Schmidt to retire from Troy University

Published 10:55 pm Monday, June 23, 2014

6-24 Schmidt, john 2010 web

Dr. John Schmidt, Troy University’s senior vice chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, has a question that has sat on his desk since he started working at Troy University in 1994.

“It says, ‘What does it mean to students?’ That really guided my whole focus,” he said.

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In the last two decades, Schmidt has been a facilitator in the construction of Trojan Village and the Newman Center. He helped start the campus bus system that runs throughout the City of Troy and had a hand in bringing the new aviation program, CGI and the new IT center to Troy.

Schmidt is proudest of his role in creating a reading service program and first-year success program for new students. “It’s something we worked collaboratively on,” he said. “For the campus reading program, we had students read a book before they came to campus so that they would have a love of learning before they ever started.”

The program played a part in increasing the university’s retention of freshmen.

Schmidt plans to leave the question as a reminder for his successor. The university will announce who the successor is in a press conference today.

“I hope he continues the momentum that we started here,” he said.

Schmidt sees great opportunities for the university’s flight school program and possible partnerships that might be forged with aircraft manufacturers like Sikorsky and Airbus.

During his tenure, the university played an active role in getting Mercedes Benz to open a plant in Alabama.

Schmidt and Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. were college classmates who became lifelong friends. “We both aspired to be Marine Corps officers,” Schmidt said.

Both served, but Schmidt made a career of it, retiring with 25 years of service. Schmidt came to the university when his oldest son started as a student. He started his second career as executive assistant to Hawkins and is thankful for the opportunities Hawkins provided.

“Dr. Hawkins has allowed me the latitude and the resources to be involved in a lot of different projects. He’s a collaborative leader, a visionary and very much engaged,” Schmidt said.

Since his start at the university, Schmidt says he has served in almost every capacity available.

During his tenure, Schmidt was also active in Pike County’s community development. He ran for office and served as chairman of the Pike County Economic Board and Pike County Chamber of Commerce. He plans to continue his involvement after he retires at the end of July.

When Schmidt came to Troy, he found that many of the skills he had used in the Marine Corps transferred into the university setting.

“I didn’t have early-morning formations and didn’t go running across the campus,” he laughed. “But I always saw the students as my troops. When you’re leading men or women, you’re looking after their welfare, their well-being, you’re correcting, you’re praising. Those skills were easily transferable.”

Schmidt’s favorite phrase in his Marine Corps days held true in the academic setting, too. In his last few weeks at the university, the phrase has echoed in his head.

“Leave only footprints and take only memories,” he said. “I have wonderful memories of my time here at Troy. But, I’m also mindful that those footprints will wash away like sand at the seashore and someone else will leave his footprints in their place.”