Friends and community members describe him as an “icon of Hays” and a “distinctive voice.” And all agree well-known local philanthropist and former president of Eagle Communications Bob Schmidt will be sorely missed.
Schmidt, 90, died at his Hays home early Tuesday morning. Funeral arrangements are pending with Hays Memorial Chapel.
Tim Chapman, who grew up in Hays, has known Schmidt for many years and worked closely with Bob and his wife, Pat, during his tenure as president of the Fort Hays State University Foundation.
“Bob was a great friend, a great contributor, an icon of Hays, and he definitely can’t be replaced,” Chapman said. “He will be missed.”
While the Schmidts are widely known for their generous giving, Chapman considered Schmidt a friend and said he will miss their personal conversations most of all.
While Chapman continues at the FHSU Foundation as senior director of development, he also is a well-known local artist. He was “honored” to be commissioned by the Schmidt family to craft a sculpture, which still sits in front of their home. The artwork is called “The Cloud Dancer,” as the couple loved to dance and Pat enjoyed watching the sky, he said.
“I think that’s what I’m really going to miss about Bob, is just those personal conversations and that distinctive voice that he had,” Chapman said. “I’ll always carry that with me.”
The name Schmidt appears in many places throughout the city of Hays, with buildings on campus, at Hays Medical Center, and the sports complex named partially in their honor.
Ruth Heffel, executive director of the HaysMed Foundation, said the Schmidt family always worked to “take care of people,” from his employees at Eagle Communications to the community at-large through philanthropic giving.
The couple has established a private foundation in their names, which likely will allow their good deeds to continue. Pat preceded her husband in death in 2015.
“Bob was a true proponent of quality health care for western Kansas,” Heffel said. “His gifts made equipment and programs possible for people to have access to good health care in our region. He was just a really very nice person and a real gentleman.”
Schmidt's death even struck U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., hard.
“Robba and I are deeply saddened by the news of Bob Schmidt’s passing,” he said in a statement. “Bob was among a few of our hometown’s most significant citizens — no one has made more of a difference in the well-being of our part of the state than Bob. From his service in the Navy to his time at Fort Hays State University to his work growing KAYS Radio into Eagle Communications, his natural leadership and generous spirit were clear to all who knew him. I’m grateful for our many years of friendship, and my family’s thoughts and prayers are with Bob’s loved ones today. We will miss him greatly.”
Schmidt was instrumental in the establishment and growth of Hays-based Eagle Communications. Eagle CEO Gary Shorman said Tuesday the company will miss Schmidt, but will strive to continue his vision.
"Bob Schmidt was an amazing man and inspiration to all of us at Eagle. As a leader, he challenged us to be better each day and every year," Shorman said in a statement. "As a broadcaster, he focused on being connected to our local community. As a friend and mentor, he inspired us to do great things."
Despite all of his professional and personal accomplishments, friends also say they will remember Schmidt’s modesty. Hays resident and retired dentist Bud Dalton had been a personal friend of Schmidt’s since the late 1940s.
They often met to share a meal or grab a cup of coffee. But despite years of friendship, it was only recently that Dalton found out Schmidt had served on the boards of CBS Television Network Affiliates Association and National Associated Press Broadcasters, he said.
“We’d tell stories at coffee, and I found out about that,” Dalton said. “But he was always so open and candid. He never bragged about anything.”