Philip R. Schmidt (1941–2014)
Stephen M. Woodburn and Sara Weinert, September 2014
Photo courtesy of Stephen M. Woodburn
US Historian and Cultural Anthropologist
Philip R. “Phil” Schmidt joined the faculty at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, in 1967. He continued teaching there until a few weeks before he died, on April 4, 2014, concluding a 47-year teaching career as the institution’s most senior faculty member. He was a respected scholar, a devoted teacher, and a dear friend to students and colleagues alike.
Schmidt was born on July 9, 1941, in Detroit, Michigan, and finished high school in Peoria, Illinois. He graduated from Ottawa University in Kansas at the top of his class in 1963. In 1974 he earned his doctorate in history and anthropology from the University of Kansas, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. His doctoral dissertation investigated the life of Hezekiah Niles (1777–1839), publisher of the influential Baltimore-based news periodical Weekly Register. His later research involved statistical analysis of sexist coverage by East Coast establishment newspapers of the women’s suffrage movement, especially Wyoming’s decision as the first state to allow women to vote.
He spent his career teaching courses in American history, Kansas state history, physical and cultural anthropology, Native American cultures, early human origins, and statistics. He also taught courses in research methods, writing, and oral communication. Three generations of Southwestern College students learned to expect their papers to be returned covered in ink, detailing the finer points of correct grammar and proper usage of punctuation.
Phil Schmidt participated in the full life of the college and was a regular at men’s and women’s athletic events, in the dining hall, and at music and theater performances. He could be found on campus most evenings and throughout the summer, seated at his desk in his book-lined office. He was committed to his students’ success and remained involved in their lives long after graduation.
Schmidt was the campus liaison and an enthusiastic promoter of the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture, challenging students from a small rural college to embrace the urban setting for a semester of internship experience. He served a term as Social Sciences Division chair, and was a sponsor of Pi Gamma Mu. In 2008, he received the Charles and Verda Kopke Award for Excellence in Teaching from Southwestern College.
Phil will be deeply missed by his family—his wife of fifty-one years, Phyllis; his daughters, Amy Schmidt and Alleigh Allen; his son-in-law, Kelly Allen; and his four grandchildren. And the entire Southwestern College family mourns the loss of a campus fixture and deep well of institutional memory. To quote one former student, “We all benefited from how he shared himself with us.”
Stephen M. Woodburn
Southwestern College (KS)