The philanthropy of the late Bob and Pat Schmidt continued, as the foundation named for them gave a $1 million gift Thursday to the place where their son said it all started — Fort Hays State University.
For the second time in two days, Tony Schmidt, Lawrence, handed over a check to a Hays educational institution.
On Wednesday, Tony Schmidt and his wife, Loretta, presented Thomas More Prep-Marian High School with a gift of $500,000 for the Catholic school’s endowment fund.
Thursday’s gift to the FHSU Foundation will fund the Robert E. and Patricia A. Schmidt Family Foundation scholarship the couple established more than two decades ago, FHSU Foundation President and CEO Jason Williby said in a press conference in the Memorial Union on Thursday morning.
The scholarships are available to full-time FHSU students from Kansas, with a preference given to those whose families have a broadcasting background.
Tony Schmidt said FHSU offered his father his most important opportunity.
The elder Schmidt grew up in La Crosse and attended FHSU on the GI bill after World War II, graduating in 1950 with a business degree. His love for sports led him to becoming a sports broadcaster, and he supplemented his income by selling ads for KAYS, Tony Schmidt said.
He soon became general manager of the station and later the owner, building it into Eagle Communications.
“To run the radio station, he realized the importance of community leadership, helping businesses to grow and serving people from all walks of life. He knew our region needed to take pride in itself,” Tony Schmidt said.
“Perhaps the most important thing he achieved in amassing so much was giving it all back to the communities that made it possible,” he said.
The Schmidts’ generosity can be seen in Hays on facilities including Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center and Schmidt-Bickle Training Facility at FHSU, Dreiling-Schmidt Cancer Institute at HaysMed and Bickle-Schmidt Sports Complex.
The Schmidts also gave to FHSU for Picken Hall renovations, the Robbins Center construction, Sternberg Museum of Natural History and the Edward H. Hammond Endowed Chair Fund, among others, totaling more than $4.5 million, Interim President Andy Tompkins said in his last day on campus.
Bob Schmidt served as a trustee for the FHSU Foundation from 1966 to 1974 and again from 1992 to 2000.
Pat Schmidt was a supporter of the arts in the community, serving as Hays Arts Council president twice and was appointed to the board of directors of the Association of Arts Councils of Kansas.
Williby urged others to follow in their footsteps.
“I don’t know that you’ll ever replace the generosity and leadership of someone like Bob Schmidt, but young people in town, let’s try because this town needs people like the Schmidts,” he said.