OUTSTANDING VIRGINIANS 2013

GREGG SMITH

Community Activist and Philanthropist

Gregg Smith

In 1987, Maryland -born Gregg Smith ended up in Norfolk, Virginia, after serving in the Navy as an officer and a helicopter pilot. Like so many promising service members, his military career was cut short by his sexuality. Unlike many, though, he was treated with respect and not pressured to inform on fellow sailors. This allowed him to leave feeling proud of his service and, incidentally, surprised Randy Shilts, who interviewed Gregg for his book Conduct Unbecoming about anti-gay witch hunts in the military.

Without regret, Gregg immediately took a position with the financial planning company Ameriprise. He soon found that he had joined a progressive company. Not only was his gayness never an issue, the company encouraged him to join with peers across the country to develop LGBT-centered marketing strategies.

Now a Certified Financial Planner and franchise owner, Gregg has developed seminars and workshops specifically for clients in same-sex partnerships. “The company lets me run my shop the way I want,” he says. Running the shop his way includes supporting local HIV-AIDS service organizations, pride events, and sponsoring tables for EV’s Commonwealth Dinner.

Gregg served as a Navy officer and helicopter pilot.

He has hosted and participated in many fundraisers supporting local organizations, as well. In addition, he has personally invested in these causes, plus the Human Rights Campaign Fund and the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network’s campaign to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and he supports LGBT-friendly political candidates. Gregg gives generously of his time as well, having served in board and officer roles in local HIV-AIDS service organizations almost continuously since 1993.

Although busy with his charitable activities, Gregg makes time for an activity he has enjoyed since his Navy days—flying—and spending time with other flyers. When not piloting a single-engine Cessna 182, he is busy supporting the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA), where he has served in leadership roles since 2004. He combines both activities when he flies his plane to various NGPA events. The NGPA has been instrumental in helping airlines craft LGBT-friendly policies and countering the homophobia that sometimes occurs when pilots get together.

Flying is a continued passion for Gregg.

Part of Gregg’s work for the NGPA involves addressing the needs of young pilots and pilots in training. The organization gives out substantial grants to students, gay and straight, who, as part of the application process, write an essay about their aspirations and their support of LGBT causes. A sign of the times is the fact that the group’s membership now includes 20-30 active duty service members, who are perfectly happy to have their names included in the membership roster.   “We’ll see a lot more of that in the future,” Gregg says.

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