drian College can change your life with a single phone call — and no one knows this better than Catherine Przepiora Smith ‘96. She cites an incident from her senior year in high school, when a Bulldog recruiter used an additional scholarship opportunity to encourage her to ace her upcoming physics exam. “That was the moment I knew that I would attend Adrian,” she affirmed. “I couldn’t believe someone who had never met me before cared about me and my grades.”
Smith occupied her days at Adrian College with a myriad of different extracurriculars, including theatre, Greek Life and Residence Life. Even her summers were spent on campus, working with the paint crew and as a SEEKS counselor. In her own words, “Adrian became home. They say you can never go back home, but I feel it every time I’m on campus — even though it’s so very different now!” Smith embraced the individualized attention that the College provided, fostering personal relationships with professors who would have an enormous impact on her future. Most notably, their attentive guidance enabled her to discover the career path she had been destined for: writing. Asking about her days as a freshman in the premed program prompts an intriguing tale. “I wrote an 8-page story about the lab mouse I was supposed to study,” she recalled wryly. Taking note of her natural talent, one of Smith’s professors encouraged her to further hone her writing skills. Thus, a new door opened: She undertook an
internship in the College’s publications office, gained professional experience in writing of all forms and never looked back. Of course, the classes that Smith took also contributed to a change in her life direction. “I loved that our class sizes were so small — six students — that the professors did the assignments, too. We read each other’s writings, critiqued them and genuinely cared about making each other better writers.” In 1996, Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English (Journalism) and a minor in communication arts & sciences (with an emphasis in PR). A stint in selling advertising for several printing organizations followed, which led to her becoming the associate publisher of a magazine under Hour Detroit. By 2008, though, times had changed. “As the mother of a special needs daughter, I was looking for the opportunity to work from home, doing something I was passionate about,” Smith revealed. She found solace in working for the American Heart Association. Though losing her father to a heart attack encouraged her decision, her main motivation was practicality: “I was able to help others and still be the mom I needed to be,” she explained. Just six years into her career at AHA, Smith was already an executive director and vice president for development. While overseeing the Detroit market, she had raised “an average of 3 million dollars annually through three core campaigns,” met “some amazing survivors, volunteers and professionals in Detroit,” and brought “some incredible celebrities in to connect with our community on the importance of being heart-healthy, including Rosie O’Donnell, Star Jones and Laila Ali.” It was a fulfilling duty, but also a weighty one — the average person would buckle under such an emotional burden. Smith, however, is no ordinary woman. Her AHA office contained a plethora of quotes and mottos, all centered around positivity and motivation. Two of her favorites were “do one thing every day that scares you” and “be a stiletto in a room full of flats.” As for some life advice in her own words? “You are good enough. When you are going through something, even different chapters of your life, you may question everything. In looking back at all of life’s lessons, it’s important to remember to always be the best version of yourself. Situations will always change, but how you respond to them is what shows your true character.” Since participating in this interview, Smith has accepted a position at Kettering University as a major gifts officer. Smith has been married to Kevin for 17 years. They have two daughters, Claire (15) and Emily (8). The family resides in Clarkston, Mich.
“I couldn’t believe someone who had never met me before cared about me and my grades.”
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