Kent State employee awarded Air Force Civilian of the Year

Photo by Bob Christy

Photo by Bob Christy

Sky Fought

Earlier this month, the Air Force recognized Cynthia Smith, a Kent State employee, as Civilian of the Year. Smith works as the aerospace studies administrative assistant on campus. 

Smith, who has been in her position since 2009, said she loves what she does every day.  When she first began interviewing for jobs, she told the talent acquisitions manager her dream job was to work in an active duty Air Force office. 

“I wanted to work with people who go out and change the world,” Smith said. “I want to work with people who are actively making things better.”

After the woman who previously held the position for 30 years filed her resignation, Smith was offered her dream job. Smith said she remembers the manager telling her landing the job had to be fate.

Daniel Finkelstein, the commander of Air Force ROTC on the Kent campus, and Dominic Caricoppolo, a lieutenant Smith worked with, collaborated together to nominate Smith for the award. 

Finkelstein said that when he has to get help for a cadet or solve a problem within the program he always goes to Smith.

“She does a lot of great work for the Air Force,” Finkelstein said. “She acts as my translator between Kent State and ROTC.”

Finkelstein said Kent State lets the Air Force ROTC program stay on the campus as a guest and Smith provides information back and forth, making their stay easier on both parties.

“Whatever we need, whether it be funding or helping with scheduling, Ms. Smith figures it all out,” Finkelstein said. 

Ted Rask, a lieutenant in the Air Force, said Smith had both a personal and professional effect on his life. Rask said during his time at Kent State, Smith was his person to talk to about life, college and the military.

“She was like a second mom,” Rask said. “She was there for me every single day.”

Smith said she felt honored to be nominated, but the most important part for her was being able to bring the award home to Kent State.

“When you think military and Kent State, there is always a negativity and a history we need to embrace and need to change,” Smith said. “I think bringing home this award, meaning we’re doing something good here, is an honor.” 

The Air Force recognized other members of detachment 630 at their award ceremony. Captain Phillip Bergeron won company Grade Officer of the Year, while Captain Chris Deaver won Operations Flight Commander of the Year. Detachment 630 won best in the country.

“It’s very humbling and gratifying to see our folks who work hard get recognized,” Finkelstein said. “I have a lot of outstanding folks on my team who do great things for detachment 630.”

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