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Phillips W. Smith, Jr.

Company A-1
9 Dec 1937- 14 Apr 2021
Place of Death: Scottsdale, AZ.
Interment: Green Acres Cemetery, Scottsdale, AZ

It is with great regret and sorrow that I must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Phil Smith, on 14 April 2021, in Scottsdale, AZ.

Phil is survived by his sons, Tom and Rick, and his grandchildren, Kylie, Drake, Summer, Carsyn, McKenna, Tyler, and Heather. Phil was predeceased by his wife, Patty.

Visitation will be at 10:30 am on April 18, 2021 at Green Acres Mortuary, 401 N Hayden Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85257.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11:30 am on April 18, 2021 at Green Acres Mortuary, 401 N Hayden Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85257.

A Graveside Service will be conducted at 12:30 pm on April 18, 2021 at Green Acres Cemetery, 401 N Hayden Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85257.

Condolences may be sent to Tom at 4901 E Tomahawk Trail, Paradise Valley, AZ  85253.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations in Phil's memory be sent to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, 5001 Angel Canyon Road, Kanab, UT  84741.

Well done, Phil. Be thou at peace.


Class Memorial Pages\A-1 Phil Smith.pdf


Phillips Waller Smith
APRIL 14, 2021

We are saddened to announce the passing of Phil Smith, beloved son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend. Even through his cancer, Phil cherished every moment of his life. He never felt deprived, but instead felt blessed to have lived his more than 83 years. We should all be so lucky to enjoy such a rich and wonderful life as his. Like everything in his life, Phil overcame nearly every challenge the disease presented and repeatedly surprised the doctors and lived well past the doctor’s timelines. He was brilliant, tough, gentle, charismatic, modest and generous.

Phil’s Early Life

Phillips W. Smith, PhD, was born in Davenport, Iowa on December 9, 1937. Phil held a B.S. degree from West Point Military Academy, an M.B.A. degree from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. degree in Business Administration from St. Louis University. Phil began his military career with the Navy. As a sailor, he was literally turned around during a submarine cruise in order to return to attend West Point. His father was a General in the US Army and comes from a long line of West Point graduates. After graduating from West Point, Phil transferred to the US Air Force from 1961 to 1968 and served as a Pilot C130 and Operations Research Analyst at Military Airlift Command Headquarters. This instilled in Phil a life-long love of flying.

On August 3, 1963 Phil married Patricia Ann Rich (“Patty Smith”), a union of more than 57 years until Patty passed away. Together they raised two sons, Tom and Patrick (“Rick”). Phil mentored Tom and Rick as entrepreneurs and all three co-founded Axon (formerly TASER International, which is now headed by Rick. Phil was always proud to say how many people they helped to become millionaires because of the success of this business. Tom is now running a new start-up in Tempe called Wrap Technologies.

Phil’s Business Philosophy

To see Phil and his business philosophy, please watch and you’ll see Phil’s spirit and drive:

Phil the Serial Entrepreneur

In his professional life, Phil had more than 45 years of experience with high technology companies, serving as both CEO and Chairman, and in corporate officer positions at three Fortune 500 Companies. Looking back, Phil can only be described as a serial entrepreneur. To name a few of his positions will show him as a leader and a man who believed in technology.

Phil served as the Chairman of the Board of Pentawave from January 1999 to October 2000 and its CEO from January to March 1999. From June 1990 to September 1997, he served as the President and CEO of Zycad Corporation, a developer of engineering and manufacturing applications software. Previously, he served as the Chairman and CEO at CAE Systems (sold to Tektronix Inc. for $75M in 1986), then CEO and Chairman of EDGE Computer. In 2001, Phil led the way to take TASER International, Inc. public on the Nasdaq. Phil served as Chairman Emeritus of TASER International Inc. since October 23, 2006 and served as its Chairman until October 23, 2006. He also served as a Director of TASER International Inc. from 1993 to October 23, 2006. He served as Chairman of Cyrq Energy, Inc. He served as Chairman and Director of Lightwave Logic, Inc. from January 2010 to October 24, 2011. He served as Chairman of Delta Mutual, Inc. since April 25, 2013. He served as the Chairman of the Board at Raser Technologies, Inc. Phil’s last position was starting a company at the age of 82 as the CEO at Discovery DX, a disruptive bitotech firm in Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) for infectious diseases.

