By Lea Shores
The 77 steps, the Mound, the Jinx, Stewart Field House—when thinking about Southwestern College, any of these things may come to mind. While the college is about to celebrate 125 years of tradition, Phil Schmidt, professor of history, is celebrating his 43rd year of teaching at the college.
Schmidt attended Ottawa University, in Ottawa, where he was originally studying physics and math. A change of majors in his junior year led him to the University of Kansas for four years of graduate studies in history and then to SC. “I came to campus for an interview in the spring of ’67,” said Schmidt. “They offered me the job and I took it because I liked my time at Ottawa and I liked what I saw at Southwestern.”
While his expertise is technically in history and anthropology, Schmidt has taught a variety of classes at the college including College Writing, Introduction to Statistics, political science courses and a masters of education course on research methods.
Jason Bond, history senior, puts it simply. “He knows what he’s doing.”
Schmidt is well known by students for several reasons, including his preference for 8 a.m. classes and his tough love grading strategy for research papers. “Over and over again I have students who tell me they never were taught grammar before,” said Schmidt.
Though his classes may not be a top pick on campus, Schmidt is still respected among students. “He’s really nice and he connects well with his students,” said Bond.
In 1994, several students formed the ska band OPhil. “The founders were kind of stunned by my expectations of grammar,” said Schmidt. Their complaints of “Oh, Phil.” became the inspiration for a band name.
It’s this kind of bond with students that has kept Schmidt at Southwestern for so long, though he’s had a couple of chances to teach elsewhere. “Ottawa approached me and asked me to interview there about 15 years ago,” said Schmidt. “I really was happy here and didn’t want to leave.”
After 43 years of teaching, Schmidt shows no signs of slowing down. Currently, he is working on research for his paper, “U.S. press coverage of woman suffrage, 1867-1920: New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. newspapers cover ‘Votes for Women!’”
This paper has involved a sabbatical at the Chicago Center for Urban Development and numerous hours of research. Schmidt hopes eventually to publish a book using his research.
Schmidt is regularly seen in cafeteria for lunch and dinner and at sporting events when he’s not teaching classes but he also is involved in the community off campus. “I’m involved in the First Baptist Church and I’m on the board of directors at the alternative high school,” said Schmidt. “If I had time for purely recreational stuff, I like chess, bridge, volleyball and tennis.”
Many changes have taken place at the college since 1967 but some things remain the same. “The kind of students we get here has not changed over the years I’ve been here,” said Schmidt. “It’s really fun to work with the typical Southwestern student. Despite my worries, they have excellent futures.”
Lea Shores is a senior majoring in English. You may e-mail her at email@example.com.