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Professorship to embody legacy of Dr. William Schmeltz

When Bill Schmeltz was stationed on campus as a National Guard serviceman, he lacked confidence and faced doubts about his future after World War II. Only with the urging of a BGSU professor, Gilbert Cooke, did Schmeltz apply and gain acceptance to the masters program in business at Harvard University. Schmeltz was third in his class when he earned his MBA from Harvard in 1947. He later earned his doctorate at Case Western Reserve University.

Today, he still credits Cooke for his success.

During his years as a professor in accounting and dean of the BGSU College of Business Administration, Schmeltz was driven to empower his students and younger family members to tackle their education with the same confidence he found through his mentor. Now retired and 88 years old, his passion for higher education endures.

“Don’t be afraid to tackle any job,” Schmeltz said, offering advice for future BGSU graduates. “You may think, ‘That’s too hard’ and ‘I can’t do it.’ Well, those are the best ones. Those are the ones you learn the most from. The idea is there is nothing you shouldn’t take a try at.”

As dean of the College of Business Administration in the 1960s, Schmeltz helped to expand international opportunities for students, shared his practical accounting experience in the classroom, and earned the highest level of accreditation for the College. Now, a group of his former students and family members are creating a professorship to honor his leadership.

The William Schmeltz Teaching Professorship will support a BGSU faculty member in accounting who demonstrates the same level of commitment to teaching and mentoring students.

A former student, Tim L. Ross ’60, ’62, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and a former colleague, Mark F. Asman ’65, ’66, of Bowling Green, who retired as faculty in the College of Business Administration, initiated the efforts to recognize Schmeltz through a professorship. The position was created with a $250,000 group commitment. The professorship must reach an endowment level of $1 million before the position may support another innovative educator such as Schmeltz.

Schmeltz was interested in a career in accounting early. He tagged along as a youngster while his father, also a certified public accountant, visited his clients in northwest Ohio and across the state. As a young professional, he owned and operated a machine shop and practiced accounting. It was his practical experiences related to small business management that proved most memorable to students, because he enjoyed offering case studies based on his personal experience.

“He was a great teacher and a very good mentor ,” said Jan Bower ’79, one of his daughters. She shares his vocation and keeps photos of the four generations of accountants in her family on the wall of her practice, Schmeltz & Bower CPAs. “Teach well, mentor well, encourage: he wants to reward those people.”

As dean, Schmeltz successfully managed the first efforts to accredit the College through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction the University still holds. He also established a unique partnership with the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, where he also taught after retiring from BGSU in 1968.

Teaching wasn’t limited to the classroom, his children said.

“A lot of people can teach, but he also had the real-world life experience,” another daughter, Dr. Christy Ellis said. “It was about taking care of the clients, caring about the families and the families’ businesses. You help people who are passing down their businesses to their children, and continuing a legacy.”

His son, Randy Schmeltz, often employed his father’s advice as he operated his own successful businesses related to concrete manufacturing. “Every time I had a trouble, I could run it by him,” his son said.

The most important lesson has always been simple: higher education is within your reach.

“He was the never ending professor, even outside of class,” his daughter, Cathy Schmeltz said. “Throughout my childhood it was always about seeing something new, learning something new, having a new experience. The lesson was to never stop learning.”

To contribute, visit givetobgsu.com. Or, write your check to the BGSU Foundation, Inc. with “William Schmeltz Teaching Professorship” in the memo line, and mail to: BGSU Foundation, Bowling Green State University, Mileti Alumni Center, Bowling Green, Ohio, 43403.

June 7, 2012