Frederick W. Smith, the chairman and CEO of FedEx

Joining President LaForge is Frederick W. Smith, the chairman and CEO of FedEx.

Fred is the most recent speaker in one of our signature programs, the Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series. This ongoing series brings to campus high-profile professionals who share career and life stories with our students, employees, and the community, and provide an opportunity to hear from, and engage with, experts from a wide array of professions and interests. William F. Winter, former Mississippi governor, served as the first Colloquia speaker in 2013.

We’re honored to have Fred with us today, especially because of his Delta ties to Marks, Mississippi. Fred left the South in 1962 to enter Yale University. At Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class outlining an overnight delivery service in a computer information age — and thus began his early ideas for FedEx.

After finishing at Yale, Fred was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for three years as a platoon leader and a forward air controller. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, flying with pilots on more than 200 combat missions. He was honorably discharged in 1969 with the rank of Captain, having received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

In 1970, Fred purchased the controlling interest in an aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation Sales, and by 1971, turned its focus to trading used jets. On June 18, 1971, Smith founded Federal Express with his inheritance, and he raised $91 million in venture capital.

And, if these accomplishments weren’t already enough to write home about, Fred is also a co-owner of the Washington Redskins National Football League team in our nation’s capital.

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