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Alumni Corner- David “Kelly” Schmidt

Alumni Corner- David “Kelly” Schmidt

Meet David Kelly Schmidt. David graduated from Central Catholic (CC) in 1961. After completing his eight years of elementary education at St. Boniface, he became a member of the first class to complete all four years at CC and graduated in 1961.  In 1965 he graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. (Cum Laude) in Aeronautical Engineering, counting himself an alumnus of a nationally ranked program alongside historical figures like Neil Armstrong.

David then served on the technical staff of the Douglas Missiles and Space Corp in Southern California. His first assignment was to help develop the Saturn booster for the Apollo program before the moon landing in 1969. Along the way he received his Master of Science in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California, and then returned to Purdue to pursue the Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. After completing his graduate education in 1972, he joined the technical staff of the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California.

He then began his academic career, and served on the engineering faculties of four universities for 33 years, including Purdue, Arizona State University in Tempe, the University of Maryland at College Park, and the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs. At the University of Colorado, he helped to establish the brand new Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and later was appointed Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research. He retired from the University of Colorado in 2006, and was appointed Professor Emeritus. While at Arizona State he also served as the founding director of the Aerospace Research Center in the College of Engineering, and while at the University of Maryland he served as the founding director of the Flight Dynamics and Control laboratory in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. Through his career he also received many teaching awards.

Dr. Schmidt is the author of over 200 research articles on the mathematical modeling of the flight dynamics of aerospace vehicles, on the analysis of air–traffic-control systems, and on the mathematical analysis of man-machine control systems. He has been invited to lecture world-wide on his research. He also authored an award-winning engineering textbook Modern Flight Dynamics (McGraw Hill, 2011). It has been used at several leading universities, such as Purdue, Texas A&M, and the University of Michigan. In recognition of his research and educational contributions, he has been listed in Who’s Who in America. He is also

a member of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau, both national engineering honor societies. In 1997, Dr. Schmidt received the highest honor in the field of flight dynamics and control when the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), an international technical society, awarded him the national Mechanics and Control of Flight Award. In 2000 he was elected a fellow of the AIAA.

David and his wife Karalee have six children between them, being a blended family. They live in Monument, Colorado and in Cottonwood, Arizona. Their children and five grandchildren are scattered all across North America, living in Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and Toronto. Happily, they always have a place to stay when traveling.


How did your education at LCSS prepare you for college and your career?

First of all, my education at CC and St. Boniface instilled a strong work ethic in me, as well as a strong moral compass with a belief in right and wrong. These values were consistent with those projected by my parents as well, so the messages were always consistent. (If I got into trouble at school, I was in trouble at home.) I believe these values have served me well, in both my professional and personal life, and for that I am very grateful.

Among the many excellent teachers at CC, I was especially blessed to have an outstanding physics teacher, Mr. Chen, a doctoral physics student himself at Purdue at the time. Mr. Chen introduced me to mechanics, optics, and electrical circuits in our physics class. I enjoyed learning about these subjects, as presented by Mr. Chen, and that played a large part in my decision to major in engineering in college.

But since CC had just opened when I started, it had not yet developed advanced coursework in science and mathematics, and I found when I entered Purdue that many of my college classmates, coming from all over the world, were better prepared in these critical subjects, so I had to work extra hard to catch up. I am pleased that advanced coursework is now available at CC, and we have been happy to support the STEM curriculum enhancement in a small way.


What did you like most about your experience at LCSS?

I liked the fact that I could go on to high school with all my St. Boniface classmates, as well as many students from the other parishes that we had met through our inter-parish athletic activities. I was also proud that we were the first class to attend all four years, and I could see how happy this made our parents. The members of the five parishes had organized fundraising activities for years, and contributed time and treasure to the plans to build a catholic high school in Lafayette, and the members of the parishes pledged over a million dollars to fund the effort, which was a lot of money in the 1950’s.


What is your favorite memory of your years at LCSS

I’d like to share a couple of favorite memories. The first recalls an event that occurred during one of our physics classes with Mr. Chen. We were studying mechanics – forces and motion – and Mr. Chen asked Joe Schrader how to throw a curve ball. Joe explained, going into the key spinning of the ball, and then Mr. Chen asked Joe to demonstrate. So we all went outside behind the school and Joe did as requested, several times, to Mr. Chen’s great delight.

The second memory also involved athletics. When the school opened in 1957, anyone in a class ahead of the freshmen had to have transferred from some other school. As a result, the only CC athletic teams that could officially compete, according to Indiana HSAA rules, were freshman teams. So our freshman basketball team represented CC in the Indiana sectional basketball tourney! It was great since all the fans from the other schools cheered for CC (unless we were playing them), knowing that it was our freshman team. Needless to say, we did not go deep into the tournament.

Finally, although not a good athlete, I enjoyed being a member of the ’61 football team my senior year.  I didn’t play much, being tall, slow, and clumsy, but it was great to be able to just hang with the guys, and to earn my athletic letter that year. The team included names still familiar today at CC, names like Schrader, Anthrop, Lamb, and Halsmer. Now looking back I am always struck by the fact that many of these guys went on to serve in the Vietnam War, we were of that generation, and we had guys serving in all four of the services (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines). Fortunately, none were lost as far as I know. It was a great bunch.

“I wear number 74 in the second row in the accompanying photo, provided by my classmate and team member Paul Barton. Coach Paul LaRocca is in the upper left corner of the picture.”

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