ECU News Services

ECU grants and contracts officer Rick Smiley works to raise expectations and improve results for the Greenville area. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Greenville Improvements Target of Volunteer Efforts

By Judy Currin

Rick Smiley’s unabashed affection for the Greenville community is rivaled only by his desire to see it thrive. Whether it’s on the job with ECU’s Office of Sponsored Programs or chairing community service projects, his goal is to raise expectations. 

“I think Greenville has been content to settle ‘for good enough’ too often when we should be insisting on great,” he said. “Great neighborhoods, great schools, great parks and great government.”

His enthusiasm is evident in his efforts as a grants and contracts officer to aid faculty in obtaining funds for their research, creative activity, public service and instructional projects.

“We encourage faculty to take full advantage of our services,” Smiley said. “We can aid in proposal development, negotiate contract awards and review proposals to assure that all applicable university regulations are followed.”

A second year Servire Society award recipient, Smiley serves as a regional volunteer coordinator for the National Council of University Research Administrators. NCURA works toward advancing the field of research administration through education and professional development programs, he said. “It offers valuable networking opportunities,” said Smiley, who will serve as chair–elect this year.

On the local level, Smiley devotes a great deal of time to the Greenville Neighborhood Advisory Board, serving as neighborhood liaison, board member and chair. He said the board is working on a neighborhood symposium. Continued focus is on gathering information on existing neighborhood watch efforts and assisting in the creation of new neighborhood associations.

Smiley is president of the Brook Valley Homeowner’s Association in the neighborhood where he resides with wife Jessie, 10-year-old son, Gray and 8-year-old daughter Andie.

“We have helped Brook Valley Country Club stabilize its membership and we are constantly working on improving the ties between the neighborhood and the club,” he said. 

Nearby land use decisions are equally important to the neighborhood. An avid Pirates fan, Smiley’s Greenville roots run deep. His paternal grandfather, Wendell Smiley, headed ECU’s Joyner Library for two decades and was instrumental in establishing WZMB Radio Station. His maternal grandfather, O. R. Pearce, spent his professional career as a local dentist.   

Smiley spent his grade-school years in Raleigh before attending Sewanee, The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he met Jessie. She is a practicing nurse anesthetist, earning her degree through ECU’s College of Nursing. Jessie serves as president of the Elmhurst Elementary PTA while Rick supports the school improvement team.

“Rick is committed to developing his leadership experiences and translating those into action that will improve his community and ECU.  The energy and enthusiasm that Rick brings to any project he works on enlivens the project for those that work with him,” said Maryellen O’Brien, director of the Office of Sponsored programs.

“When I’m in his company, we never fail to bump into someone that he knows from his work in the community.”

This story appeared originally in the Sept. 24, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at