Back to Last Roll Call Home Page   

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.