By BECKY KISER
Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, has been proclaimed Robert E. “Bob” Schmidt Day in Hays by Mayor Shaun Musil.
The 90-year-old philanthropist, renowned broadcaster and retired chairman of the board of Eagle Communications passed away Tuesday, Aug. 8 at his home.
Musil read out loud and then signed the proclamation during Thursday’s city commission meeting. The proclamation was a short history of Schmidt’s life and highlighted several of his many contributions to the community.
“(Bob Schmidt’s) name has been synonymous with kindness and generosity for so many programs and projects for so many years. He has served on many boards throughout the community, and has been an excellent example of a true philanthropist as well as a successful business leader,” Musil read.
“I knew Bob since 1963,” said Commissioner Sandy Jacobs, “and we were good friends. More recently, in the last 10 years, we were great friends. He was a mentor to me. He always encouraged me to do the right thing and figure out what the right thing was.
“More than just giving back, he said it was getting other people and encouraging them to join in that. That was the true leadership, in my opinion,” Jacobs continued. “Bob could bring people to the fold. He collaborated. I will miss him greatly. He was a great, great man.”
“He was probably the hardest working man in this community,” said Commissioner Henry Schwaller, who also admired Schmidt’s “amazing sense of humor and funny, quick wit.”
A self-made man, Schmidt believed it was his responsibility to give back, according to Schwaller.
“He had done so well in the realm of radio and TV broadcasting. And because it used public licenses, Bob felt obligated to give that money back to the public,” he said.
“Bob and Pat Schmidt are of a generation of people gone. Who are going to be the next people to step up?” Schwaller wondered.
“Those of us who are in our 40s, we need to look at what Bob did,” said Mayor Shaun Musil. “It’s our time to run with the ball.”
“Everybody in the community at some point has benefited from the Schmidt family,” agreed Vice-Mayor James Meier, who works at the HaysMed Dreiling-Schmidt Cancer Institute.
The Schmidt name is visible throughout Hays, most notably at the Fort Hays State University Beach-Schmidt Performing Arts Center and the Schmidt-Bickle Training Facility, the Dreiling-Schmidt Cancer Institute at HaysMed and the city-owned Bickle-Schmidt Sports Complex.
Musil moved to Hays in the early 1990s.
“You’d see the Schmidt name all over the place and I wondered ‘Who is this guy?’ ” he said.
Musil began running into Schmidt at various community events and meetings a few years before he became a city commissioner.
“He’s the kind of guy you can just sit in awe of, listen to him and learn from him,” he said. “He never treated you like you were below him. You were one of the residents of Hays.
“The word ‘idolize’ gets thrown around too much, but this guy, he’s truly a guy you can idolize,” Musil said emphatically.
Friday morning in city hall, Musil presented a framed copy of the proclamation and a key to the city to Schmidt’s son, Tony Schmidt, and his wife, Loreta, of Lawrence.
“We will treasure this,” Schmidt said.
Commissioners Jacobs and Schwaller, along with Ellis County Commissioner Barb Wasinger, told the couple the community would not be the same without the generosity of Bob and Pat Schmidt. Pat Schmidt passed away in August 2015.
“I know he had a gene in him that was community service,” Tony said of his dad. “I loved his word ‘obligatory,’ ” Jacobs interjected.
“Well, he’s a good Catholic Volga-German,” Tony Schmidt added with a chuckle.
As he shook Musil’s hand, Tony Schmidt said “now you guys can be the ‘Outstanding Man of the Year.’ ”
Among his many accolades, Bob Schmidt was named Outstanding Young Man of the Year by the Hays Chamber of Commerce in 1956. The award came just six years after Schmidt graduated from Fort Hays Kansas State College (now Fort Hays State University) and became general manager of KAYS Radio, as well as vice-president and director of KAYS, Inc. (now Eagle Communications).
“We have some very big shoes to fill,” Musil and Schwaller said with a smile.
Funeral services for Schmidt will be Saturday. Click HERE for details.