Marlin “Colby” Smith, Class of 1980

B.S. in Earth Science, Minor in Journalism

Retired Airline Pilot, School Bus Driver

colby smith
Colby climbing Mt. Humphrey, taken in 1977

What was your career plan during college? Did this change once you graduated?

“I started NAU majoring in Forestry. By second semester I switched to Music Education. A year later I switched to Recreation Resource Management. After a semester or two of that, finally switched to Earth Science and graduated with that major.” 

How did NAU prepare you for your career?

“I think any experience we have prepares us for life. My minor was in Journalism. I have always been an advocate for myself and my family. Advocacy requires some investigative writing. My education in Earth Science (Geology and related fields) provided some insight to the geography that I not only flew over as an airline pilot, but that I enjoyed traveling about (by land) with my family on many personal vacations. Learning to learn, or finding the best way to study can help in any career training episode. Meeting new people, making friends creates a lifelong bond of people to network with.”

Where are you now? Please tell us about your current career, job location, and pros/cons.

“I live in the Midwest near Madison, Wisconsin. I’m retired from the airlines, driving a school bus. I also drove a school bus in Flagstaff while attending NAU, so in that regard I guess my career path has come full circle. While my degree was in Earth Science and Journalism, I ended up in the Transportation field, something I have always enjoyed. (I joined the USCG shortly after graduating.) The pros include doing something I enjoy, traveling, seeing many places, meeting others, time off and being financially secure. The cons involved missing some family events and holidays, and being away from home. Towards the end of my airline career I became burned out with the politics and time away from home. But was able to retire early, and now spend time volunteering and doing other things that I again enjoy, while being able to spend more time with family. As for driving a school bus, I enjoy the kids, and have a good part of my days, along with weekends and summers, free! This allows me the time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, and then travel during the summer. “

What advice do you have for current NAU students?

“Make the most of your time in college. It is most likely your first opportunity to live away from home, while still having somewhat of a safety net of the school atmosphere around you. Get involved in clubs and activities. Socialize with your classmates. Attend a local church and/or join others at the campus religious centers. Go to class and participate. Get to know the adults on and off campus. Many of these folks can provide mentoring that can help you land careers!”

What was your favorite part about NAU Flagstaff?

“I loved the surrounding area. I spent a lot of my free time exploring the nearby forest roads and visiting the other nearby communities. Camping and hiking with my college buddies. Flagstaff had a lot to offer the outdoor enthusiast.”


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