The flag at Adtran's Huntsville, Ala., headquarters flew at half mast Thursday in a bright shining sun as the company paid its respects to its co-founder and chairman Mark C. Smith.
Smith, 66, a technology icon and noted philanthropist in Huntsville, passed away on Tuesday due to complications from pneumonia.
Visitation was held Thursday at Laughlin Service Funeral Home. Funeral Services will be held Friday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Huntsville.
Adtran CEO Tom Stanton will take on the role of chairman until the board appoints a new chairman.
Smith, along with Lonnie S. McMillian, founded Adtran 21 years ago and built the company into a $500 million networking powerhouse known for its attractively priced and well engineered gear. Smith served as CEO of Adtran from the company's inception in January 1986 to September 2005.
Mark Spencer, the inventor of the Asterisk open source IP-PBX and founder and president of Digium of Huntsville, Ala., was among the hundreds of mourners who waited as long as 90 minutes Tuesday during an afternoon visitation to pay their respects to Smith.
"There were a lot of people there and the mood was good," he said. "Mark was always a business person. He just ate, drank and dreamed business and that was evident at the visitation. It was a real tribute to see all the people whose lives he affected."
Spencer first met Smith when he interned at Adtran nearly ten years ago. He says Smith, who invested in Digium and sat on the young company's board, inspired him as both an engineer and business leader.
"When I was a co-op student I interviewed at Motorola and Adtran," recalled Spencer. "The difference couldn't have been more obvious. You walked into Motorola and felt like you were walking into a prison with all the posters and badges. It did not feel like the kind of place someone like me would enjoy working at. At Adtran everything was open. It carries the feel of a small company better than any company of that size that I have ever seen and, of course, it is a large company, but they retain that culture even today remarkably well."
"Mark was the kind of person that recognized the value of treating employees with a lot of self respect and a lot of care. He believed in giving them an attractive workplace people were proud to come to. He was famous for his appreciation of architecture and buildings. He built an environment that really did a great job of retaining people without having to necessarily recruit people with just money."
Spencer said his experience at Adtran influenced the way he has built the founding principles and culture at Digium. "For me personally the most inspiring part of all of this is Mark was an engineer CEO," says Spencer. "That to a great degree just goes against the grain of the way a lot of companies work. The rule is if you are an engineer you aren't going to be able to run the company. And of course he ran Adtran as CEO until a couple of years ago. That was very inspiring to me. He really gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to run Digium."
"His accomplishments and influence on so many people is something that is going to survive for a long time," added Spencer. "As young as I am, I am still able to provide some entrepreneurial advice for an even younger generation entrepreneurs. That advice is influenced by Mark. His legacy is going to be very long lived without question."
Smith, a native of Birmingham, also co-founded Universal Data Systems, the first data communications company in Alabama, which was purchased by Motorola in 1979.
Adtran Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer Jim Matthews, who was hired by Smith, remembered him as a widely respected technology icon and visionary and an "individual of the highest integrity."
"The thing I recall most is his thoughtfulness and integrity in dealing with people and handling personal situations," said Matthews. "He was extremely well thought of in the community not only as a business leader, but a community leader."
Smith was president of the Greater Huntsville Foundation and served on the University of Alabama Foundation Board, the UAH School of Administrative Science Advisory Board. In 1996 Smith received the Humanitarian Award from the North Alabama Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, which recognized him as a "visionary, entrepreneur, philanthropist and dedicated citizen that gave back to the community ten-fold."
Smith got the technology bug as a young student, winning first place in a science fair at Birmingham's Woodlawn High School. First prize was a handshake with Werner Von Braun, one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology. At that time, Smith asked Von Braun for a job. He then spent three summers working at NASA in Huntsville, and Cape Canaveral, Fld.
Matthews said that Smith's vision to build Adtran into the best value provider of telecom equipment to both carriers and small and medium sized business lives on in the company's culture today. "He (Smith) fully intended to be No. 1 in the markets that he competed in, and he was very successful in doing that," said Matthews. "We are certainly carrying on that tradition. That is a legacy he certainly leaves behind with the culture he left at Adtran."
Smith is survived by his wife, Linda Jones Smith, and two children, Cyndi Smith Lewis and Clay Smith.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Mark C. Smith Medical Missions Fund, c/o Dr. James Netterville, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 7209 Medical Center E., South Tower, 1215 21st Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37232-8605; the University of Alabama in Huntsville Foundation, Shelbie King Hall, Suite 300, Huntsville, AL 35899; or the Catholic High School Building Fund, 4810 Bradford Drive, Huntsville, AL 35805.