"Joining Skull Made Going to an Enormous School Manageable"

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Principal Owner of Todd Tool and Abrasive Systems, Michael Smith '91, serves the manufacturing industries of New England alongside his business partner, Ross Lyon '91. Their business partnership was forged at 234 E. Beaver Ave. and Ross is the GM and maintainer of IT Systems. The PSU connections run deep for Smith - he event met his wife of 21 years there, she was a Pi Phi at PSU ('91).

Q: Why did you join Psi Chapter in the first place?

Smith: “I joined PSI chapter because I felt really comfortable with the brothers. Skull house was very comfortable. I was introduced to the house by Chris McCurdy ‘91. We ended up pledging together.  His father was a brother. Joining Skull made going to an enormous school manageable.”

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time in the chapter?

Smith: “My favorite memory of Skull was spending one on one time with Mike Grigor ‘90 during initiation week.”

Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your fellow alums? 

Smith: “My business partner is Ross Lyon ’91. We have worked together for more than a decade.  We have an annual (21 years and counting!) golf trip that Brad Ottinger ‘91, Chris McCurdy ‘91, Rocky Fizzano ‘91, Bob Beran ‘90 often attend.  I still see Andy Friberg ‘93 on a regular basis when we visit State College.”

Q: Tell us about your job title and what you do. 

"Joining Skull Made Going to an Enormous School Manageable."

Smith: “I am the principal owner of Todd Tool and Abrasive Systems.  We are application specialists that serve the manufacturing industries in New England.  We utilize technology (application of products we sell and automated vending) to help our customers reduce their manufacturing costs.  I have two main roles:  sales and financial planning.  Ross is our General Manager and maintains our IT systems.  Ross did an amazing job developing software that has allowed to run competitively with billion dollar competitors.”

Q: How did your time in Psi Chapter help to prepare you for that role? 

Smith: “I received a BS in Accounting from Penn State.  I first worked at Price Waterhouse in DC before joining Todd Tool.  Psi chapter helped me immensely in preparing me for the real world.  First, I was exposed to many different opinions and experiences.  Having to coexist with 40 guys under one roof presented many challenges.  I received great advice from many of the more experienced men of the bone.”

Q: Tell us about your family/hobbies. 

Smith: “I have been married to Jennifer Haddock Smith for 21 years. She was a Pi Phi at PSU (‘91).  We did not know each other at state, we met in DC after graduation. We had a ton of common friends.  We have four children. Ethan (20), is a sophomore majoring in Computer Science at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. Nolan (19), is just starting his freshman year at PSU University Park. He was admitted to the school of engineering and hopes to major in mechanical. Marlee (16), is a junior in High School. Ashlyn (15), is a sophomore in High School.”

Q: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment? 

Smith: “The biggest accomplishment that I was able to be part of (it is not mine alone by any means) is dynamically changing a traditional mom and pop company into an innovative small business.  We often have to compete with multinationals, and we cannot beat them at their game.  Our value proposition is different, so we look to partners who embrace what we do.  We have a formula for our future, and I’m certain that we will have to tweak it to remain competitive.  We have a wonderful team and are currently looking at acquisition opportunities.”

Q: What advice would you give to future generations of Phi Kappa Sigma Psi Chapter members? 

Smith: “Embrace your time in the house!  You will never have another life experience like this. My experiences in Skull house made a significant impact on where I am today.”