Todd Smick '91 studied geology at Union, where his favorite class was “Introduction to Geology” and his favorite experience was writing his senior thesis. Originally from Worcester, Mass., he now lives in Medford, N.J. Todd has worked in the insurance business for nearly 30 years in many capacities for a number of companies up and down the East Coast. Currently, he works in Aetna’s voluntary benefits division and is the strategic partnerships national practice leader.
How did you find Union and why did you choose to attend?
I told my parents I wanted to go to college and they said go ahead. LOL. So it was pretty much up to me to do all the work. I knew I wanted an excellent academic, small quintessential New England school that had competitive football and baseball teams, and I wanted to be in a fraternity.
I was playing football at Worcester Academy and our last game was against Union’s JV team. I had a pretty good game so one of the coaches, Gary Reynolds, asked me which colleges I was considering. He then convinced me to visit Union, which I did a month later, and I instantly fell in love. I applied, was accepted and committed as fast as I could. There was never a doubt Union was the best college for me.
Who were your mentors and how important was their guidance?
Dr. John Garver and Mr. Jim Schaefer were mentors of mine then and are friends today.Professor Garver influenced my decision to be a geology major and although I’m not in a geology-related field today, many of the foundational skills I learned help me in my professional life. Mr. Schaefer was a football coach and was in the Admissions office. He gave me great life and academic guidance through those years and is a close, trusted friend today.
Students often feel pressure to do well in college. Did you feel any particular pressure?
I’m not saying some classes weren’t challenging but I didn’t feel any academic pressure. I went to class and studied. I worked hard and am very proud to have graduated in four years.
I always felt at home at Union. The professors were very supportive and I needed as much academic support as I could get. I loved playing football at Union but unfortunately only did so for two years before an injury cut my collegiate sports career short.
Where did you feel most seen on campus? Most invisible?
I was heavily involved in Greek life and held many positions as a member of Delta Upsilon – pledge president, social chairman (2x) and president – so outside of playing in or attending sporting events, I spent at a lot of my time at campus social events.
Have you provided any mentorship yourself, academically or otherwise?
I’ve been formally or informally involved in helping others personally and professionally. I’ve introduced countless young men and women to friends or associates looking for talented individuals. I’ve been involved in professionally training employees at just about every company I’ve worked for. Overall, I really enjoy helping others start their careers, achieve their goals, and become successful in their professional life.
What made you click? Where did you find your niche? What experience made you feel like you belonged at Union?
I loved Greek life, I loved geology and I loved the Union social life. My classmates, teammates and fraternity brothers all made my Union experience outstanding.
Do you feel your Union experience differed from that of your peers? If so, how?
My Dad was a policeman and my mom was a nurse’s aide, so I didn’t have a lot of extra money to do much outside of campus. Fortunately, I found everything I wanted and needed on or near campus. I didn’t ever feel like my experience was unusual or differed much from my friends at Union.
Were there any particular programs or people at Union who really made a difference to you, either academically or personally?
For nearly 2 years, I was taking all kinds of classes at Union until I found “Introduction to Geology.” I believe Professor Shaw or maybe Professor Hollocher was teaching the course. The content was fascinating to me, their passion was contagious, and I just felt like I belonged in the Geology Department. My interest deepened with every geology class I took. I was one of only 3 graduating geology majors, so a shoutout to Leslie Kahn and Ed Hood, who always made our small classes interesting and fun. I was fortunate to earn a summer research fellowship based in British Columbia that was the launching pad for my senior thesis, which was titled “Trace Element Geochemistry of Ordovician Shales deposited during the Taconic Orogeny.” I was then selected to present my thesis at the 5th National Conference on Undergraduate Research on the California Institute of Technology campus. Professor Garver, who is a bonafide rock star, was my thesis advisor. Later on, he leveraged some of our research as a foundation for future projects and publications on the subject. My entire thesis experience was one of the most memorable and rewarding of my life.
My Union experience has been significantly enhanced now that my son, Trevor (Class of 2025), is attending. He has the same passion about economics as I did for geology. Experiencing Union as a parent is 10 times more rewarding than my best days as a student. So the best is yet to come.