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H. Russell Smith, longtime Avery Dennison executive, dies at 100

H. Russell Smith, longtime Avery Dennison executive, dies at 100
H. Russell Smith, left, and Avery Dennison founder R. Stanton Avery stand in front of the company's former headquarters in San Marino in the 1960s. Smith played a key role in turning Avery's inventions into a thriving business. (Business Wire)

H. Russell Smith, a longtime executive at Avery Dennison Corp. who joined the self-sticking label manufacturer after World War II and helped turn it into a global enterprise listed on the Fortune 500, died Sept. 7 at his home in Pasadena. He was 100.

The company, now based in Glendale after many years in Pasadena, announced his death but did not specify the cause.

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A Pomona College graduate and Navy veteran, Smith was recruited by company founder R. Stanton Avery in 1946, when they incorporated the business. Smith became Avery's right-hand man as general manager, vice president and director. Over the course of his career, Smith expanded operations across the U.S. and in Europe and backed the company's research efforts.

Smith served as president of the company from 1956 to 1975, board chairman from 1975 to 1984 and chairman of the executive committee from 1984 to 1995, when he retired. He was director emeritus at the time of his death.

"Someone once said our natures were balanced like a well-tuned gyroscope," Avery said, according to a company statement. "I supplied the imagination and Russ the reality that kept us in business."

Avery Dennison now makes a variety of office products used for labeling and packaging, with offices in more than 50 countries and sales of $6.1 billion in 2013.

Howard Russell Smith was born Aug. 15, 1914, in Clark County, Ohio, and in 1919 moved with his family to Whittier. He grew up there and on his father's citrus farm in the El Cajon Valley east of San Diego. He attended Pomona College in Claremont, where he majored in economics, was captain of the track team his senior year and served as student body president.

After graduating in 1936 he worked as a securities analyst on Wall Street and an economist with the League of Nations in Geneva. As World War II broke out in Europe he returned to Los Angeles and joined the Blue Diamond building corporation before entering the Navy in 1943. He was assigned to the War Department in Washington for three years.

Smith supported many philanthropic organizations and institutions in Southern California. He was chairman of the board of trustees at Pomona College for 18 years, and he served as chairman of the boards of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn., Children's Hospital Los Angeles and public television station KCET (Channel 28).

Smith's wife of nearly 67 years, Jeanne, died in 2009. He is survived by their sons Stewart and Douglas, daughter Ellen Scott, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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