For nearly 40 years, Smith was company founder R. Stanton Avery’s partner in entrepreneurship, translating Avery’s inventions – the first self-adhesive labels and label-making machinery – into a fully organized enterprise capable of keeping up with the rapid growth in demand for the revolutionary new product.
“Someone once said our natures were balanced like a well-tuned gyroscope,” Avery explained. “I supplied the imagination and Russ the reality that kept us in business.”
At Avery’s invitation, Smith joined his college friend in 1946 as one-third owner, director, vice president and general manager of the Avery Adhesive Label Company. Over the next 40 years, he also served at various times as president, CEO and chairman of the board. In 1983, he was elected chairman of the executive committee of the board and held that position until his retirement from the board in April 1995. He served as a director emeritus until his death.
With financial, organizational and diplomatic skills he acquired in positions on Wall Street, at the League of Nations and the Blue Diamond Corporation, and in the U.S. Navy. Smith incorporated the 50-person company, started its core label materials business, expanded operations across the U.S. and into Europe, and opened a renowned research center. As the company’s representative to the financial community, he led its listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967.
In 2008, Avery Dennison honored Smith’s fundamental role in company history by naming the Mentor, OH headquarters of its Materials Group after him.
“Our company owes its existence and character in large part to Russ Smith’s business acumen, personal integrity and generosity of spirit,” said Dean A. Scarborough, Avery Dennison chairman, president and CEO. “He was the perfect partner for Stan Avery in so many respects, always applying his considerable talents with a cool head and a steady hand. Above all, he and Stan shared a deep commitment to doing the right thing every day, and together they built a very strong corporate culture. Russ was a model of values-based business leadership.”
When asked late in life what had brought him the greatest satisfaction, Smith cited the building of Avery Dennison and emphasized, “It was seeing the growth of people in the organization.”
Smith was a highly active philanthropist, contributing to a wide variety of colleges and universities, medical research foundations, and music and arts organizations. He served as chairman of the board of trustees of his alma mater, Pomona College, for 18 years. He was president and chairman of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, and chairman of the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and KCET-TV, the Los Angeles public and educational television station. He was a board member of United Way of Los Angeles. In 2008, the Avery Dennison Foundation created The H. Russell Smith Community Service Award to honor company employees who demonstrate a sustained personal commitment to community service.
Smith also was a member of the board of directors of Beckman Instruments, Security Pacific National Bank, Security Pacific Corporation, Southern California Edison Company and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
Born August 15, 1914, into a Quaker family in Clark County, OH, Howard Russell Smith moved to Whittier, CA., with his family when he was five years old. He worked his way through Pomona College, where he met Stan Avery, and graduated in 1936, having distinguished himself as student body president and star half-miler.
After graduation, Smith joined the investment banking firm, Kidder, Peabody & Co., in New York as a securities analyst. He then spent from 1937 to 1940 in Geneva, Switzerland with the International Labor Office of the League of Nations. At the start of World War II, Smith returned to the Los Angeles area, where he became a labor negotiator and assistant to the president of Blue Diamond Corp., a building products company. In 1943 he joined the Navy as an officer and spent three years in Washington, D.C., on special assignment to the War Department.
Smith’s wife of nearly 67 years, Jeanne, died in 2009. He is survived by his sons Stewart and Douglas, his daughter Ellen Scott, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be private. A memorial service is planned and will be announced at a later date. The family has requested that donations be made in lieu of flowers to The Huntington Library in San Marino, Pomona College in Claremont, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, or Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.