Phil is the father of AIR TASER Inc. co-founders, Rick and Tom Smith that later became TASER International, the maker of its revolutionary TASER energy weapon for law enforcement. After TASER International went public, the company later developed its second line of radical law enforcement products – Axon body worn cameras. Phil was instrumental in leading this startup company to become a publicly traded company that later became Axon Enterprise, Inc.

Phil was Axon’s first Chairman of the Board since its founding in September 1993 and later named Chairman Emeritus in 2006. Phil not only was the first chairman, but was also the first angel investor of AIR TASER, Inc., which began as a small team of five startup members. Phil advised the team with crucial insight, inspired bold tech advances, and pushed to continually strive for success.

Known as one of the few “gray hairs” of this small fledgling company in its founding years, Phil kept the company afloat with his whirling-dervish drive, startup mentality of all hands on deck, mega-passion, speed of action, a super fan of achievements, intuitive bets, and a go-for-it mentality to bet it all despite all odds and sceptics.

Some may not realize that Axon lost money for the first eight years of its existence. To overcome this, the company needed a wise, savvy, sage-like guide who strived to overcome business challenges. Phil was that North Star guiding its leadership and employees to keep fighting. He believed in the employees and his confidence and energy rubbed off on everyone at that time. To say that he was a driver, is to understand Phil.

Some people have a penchant for success or even a bias for action. Phil was the epitome of act now, strike hard, fail fast, learn quick, strike again… He believed you had to fail and get fired once in your life to really learn to overcome challenges.

The apple fell next to the tree with his two sons as well. This trio of Smiths were charismatic and confident. There were days when he provided his wisdom and there were other days the team would present him tremendous challenges and every once in a while he would simply say, “You guys are smart. You’ll figure it out,” and then walk away. No advice on those days but he made us go deep to overcome.

Phil continued as a Strategic Advisor of TASER International Inc. since October 23, 2006. His touch on the company culture of an open office atmosphere, proclivity for action, passion, and excellence continue to this day. For the team that served under Phil, they didn’t just know him, they “experienced” him. Employees loved when Phil would do office “fly-bys” as everyone was eager to gain his insight. He was a welcoming Chairman who only made you think you always had a little bit more in the gas tank with his “is that the best you’ve got?” attitude and always asked, “How’s the quarter going?” and “Did you get the PO yet from…”? He never shied from rolling up his sleeves, and there were days he volunteered to drive to police departments to physically request and pick up a PO that was pending. Seriously!

Phil’s Later Life

Phil loved animals but truly enjoyed his many dogs. Phil showed dogs and had many champions in the AKC dog show world. For 20 years Phil and Patty often traveled with them all over the country in their motorhome.

Phil lost Patty to dementia and met Carol Swanson, with whom he travelled to her home of Canada frequently while battling a horrible form of blood cancer for over 4 years. Phil and Carol had a beautiful relationship and he adopted Carol’s sport of gymnastics traveling the world to competitions and supporting her judging. Carol mourns the loss of her loving partner.

Phil is survived by his two sons, Rick and Tom Smith, as well as his 7 grandchildren: Kylie, Drake, Summer, Carsyn, McKenna, Tyler and Heather. Phil truly lived life on his terms, and per his wishes, passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at home on the evening of April 14, 2021.

Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

Phillips W. Smith , Jr. 1961

Cullum No. 23624-1961 | April 14, 2021 | Died in Scottsdale, AZ
Interred in Green Acres Cemetery, Scottsdale, AZ.

