Benjamin Whetstone Schmidt was a typical TCU student, his parents said. He pledged a fraternity as a first-year student in 2006 and he loved going to football games. However, after his third semester, he decided to do something far from typical.
He joined the United States Marine Corps. After graduation from San Diego's Camp Pendleton, he entered training to join the elite group of scout snipers.
After training, he volunteered twice to go to Afghanistan, first to gain the experience and later to lead inexperienced Marine snipers.
Before returning to Afghanistan the second time, he told his father, David Schmidt, that he planned to return to TCU to work toward becoming a history professor.
He also told his father that he had new plans for his life insurance policy. Benjamin Schmidt said half of his insurance was to go to a scholarship fund for the history department at TCU, the school he loved so much, David Schmidt said.
On Oct. 6, 2011, on his second deployment in Afghanistan, Benjamin Schmidt was killed on patrol by friendly fire.
“I think at some point in time he realized he wanted his life to make a difference,” David Schmidt said. “He certainly didn’t anticipate what happened in Afghanistan, but he was always service before self, that's the reason he joined the Marines and the same reason that he wanted to leave something to TCU.”
After his death, the Benjamin Schmidt Memorial Scholarship Fund was created and since then has raised over $500,000, according to a press release. in 2012, in honor of their son, Teresa and David Schmidt contributed $100,000 to launch the Lance Cpl. Benjamin Whetstone Schmidt Endowed Professorship in History at TCU.
“A scholarship helps one student at a time, and we wanted more of an impact than that. The best way for us to achieve that was to fund an endowed professorship because professors can impact generations of students, and the reach is just so great,” Andrew Schoolmaster, the dean of the AddRan College of Liberal Arts, said.
With a goal of $2.5 million by the two-year anniversary of Benjamin Schmidt’s death, the professorship held the second "Back to Class" fundraising event on Tuesday. "Back to Class" featured a reception for sponsors followed by six faculty lectures on a range of topics in liberal arts.
Schoolmaster said the event was about showcasing the liberal arts and honoring Benjamin Schmidt’s appreciation of the school.
Junior religion major Luke Ehrhardt volunteered at the event and said Benjamin Schmidt’s value for education was inspiring.
“I don’t know if many students know Benjamin’s story, but it’s a neat one. And I think students here would like to hear it and be a part of honoring his legacy,” he said
David Schmidt said his son would be honored again next week by Peter Holt, the owner of the San Antonio Spurs, with a donation of $100,000 to the professorship during the game against the Atlanta Hawks.