March 5, 2018
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Passages: Former Starbucks CEO and philanthropist Orin C. Smith dies at 75

Iconic business leader Orin C. Smith, who was a key advisor to several Washington governors and a key leader of Starbucks, and was known for his philanthropy, died last Thursday at 75. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.

Smith grew up in Chehalis in “humble beginnings,” the Centralia Chronicle wrote, and later worked his way to the corner office as CEO of Starbucks. His tenure at Starbucks from 2000 to his retirement in 2005 oversaw a major company expansion.

Smith was successful in both the public and private sector, having served as budget director for two Washington governors, and was an executive at transportation companies and a consulting practice.

But it’s his work as a philanthropist t7hat especially stands out, especially in southwestern Washington. Smith donated to Centralia College, the Chehalis Foundation, the local aquatic center and the Vernetta Smith Chehalis Timberland Library, named for his mother.

“What a great man he was,” Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, told the newspaper. “He gave so much for the community … Not very often in our lives do you have a philanthropist on that level.”

Smith later served as a regent at the University of Washington and on the board of The Walt Disney Company.

Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz said Smith taught him to “lead and to live with humanity,” the Seattle Times reported.

“He was the older brother I never had, always providing the wisdom and sage guidance to me and the company, while never seeking the stage nor the spotlight,” Schultz wrote in an email to Starbucks employees. “Always, shining the light and giving the credit to others. He made us all better, especially me. There would be no Starbucks of today, if not for Orin Smith.”

Gov. Jay Inslee called Smith "a Washington original" and wrote, "Orin was one of those people you go to when you needed a reasonable, forward-thinking perspective. He’s supported so many important efforts and helped many public leaders. He’ll be missed by many."

A memorial service for family will be held in Wyoming and another service will be held in Seattle at a yet-to-be-determined time, the Times reported. Donations can be made to the Jackson Community Foundation or the Chehalis Foundation.

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A Lifetime of Learning

Workforce development begins young, continues over lifetime

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