John Smith never second-guessed his decision to forgo a career in Major League Baseball to marry the woman of his dreams and jumpstart a business. “It was always family first; I have no regrets,” said Smith, who ended up building his own field of dreams in Rochester’s IT industry—launching nearly 20 companies from JTS Computer Services, to Brite Computers, Restore, Linden Associates, Solu Technology Partners, CloudDOCX and Dealer DOCX.
In recognition of his business success in the local community, Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology has named Smith ’73 (business administration) as recipient of the 2015 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award. The serial entrepreneur will be honored at an invitation-only luncheon at Oak Hill Country Club on April 21.
“I knew Herbert Vanden Brul personally many years ago,” said Smith, chairman and CEO of Brite Computers. “He was such a gentleman and very accomplished. I’m deeply honored to accept this award and be part of the esteemed group of past recipients.”
One of eight children, Smith “grew up ambitious” and signed a contract with the New York Mets as a pitcher after graduating from Irondequoit High School in 1966. He was thrown a curve ball following an automobile accident injury but had one more chance to restart his baseball career as a major league pitcher with the Kansas City Royals.
“I said no,” said Smith. “I had met Joanne and wanted to marry her and stay here in Rochester. It was the best decision I ever made. She has been my proudest achievement, along with our three children, Justin, Trevor and Courtney, and our eight grandchildren.”
Saunders College Dean Jacqueline Mozrall said Smith is an inspiration to all business entrepreneurs in the high-tech industry—managing to keep his family a No. 1 priority while building businesses and creating more than 400 local jobs during the past four decades.
“John has survived and prospered in a very tough business environment by identifying niche opportunities, taking calculated investment risks and growing new ventures in those niches. We are so proud to be able to recognize John as an alumnus, and he is no stranger to RIT, having served on our Dean’s Advisory Board and Incubator Advisory Board.”
Smith said it’s always important to remember where you came from, how you got there, and who helped you along the way. “You can’t ever let yourself forget,” said Smith, who often worked 75 to 90 hours a week during his start-up years.
“Business is competitive and you have to stick to your plan and make sacrifices. Just like winning at baseball, you have to be prepared to go into the game and have the right team; mine was my family.”
The Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award was created in 1984 and annually goes to a successful individual who developed a business that improved the Rochester economy or whose innovative management skills have changed the course of an existing business.
Past Vanden Brul recipients include Ronald Ricotta and Michael Nuccitelli, co-owners of Century Mold Inc. and Parlec Inc.; Robert Morgan, CEO, Morgan Management LLC; the late Ernest J. Del Monte Sr., E. J. Del Monte Corp.; Douglas Brush and Jim Brush, Sentry Group; William K. Pollock, Optimation Technology; and Kitty Van Bortel, Van Bortel Group.
For more information about the Vanden Brul Award luncheon, contact Dana Pierce at 585-475-2199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.