Tributes, individual gestures, and heartfelt words flowed on three university campuses and in one small Kansas town during the week following the murder of Kansas Epsilon Phi alumnus, Dr. Ethan A. Schmidt. Schmidt was shot and killed by a colleague in his Department of Social Sciences and History office on the campus of Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi on Monday, September 14 at 10:13 a.m.
The sudden death of this beloved assistant professor of history, scholar and student, fraternity brother, family man, friend and colleague has shocked thousands in two states. Schmidt grew up in the small rural hometown community of Peabody, Kansas where he remained strongly connected each holiday and vacation cycle.
Schmidt’s higher education journey began at Emporia State University where he was initiated into Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, eventually serving as chapter president. He was inducted into Order of Omega and became a student senator who would be elected student body president. Brother Schmidt was inducted into numerous honorary societies and was named Distinguished Senior of his class. While he earned his master’s degree, he was the chapter’s graduate adviser.
Ethan Schmidt earned his PhD in History at the University of Kansas, and his expertise and interests were in Native American ethohistory, Atlantic history and colonial British North America. He had published two scholarly books and numerous papers at the time of his death at 39.
“He was a remarkable student. He was one of the best students I ever had and I was thrilled he went on to a career in teaching history. He was on his road to being one of the great scholars of American history.”
– Dr. Karen Manners Smith, professor of history at Emporia State University
Many more in Kansas and Mississippi have written in tribute.
“Ethan entered his freshman year fully prepared to learn, engage, grow and experience the new chapter of life before him. He was exuberant about life and career, family and friends. His innate friendliness and his exuberance affected those around him. As he stepped-up to lead as an undergraduate, and later as an academician and professor, Ethan’s success and sphere of influence increased.”
– Roger Heineken, Kansas Epsilon alumnus and chapter adviser
“Ethan Schmidt was nothing less than a rock-star on this campus. When we met soon after we both arrived here in 2013, I immediately liked him. He was engaging, smart, and giving, and I knew he would have an impact on this campus. In fact, he has had an amazing impact. I have heard so many positive comments about his teaching and advising. His leadership of our First Year Seminar program was superb. At the start-up of this year’s FYS on the football field, we were together for the special welcome for our new students. I watched his glee as his program unfolded, and as our students were made to feel a part of this university. Ethan leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten.”
– William N. LaForge, president, Delta State University
“Dr. Schmidt was one of the most dynamic professors on our campus. He loved what he did and he loved our student-athletes. His excitement for our program was always evident and he will be missed.”
– Todd Cooley, head football coach, Delta State University
“One of my favorite quotes regarding education is from William Butler Yates, who once said that “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Based on my interactions with Ethan, I can truly say that he took that quote to heart. Teaching for Ethan, was not simply a job, it was a calling. He loved lighting fires within his students by challenging them to think critically and communicate effectively.”
– Dr. Dave Breaux. Dean, Delta State University
“Dr. Schmidt is my favorite instructor at DSU. I have and will again recommend him to other students. I was never a ‘history person’ until I took his classes. He makes the material fun as if he was talking about friends to other friends, just casual conversation. And I’ve done really well in his courses, so he’s doing something right!”
– Student comment from a course evaluation, Delta State University
“In the summer of 2006, I was accepted into an intensive Japanese language program in Yokohama, Japan. I planned to stay an extra year for dissertation research. Ethan arranged a small going away dinner before I left and of course Connor and Liz were there. Toward the end Ethan and I were saying our goodbyes and he hugged me and began to sob softly. I remember Connor asked him, ‘Dad, why are you crying?’ and Ethan simply replied, ‘I’m not going to see my friend for a long time.’ It was a touching moment and, as I write this, one that brings me to tears. For as much as we loved Ethan as a friend, a colleague, or as a ‘brother,’ Ethan loved us back, and loved us fiercely. That kind of person does not come along very often.”
– John Schneiderwind, former colleague, University of Kansas Department of History
“Ethan was a dear friend and brother. I remember watching his relationship with Elizabeth grow. I remember when each of his children were born. Ethan loved being a father more than anything. Of all the awards, accolades and accomplishments, being a family man was one thing he held deep in his heart that fueled the fire in his soul. Everything else was just the icing on the cake.”
— Mike Allen, Kansas Epsilon alumnus
“Ethan was an everyman who did what a lot of us try to do. He contributed to the common good through his career, doted on his family, poured his passion into seemingly trivial but unifying things like sports, campuses, and hometowns. He was a supportive and accessible friend to so many. He did the things most of us do. But what made Ethan so remarkable was that he seemed to do them with a greater sense of goodness than most. The humanity he brought to the routine was, in part, what drew so many to him, and what I will miss seeing so dearly.”
– Brian Horn, Kansas Epsilon alumnus
“He was the best of us.”
– Excerpt of a social network comment
Much has been spoken, written and done in tribute. More will happen to honor the memory of Ethan Schmidt at both Delta State and Emporia State. What he transmitted in life cannot be taken back. Brother Ethan A. Schmidt’s legacy is indelible like his Bond number to be engraved in the granite of his marker back home in Peabody, Kansas. In coelo quies est.