Faculty mourn the loss of former Tippie professor Frank Schmidt

Former Tippie College of Business professor Frank Schmidt died on Aug. 21 at 77-years-old. Faculty members and former students reflect on his time at Iowa and his legacy.



Lillian Poulsen, News Reporter

Faculty at Tippie College of Business are remembering the legacy of an impactful faculty member recorded as an incredibly impactful scholar in his field.

Frank Schmidt, former emeritus professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, died from a heart attack on Aug. 21 at 77. Former students and fellow faculty members reflected on his impact and the way his research will shape future generations.

Schmidt joined the college in 1984 as a Ralph L. Sheets Distinguished Professor and retired as the Gary C. Fethke Chair in Leadership in 2012, ​​Tom Snee, research communications and media relations specialist for the Tippie College of Business said.

Before coming to Iowa, Schmidt received a bachelor’s degree from Bellarmine University and graduate degrees from Purdue University, Snee said.

He also was a faculty member at Michigan State University and held a research position at the Personnel Research and Development Center at the U.S. Civil Service Commission for 11 years, he said.

Amy Colbert, professor of management and entrepreneurship in the Tippie College of Business, said she completed her doctorate degree at the University of Iowa in the management department in 2004. Schmidt was a faculty member at the time, and she took five courses with him.

“He shaped the way that I approach research and the care with which I design studies,” Colbert said. “He was an incredibly smart guy, but also one of the kindest people that you’ll ever meet.”

After graduating from the doctorate program at the UI, Colbert took a position at the University of Notre Dame. After three years, the department from Iowa called to offer her a position. Colbert and Schmidt became colleagues, with him as a senior faculty member and her as an assistant professor.

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“I learned a lot about how to teach from him,” Colbert said. “Sometimes when people understand things very well they can’t explain them very clearly, but Frank always made sure his explanations were things we could understand.”

His research in meta-analysis led to some incredible outcomes for the field, leading many to believe that his legacy will outlast his time at Iowa, Stephen Courtright, Henry B. Tippie research professor of management and director of executive education, said.

“The impact that he left in terms of meta-analysis is the basis by which we can make sound policy decisions — his impact is second to none of anyone we have in the field,” Courtright said. “If I have a tenth of the impact that Frank had, I will be pretty content with my career.”

As a professor, Schmidt mentored many graduate students and provided support in ways that other professors didn’t, Colbert said. He had incredibly high standards and the classes he taught were among the most difficult in the program, she said.

“Frank was always willing to answer questions, he was incredibly patient in explaining things, and he was concerned with us as people,” Colbert said. “I felt very supported as a person and a scholar by Frank, and that meant a lot to me.”

Colbert said she learned a lot from Schmidt as a student and a colleague, and she approached research in a very careful way because of him.

“The kind of research we do in the management department we hope is going to impact the way that organizations operate, managers work, and employees do their jobs,” Colbert said. “Frank had incredibly high standards in making sure that the evidence we produced was done in a way that we could have confidence in those findings.”

Courtright came to UI in 2007 as a doctoral student where he immediately met Schmidt, who taught nearly half of the classes in his program, mainly statistics and methodology.

“When I was in the program I was half-inspired by Frank’s success and notoriety and half-scared by how wickedly smart he was,” Courtright said. “I haven’t met a more brilliant person in our field in my professional life.”

Courtright said he learned the importance of challenging the status quo from Schmidt.

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“He was the most intellectually curious person that I ever met, and he was a world class scholar who believed in what he did,” Courtright said. “Even though he could be forceful in his opinions, he would have open and very engaging conversations and was never so dogmatic that he couldn’t learn something from someone else.”

Another aspect of Schmidt’s personality that stood out to colleagues was his support for mental health, Sara Rynes-Weller, emeritus professor of management and entrepreneurship in the Tippie College of Business, said.

“One of the things that I really admired about him was how much he was concerned about mental health and how much money he devoted to it,” Rynes-Weller said. “I also admired how extremely good he was about following up with graduate students who were struggling.”

While the loss of Schmidt is tragic and painful for many, faculty and students celebrate his life and legacy by remembering the amazing person he was professionally and personally, Rynes-Weller said.

“Over the years as his work became more generally accepted and as he matured, he’s been more relaxed and softer,” Rynes-Weller said. “So many people remember him as a great humanist, and I will remember all of his philanthropy, how he cared about mental health, and how he helped students who weren’t the strongest in the field.”

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