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DAA: Lee E. Schmidt

Lee Schmidt

Lee E. Schmidt

Scottsdale, AZ | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2004

Nearly anything can spark the creator in Lee Schmidt—a cactus growing in his Arizona yard, an abandoned quarry, or even a 1939 Chevrolet. “I’m constantly reworking things,” says the Carmel, Indiana, native, who hails from a family of Purdue University graduates. “I move flower beds around in my yard, or, when I golf, I imagine the back edge of a hole’s bunker a couple feet higher.” The inclination comes naturally, Schmidt says, and traces its roots to high school summers employed as a golf course maintenance worker for the Indianapolis Country Club. Proximity to Indy—specifically to the Indy 500—also fueled an enduring passion for automobiles. And although it’s been decades, Schmidt still remembers “the one that got away.” “When I was in college, my brother and I saved money and were all set to buy a Model A Roadster,” he recalls. “We went to the auto auction, and learned it had been sold the day before.” His interest didn’t wane, though. Schmidt recently restored a 1939 Chevrolet, and often frequents auto races and antique car auctions. “I really like the older styles, because you can immediately identify them,” he says. The 1932 Ford, with its distinctive, over-sized grille and headlights perched atop front fenders, tops his list of all-time favorites. Traveling the world also inspires creativity, Schmidt believes. He and his wife, Jean, and children Kyle and Kelly lived in Hong Kong years ago when Schmidt worked for Jack Nicklaus Design, and he’s traveled to Asia at least once a month for the past twelve years. The journeys have taught lessons in everything from bunkers and greens, to people and plants. “It’s not all about how we do things,” he says, “and traveling has truly opened my eyes to another side of this world.” “I was very fortunate to have studied under Dr. Daniel, a pioneer in turf grass management. Purdue University prepared me well for a challenging career and exciting life experiences.”