Clif Smart

Clif Smart


Clifton M. “Clif” Smart III was named interim president on June 27, 2011, and served in that role until he was named the 11th president of Missouri State University on Oct. 16, 2012, after a nationwide search. He served as the University’s general counsel from December 2007 until being named interim president.

Smart currently serves on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and was recently elected president of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri.

As general counsel from 2007-11, Smart provided legal counsel to the Board, president, faculty, staff and administrators. He also was involved in many campus-wide initiatives, including leading the university response to the state auditor’s report on Missouri State; serving on the JQH Arena Task Force; developing a comprehensive online policy library for the university; and chairing or serving on a variety of searches: vice president for diversity and inclusion, chief financial officer (twice), director of admissions, director of human resources and men’s basketball coach.

Smart joined The Strong Law Firm in 1992. He was a shareholder in the firm from 1995-2007 and vice president since 1998. In his 15 years with the firm, his practice consisted primarily of representing individuals and entities in catastrophic injury, medical malpractice and commercial cases.

Smart and his wife, Gail, have two sons: Murray, who along with his wife, Amy, both graduated in 2012 from Southwest Baptist University and live in Rogers, Ark., with their daughters, Addy and Emery, and son, Parker; and Jim, a recent graduate of Knox College in Illinois.


  • University of Arkansas School of Law
    JD with high honors, 1986
  • Tulane University
    BA in Political Science, 1983

Professional experience

  • President, Missouri State University
    Oct. 2012-present
  • Interim President, Missouri State University
    June 2011-Oct. 2012
  • General Counsel, Missouri State University
    Dec. 2007-June 2011
  • Lawyer Member, 31st Circuit Judicial Commission
  • The Strong Law Firm
  • U.S. Army

More details


Under Smart’s leadership, Missouri State has made significant progress in a number of areas:

  • Enrollment – in fall 2012, the Springfield campus set an all-time record with an enrollment of 21,059, with a system-wide total of 23,071.
  • Student learning – new programs have been added, including:

    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia
    • Master of Occupational Therapy
    • Master of Fine Arts
    • Bachelor of General Studies

    The number of online courses has increased dramatically and the number of remote sites has increased.

  • Partnerships/collaborations – these have increased and been enhanced with two-year institutions, including:

    • Missouri State-West Plains
    • Ozarks Technical Community College
    • Crowder College
    • St. Charles Community College

    and other four-year institutions (including the Doctor of Pharmacy degree program with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which began in the fall of 2014).

  • Fundraising – completed the Our Promise campaign, raising $167 million, $42 million more than the original goal of $125 million.
  • Facilities – a number of projects have been completed, are in process or are planned:

    • Foster Family Recreation Center
    • New campus entrance
    • McQueary Family Health Sciences Hall
    • Glass Hall student study room
    • Plaster Center for Free Enterprise and Business Development with the eFactory
    • A series of recreation and athletic facilities (Jim D. Morris Basketball Complex, Plaster Stadium, Betty and Bobby Allison Recreation Fields, Allison North and South Stadiums)
    • Davis-Harrington Welcome Center
    • O'Reilly Clinical Health Sciences Center
    • Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Academic Advisement Center
    • Gohn Hall and the Recreation Center/FEMA Shelter on the West Plains campus
  • Diversity – hired the first permanent vice president for diversity and organized the division of diversity and inclusion. The University recently completed a Campus and Community Climate Study Report, the product of a 19-month intensive study focused on student, faculty, staff and the community's perception of diversity and inclusiveness on campus and in the community. The University also experienced a record enrollment of under-represented students in fall 2015.
  • Faculty and staff – by July 1, 2015, has provided five salary increases for employees. Established a shared leave policy and increased regular communication with faculty and staff and instituted the Professor Salary Incentive Program.