Missouri State University

Office of the President

President Clif Smart

Clif Smart


Clifton M. “Clif” Smart III is beginning his third year as the leader of Missouri State University. He 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.

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 on-line 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 was selected to the panel of three applicants submitted to the governor for the vacant Missouri Supreme Court positions in 2002 and 2004. In February 2009, he was elected for a five-year term as one of the two lawyer members of the 31st Circuit Judicial Commission.

Smart was listed in Best Lawyers in America for 2007-08 in the fields of product liability, personal injury and professional negligence.

Prior to joining The Strong Law Firm, Smart worked for two years with the firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings in Little Rock, Ark. From 1986-90, he was with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. in Ft. Knox, Ky.

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 daughter, Addy; and Jim, a junior at Hamilton College in New York.


  • 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


Over the past two years under Smart, 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
    • Occupational Therapy

    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 will begin in the fall of 2014).

  • Fundraising – completed the Our Promise campaign, raising $167 million, $42 million more than the original goal of $125 million. The $20 million raised by the Foundation in 2011-12 was a record.
  • Facilities – a number of projects have been completed, are in process or are planned:

    • Foster Family Recreation Center
    • Monroe Apartments
    • New campus entrance
    • Kings Street Plaza
    • McQueary Family Health Sciences Hall addition
    • Glass Hall student study room
    • Plaster Center for Free Enterprise and Business Development
    • Renovation of Garst and Blair-Shannon dining centers
    • JQH Arena locker room complex
    • 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 realized a record enrollment of under-represented students in fall 2012.
  • Faculty and staff – by July 1, 2013, will have provided three salary increases for employees, including the first in three years. Established a shared leave policy and increased regular communication with faculty and staff.