing "You Oughta Go Ta North Dakota" and the Fighting Sioux fight song.

Smith's longtime administrative officer Jane Olson also thanked him for his years of service and for leading the school with a positive attitude.

"Some bosses gave orders, you gave us direction," she said. "Some bosses give targets, you gave us a vision. Some bosses lead by authority, but you've always led us by respect."

Smith plans to move to Alabama to be near family. As he finished speaking to the large hangar filled with people there to wish him well, Smith signed off using a pilot call sign.

"Flight service, Sioux 55, down and clear, please close my flight plan," he said. "Thank you very much."

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.