Phillips Waller “Phil” Smith Jr. was born in Davenport, IA on December 9, 1937. His father was an Air Force general officer who graduated in the USMA Class of 1930. Phil spent the World War II years in Haverstraw, NY, just 19 miles from West Point. He spent his last high school year at Sullivan’s Preparatory School, where Phil said, “Learning all the things I didn’t absorb in the first five.” He applied to all three service academies. He also joined the Navy Reserve to facilitate his appointment to Annapolis and volunteered for submarine duty, attending Submarine School in New London, CT. He was at sea on the USS Sablefish when he received orders to report to West Point on July 2, 1957. His honorable discharge from the Navy arrived on June 6, 1961, the day before he was commissioned in the Air Force. He went through flight school in Phoenix, AZ, where he met Patty. Phil earned an MBA from Michigan State University and later earned a Ph.D. in business administration just before he resigned from the Air Force in 1968. He started a company in Denver in 1971 and, in 1978, became president of Bausch & Lomb’s second largest division. In 1986, he became CEO of a Silicon Valley startup that he subsequently sold. He moved to Phoenix as CEO of another high-technology startup, where, in Phil’s words, “We made a small fortune for our investors, after starting with a very large fortune.” In 1990, he became CEO of a public company for seven years and then returned to Phoenix, where his sons Tom and Patrick had started TASER International, Inc. Phil became the chairman. Later, in 2020, Phil and a business partner formed a new company, Fionnachtain, which is now known as Revlar Labs. Phil was the CEO until his passing. At the memorial service, his business partner stated: “Phil has a fan club that spans the globe. While one can say that his passing is an inestimable loss, it is only to highlight the enormous and wonderful impact that he had on so many. The list of adjectives is almost endless: loving father, faithful husband, enduring friend, unquestionable personal integrity, a dynamic leader, authentic, kind, supportive, dependable, good-humored, intelligent, thoughtful, educated, considerate, perseverance, happy, wise, imaginative, enthusiastic, fair-minded, forgiving perceptive, curious, individualistic, untiring, persuasive, frank, optimistic, adventurous, rational, gracious, decisive, bold... .”

Lee Anderson was Phil’s roommate at West Point for three years and wrote: “You can really get to know someone in that amount of time. Over that period and prior to his passing we kept in touch. Some years more than others but never of out touch. Phil will always be my endearing friend. Phil was an excellent student, and I was an average student. I’m not sure I would have graduated without Phil’s help. We made the best of cadet life. Both of us requested Air Force upon graduation. We both ended up in Phoenix shortly after graduation. Phil was in flight school at Williams AFB, and I was at Luke AFB. It was then Phil met Patty, the love of his life. Patty was a senior at ASU and a cheerleader. In 1962 Phil graduated from flight school, and a beautiful church wedding was planned. Phil asked me to be his best man. Phil was stationed at Joint Base Charleston, SC flying multi-engine aircraft. While Patty and Phil were raising their two sons, they began breeding and showing Doberman dogs all around the country. Phil bought a big bus and converted it to living quarters up front and a kennel in the back third. The dogs were one thing they loved to do. They showed at Westminster and had some national champions. Later they changed breeds by adding the Mexican hairless. Others have described Phil’s business acumen, so I’ll just say that I don’t know one individual I respected more in business than Phil. He was always low keyed about his success. As the years went by Patty was lost to dementia, and Phil was ever caring with her. I’d call and ask about her and it was hard for Phil to talk about it. I finally didn’t ask anymore. She no longer recognized Phil. When Phil called to tell me about his terminal blood disease, I was shaken up. Phil talked about it like it was nothing. He wasn’t going to drag anybody down with it. He tried everything and researched the disease like only he would do. He went to the Mayo Clinic and to Mexico searching for a possible cure. Although he fought the fight far longer than they told him he could, it finally took him. The last three years of his life we were close again. I still remember a telephone call to Phil during which I told him how proud we were of him and Patty and the boys and everything he had accomplished. He let me get about halfway through the list and then he turned his attention on what I’d done. He was my best friend.” 

Phil is survived by his two sons, Rick and Tom Smith, as well as by his seven grandchildren: Kylie, Drake, Summer, Carsyn, McKenna, Tyler and Heather. Phil truly lived life on his terms and passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family at home on the evening of April 14, 2021.

— Classmates Lee Anderson, Paul Palmer, and Bill Williamson