BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Orin Smith, retired CEO of Starbucks Corp.,
hadn't seen former University at Buffalo president and current law
professor William R. Greiner in more than 30 years. Yet one day
Smith picked up the phone and called the UB Law School development
office, seeking a way to honor his former teacher. The conversation
resulted in Smith making a tribute gift of $200,000 in honor of his
Smith's gift has named the Professor William R. Greiner Law
Faculty Reading Room in O'Brian Hall, a warm, wood-paneled room
where people can engage in spirited conversation and collaborate;
not unlike the ubiquitous Starbucks. The UB Law School dedicated
the room today, providing an opportunity for Greiner and Smith to
reacquaint face-to-face as mentor and student.
"It was completely and totally unexpected -- almost
dumbfounding, really," says Greiner of the gift. "I remember Orin
as a student, when I was in my early teaching days. We had lost
touch for a long time, then he dropped me an email. He wrote me
this overwhelming note, and I was blown away."
Smith was enrolled in Greiner's constitutional law class at the
University of Washington when the two first met. Greiner was a law
professor at UW and Smith was a student in the UW Business School,
graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1965.
"It was a class of 10, 11, 12 people, a pretty intimate setting.
The interaction was terrific, and we had a great instructor," says
Smith. "He (Greiner) challenged us with the issues of
constitutional law, forcing us to think and speak and articulate
our position. It was such a challenging course, like nothing any of
us had had before."
After graduation, Smith was accepted at Harvard University and
credits Greiner, ironically, with steering his path toward
business. "I had been thinking about going to law school, but had
not done anything about it. But it was really as a result of that
class that I ended up applying to Harvard Business School. I was a
late applicant, so I charged in and took the admission test. I was
accepted in June."
In 1967, Smith graduated HBS and Greiner began a distinguished
career at UB that now spans 40 years. Greiner joined the UB Law
School faculty in 1967; served as UB associate vice president for
academic affairs and provost; and as the 13th president of UB from
1991-2004. He continues to teach law to UB undergraduates and law
"This is a wonderful recognition of Bill Greiner and his
teaching," says UB Law School Dean Nils Olsen. "It is very special
and it is particularly appropriate because Bill has played such a
role in building up the campus, adding to the quality of student
life through the departments and all the other building that
happened during his tenure as president."
Smith joined Starbucks in 1990 and became president and chief
operating officer in 1994, a position he held until 2000 when he
became the chief executive officer. Starbucks had 25 stores when
Smith joined the company and 10,250 when he left. He is largely
credited with creating Starbucks' renowned community outreach and
After retiring in 2005, Smith reconnected with his former
mentor. "I had thought about him a number of times, but really did
not know exactly where he had gone and what he was doing," says
Smith. "When I retired, I 'Googled' him, and there he was. Because
he had had such an influence on my life and career, I decided that
I would contact the school and make some kind of contribution."
Both men have made generous gifts of time and money to higher
education and other charitable organizations.
"What more can a teacher ask than to have a student say, 'You
made a great deal of difference for me'? It is really quite
stunning," says Greiner, "and it is a great honor."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State
University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their
academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate
and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University
at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American