A Tribute to Jim Schmidt

Posted on August 22, 2011

jim-schmidt.jpgjim-schmidt.jpgFormer Fountain House Executive Director, Jim Schmidt died on August 11, 2011. During his long career Jim touched countless lives.  This post represents a small portion of the numerous remembrances of Jim that have poured in from our community and from around the country.

From Fountain House: 

He always taught me that we were the backbone of America, and that still sticks today. We, despite our illness, could be anything we wanted to, including the President of the United States. He was always a visionary and an icon, and he will be missed in our hearts and our minds. We will fulfill the dream that he had, and he will always be with us. - Chris Bannon 

I think he was an amiable and a very intelligent man beyond belief. I can remember that he always had time for me, even with his busy schedule. Truthfully, Jim even cooked my roommates’ and me a great meal just before he retired when we all lived [in a supported apartment] on the Upper West Street. - Stephen Byrne 

Jim taught me many things. He originally had me tested for a learning disability, because when I was growing up, people used the term mental retardation. He taught me to be proud of myself and respect myself. If not, he would growl at me. Jim was very compassionate and loving yet also very tough. Jim, the Growling Bear, I shall miss you. - Alice Chernick 

Jim had a profound influence on the personal lives of members and staff. The long hours he worked in his office were matched by the many times he took the extra step to support a member struggling on a job, or to make sure a major social event was a success. I remember the day I flew back from a visit to the newly opened clubhouse in Stockholm, Sweden. It was a Sunday afternoon, and Jim was there to pick me up at the airport. - John Delman 

Jim found money to implement the independent employment project from both the [New York State] ACE & NYISER grants starting in 1982. He met with IE members up at High Point about their needs. There was disagreement between Jim’s choice for IE Unit Leader and the IE member’s choice. Jim growled that we did not know the qualifications needed for IE unit leaders, so the IE members wrote both the qualifications for the IE Unit Leader and mission statement for the unit. Jim reviewed and accepted our vision. Ultimately, the members chose their new Unit Leader. - Walter Dunn 

I had the pleasure of working with him when I was editor of the Fountain House newspaper. His door was always open to the staff and members of Fountain House, and his kind and genial manner made him liked by all. He will be sorely missed. His passing will leave a big hole at the house, as he was both friendly and gracious to all. There will never be anyone like him again. - Tom Feuer

Jim believed everyone could work with the right and fair opportunity. And there was little he wouldn’t do to discover a member’s hopes, dreams, talents and abilities- then work to upend any stone that obstructed that individual’s path of progression. It would be simple to calculate the number of years he worked in the clubhouse community. Impossible would be to enumerate the lives he directly influenced, and the member successes he shared in true pleasure and partnership. - Donny Lee

Although I was a little intimidated by his gruff style, he was a great teacher and social worker. I always learned something from him just by sitting in the same room with him. Although he was the Associate Director, and then Executive Director, he always had time to spend with members and help staff with difficult issues. His perspective was creative, logical, and enriching. His dedication to Fountain House and members’ lives was filled with passion, hope, and true caring. - Susan Lieblich

He was kind, compassionate man. There was always something refreshing in his face. Always had time for a chat and was very supportive of your goals. He didn’t change from hot to cold, kept his friends throughout the years. - Alvin Muckley

From the Clubhouse Community:

The struggles of working with people who could at times be the most difficult to reach was taken by Jim not as something to avoid, but as something to embrace and asa challenge that he loved. Jim was extremely gifted in this way and this gift came from a deep sense of compassion and a profound understanding of how Fountain House could work forthose who were often written often off as hopeless or unreachable. He had to deal with a vast array of issues to keep Fountain House thriving, but he always found time for what I think he loved best, working and being with members. - Mark Glickman, ICCD Board of Directors, California

We believe that Jim changed the world. He was a mentor to many of us, he was a life savior to some of us, and he was a friend to all of us. He was a very special person and always took the time to know the members of any Clubhouse he went into, and took time to encourage them to work to their fullest potential. He wanted to know each of their stories and was the first to offer help in any way if it meant a member going to work. - Lisa Soucie, Director, High Hopes, Maine 

Jim was deeply committed to the lives and futures of the members of Fountain House, and he knew each member as a unique, whole human being – not just as someone with a mental illness. My clearest memory of Jim the Lion was one time when I was asking him about a possible TE job for Jack, a member in the Clerical Unit - and instead of answering that question, he asked me: How does Jack take his coffee? I was confused by the seemingly irrelevant question, and answered that I didn’t know how Jack takes his coffee. Jim roared back: If you don’t know how a person takes his coffee, then you don’t know the person! If you don’t know a person, how can you expect to help him on a job!!!??? It didn’t much appreciate it at the time – but over the years, I’ve come back to that conversation hundreds of times. It pretty much sums up what Clubhouses are all about – knowing each other as whole people. - Robby Vorspan, ICCD, New York 

Jim had an impact on many. His legacy will continue as thousands of people who have experienced a mental illness and are now active members of Clubhouses have real opportunities in their lives due in part, to Jim Schmidt. - Jack Yatsko, ICCD, Hawaii

Awards + Recognition

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