In her 88 years, Ringling College Board of Trustees member Jan Schmidt has experienced some momentous events. A plane crashed in her backyard. Fortunately, she was not on it or under it! She was in Dallas near the Kennedy motorcade on the day the president was assassinated. On a ship from Canada to England she—by sheer coincidence—met a soldier who had shared a foxhole with her father at Verdun during World War I.
Schmidt brings that same sense of adventure and vitality to Ringling College, where she has been a Board member for the past four years. She became involved with the College shortly after Bill, her husband of 53 years, passed away.
In addition to owning a company in Elizabethtown, KY, Schmidt and her husband traveled extensively, often in their own plane, and they took their sons around the world when the boys were 10 and 12, visiting places like India, East Africa, Russia, and the Far East.
“We went to China when Mao was still in power,” Schmidt says of their journey. “We saw very few cars, and people were dressed in Mao jackets.”
Schmidt was always active and pursued not only her family’s interests, but also her own.
“I was never timid,” Schmidt explains. “I knew who I was before I married and while we were married, but after Bill died I needed to find out who I was in this part of my life.” Fortunately for Ringling College, that quest brought her to the College.
The arts have always played a significant role in Schmidt’s life. Her sister, Peggy, took art lessons at the Art Institute of Chicago every Saturday while Schmidt and her mother explored the collections. Those early outings—alongside music lessons and trips to the theater and opera—set the stage for a lifetime of passionate engagement with the arts. Schmidt passed that legacy on to her sons and today is paying that forward to Ringling College students.
“I was struck by the fact that in the daytime I could feel the vibrant, creative energy. It’s almost like lightning,” Schmidt says of her first time on campus.
She serves on the Student and Faculty Affairs Committee and declares her favorite spot the new Alfred R. Goldstein Library.
“The College Board is so vibrant,” Schmidt exclaims. I have met people of all ages, and everyone is so dedicated. I think of my role as a Trustee as that of an observer who can from time to time step forward and be of some help. I encourage people to get involved with the College. Ringling would love to have you!”
Schmidt attributes much of the Board’s enthusiasm to Dr. Larry R. Thompson’s vision for the College. “Larry is always looking ahead,” she says. “He’s light years ahead of us. I really want to see Larry’s vision realized. It’s truly exciting.”
“Jan has been instrumental in supporting several important projects for the College as it grows, including the Alfred R. Goldstein Library, the Sarasota Museum of Art, and the Richard and Barbara Basch Visual Arts Center,” notes Stacey Corley, Vice President for Advancement. “This support will have an impact on our students and our community. We are so grateful for Jan’s dedication.”
Schmidt was introduced to the College through neighbors who invited her to join them on one of Ringling College’s Art Tours. The relationship between Schmidt and the College grew.
“We were fortunate that Jan agreed to become a board member,”
Dr. Thompson says. “She has added so much to our discussions and deliberations, and provides a unique perspective.”
In addition to her work with the College, Schmidt is on the Sarasota Opera Council and continues to pursue the passions ignited in childhood. She reads voraciously, especially historical novels, biographies, and poetry. She is also a classical music devotee and favors Brahms and Liszt.
By Nicole Caron
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