Secretary & Associate General Counsel, Con Edison of New York Inc. • New York, N.Y.
When Saddie Lucille Smith moved from Como, N.C., to Ossining, N.Y., at 11, she was labeled a slow learner. “My teachers called me slow and made me feel stupid because I had a Southern accent,” says Smith. She was placed on the lowest academic track until she got a perfect score on an English exam in seventh grade. “My teacher thought I cheated, so he made me take the test again after school.” Again she got a perfect score. Following an aptitude test, she was placed with the A-track students. “I never forgot that [label] and I have never lost my Southern accent or mannerisms,” she declares.
Today she is secretary and associate general counsel for Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc., having studied classics at the prestigious Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, as a member of the first class of women to attend the school, and law at Columbia University. Bowdoin’s notable alumni include Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express. “Ken was two years ahead of me,” says Smith.
She landed at Con Ed in 1982, and today oversees the company’s fiscal and business matters as well as development of its corporate structure. Smith mixes her great sense of humor with hard work. “A lot of my employees say, ‘We have a lot of fun working for Saddie, but, boy, do you work hard!’” she says.
Smith was inducted into the YWCA’s Academy of Women Achievers in 1996 and is a recipient of the YMCA’s Black Achievers in Industry award. She credits her mother with keeping her focused “with tough love.” “I never let my accomplishments go to my head,” she says. And she values her husband’s support for her professional aspirations.
The words of T.S. Eliot sum up her mantra: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”