A woman in a lab coat standing on top of a building with a view of the city in the background
Myra Goodman Smith, president and CEO of Leadership Metro Richmond, has made a name for herself through her unwavering commitment to helping others. (Courtesy photo)

VCU graduate Myra Goodman Smith’s public service forges a more equitable path for Richmond’s future leaders

The two-time Wilder School alum carries lessons around civic engagement into practice at the helm of Leadership Metro Richmond, an organization training the region’s leaders in community engagement.

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For Myra Goodman Smith, public service is her life’s work. From her days as a volunteer candy striper at what is now VCU Health at the age of 14 to her current position as president and CEO of Leadership Metro Richmond, Smith has made a name for herself through her unwavering commitment to helping others. 

“My academic and professional journey has been infused with community leadership and service, which began early in my life,” said Smith, who earned both a B.S. in urban studies and planning and a Master of Public Administration from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

At the helm of Leadership Metro Richmond, an organization that has served the area for over four decades, Smith and her team represent a transformative community engagement platform and leadership development initiative. 

Through a social equity-based lens, Leadership Metro Richmond fosters strategic partnerships across organizations to create opportunities for community advancement and facilitate meaningful connections. Leadership Metro Richmond offers a 10-month leadership development program as well as activities and networking opportunities that promote the growth of a diverse cohort of burgeoning change agents.

“Since I was a teenager in Richmond, I have worked both with and observed leaders in action,” she said. “It is exciting to help them be more impactful and effective in our challenging times.”

Committed to progress in Richmond and beyond

Smith is a proud Richmond native and graduate of its public school system.

“During my senior year of high school, I became one of City Council’s youngest commissioners,” she said. “I continued to serve during my time at VCU. This experience showed me the power of influence and civic engagement.”

Her service with the city inspired her to pursue an urban studies and planning undergraduate major at VCU. By the time she reached her senior year, she was an intern for the lieutenant governor’s office.

“The urban studies degree prepared me for my first jobs as a regional economic development planner and a community development planner,” she said. “The urban studies program also helped me understand the history and trends of critical community issues in the Richmond region. The facts and perspectives surrounding ‘why, when and where’ have informed me at community solution-building tables throughout my career.” 

The fall after earning her bachelor’s degree, she continued her Wilder School education, enrolling and graduating from the school’s M.P.A. program.

“I spent 23 years at United Way before LMR and served as vice president in diverse subject areas,” she said. Her time at VCU prepared her to take on these roles and more. “My M.P.A. prepared me to lead departments in technology, human resources, operations, campaign and community programs. I was confident to accept and lead departments in areas where I did not have expertise. I never said no to new opportunities — I kept learning.”

Volunteering for equity

Today, she brings her vast expertise to the Jenkins Foundation, a $60 million health legacy foundation that supports the Richmond region. As chair of the foundation, she advocates for its mission of promoting equitable access to primary health care, mental health services and substance abuse-related care. 

Her volunteer position at MCV Hospitals (now known as VCU Health) as a teenager sparked her longstanding passion for health care, and she’s continued to stoke the fire of that same tenacity ever since.

“As the only POC volunteer, I did not deliver flowers or magazines like the others,” she reflected. “Out of our large group, I was the only one assigned to the A.D. Williams Clinic that served low-wealth individuals. It wasn’t right to be pigeonholed and stereotyped that way. But it was an amazing experience, and I still got something good out of it: I enjoyed the assignment and saw firsthand the need for health care.”

Smith’s storied career exemplifies her dedication to elevating entire communities. With her tireless work ethic, she is building a path for the next generation of leaders.

This story originally appeared on the Wilder School website.