Roland Smith was born in Sweetwater, Texas, and grew up in Roscoe. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s with bachelor's and master's degrees in business, and in 1995 with a Ph.D. in educational administration.
He taught at Alvin Junior College for two years and was data services director, controller, administrative services director and interim administrative services dean at College of the Mainland over a period of 13 years. He was vice president for finance and three‐time interim president at Austin Community College (14 years) and at Stephen F. Austin State University (10 years). While at SFA he served as interim president for 18 months. He is a certified public accountant.
Roland joined the staff of the Texas State University System as vice chancellor for finance in August 2005. He and his wife, Ruth, live in Austin as do their son, Kerby, and their daughter, Ambyr Lostracco and her husband Anthony.