Release Date: November 30, 2007
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 mentor.
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 students today.
"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 philanthropic programs.
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 Universities.