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Alumni News

A Lifetime of Service: Doug Schmidt Spotlight

The same year Bobby Fischer became a Chess Grand Master and President Eisenhower created NASA, Doug Schmidt (University of California-Santa Barbara, ’60) transferred to the Santa Barbara College of the University of California (UCSB), as it was known then.

By 1958, Doug swore off Greek Life, having joined a local fraternity at Berkeley where he spent his first two years. There, within weeks of pledgeship, Doug disaffiliated, disturbed by the treatment of he and his pledge class.

“How was I supposed to be friends with people who treated me that way,” Schmidt reflects.

“He was way ahead of his time,” shares House Corporation member Jim McCabe (’79). “Over a decade before Lambda Chi Alpha outlawed pledgeship, Doug understood how divisive it was.”

Upon his arrival at “The American Riviera,” Doug was quickly and pleasantly surprised by Lambda Chi Alpha.

“My fraternal experience at Santa Barbara could not have been more different than my time at Berkeley. Although Lambda Chi Alpha still had pledges in the 50s, we were treated as equals then.”

Founded less than a decade prior to his initiation, Zeta-Eta Zeta purchased a house located in Isla Vista, adjacent to campus.

“The charter members had the foresight to purchase, rather than lease, which would be impossible today,” shares Schmidt.

Two years after arriving in Santa Barbara with degree in-hand, Schmidt traded one coast for the other, enrolling at Harvard Law. Thinking back, Schmidt’s three years in Boston may have been the only three years he was not actively involved with the Zeta-Eta Chapter.

In 1964, Ron Wolfe (’68)—now House Corporation President—became an initiated Brother of Lambda Chi Alpha, and Schmidt was admitted into the California Bar Association.

“[Upon our first meeting], there was an immediate sense of trust and confidence,” said Wolfe. “He was always the consummate gentleman, soft-spoken, and dedicated to Lambda Chi Alpha.”

Schmidt’s involvement as an alumnus began with mentoring law school candidates and writing letters of recommendation. Shortly after Wolfe graduated in 1968, the two agreed to take up accounting services for the Chapter and later, legal counsel and property management.

Hardly 15 years graduated, Schmidt became one of the youngest Order of Merit recipients in Lambda Chi Alpha’s history. He would later go on to serve as the Grand High Pi—the Chancellor of Lambda Chi Alpha—from 1990-1998. Today, Schmidt remains an ex-officio member of the Zeta-Eta House Corporation and attends every meeting he can.

In June 2022, the House Corporation unanimously voted to name their home “Doug Schmidt Hall” in recognition of his six decades of service.

“It shouldn’t have come as any surprise, although Doug is so humble that I’m sure he was,” observed Wolfe.

“I was stunned,” confirmed Schmidt. “After they read the resolution, each member of the house corporation individually shared the effect I had on their life and our Chapter.

“It was one of the most moving moments of my life.”

Like any good leader, it was never about the recognition. Schmidt gave back because he believed in Lambda Chi Alpha and in the hundreds of Brothers whose lives he affected.

“Doug Schmidt’s life is one of service,” says Jim McCabe, UCSB House Corporation member, “to UCSB, Zeta-Eta Zeta, Lambda Chi Alpha, his profession, and his family. He was a servant leader before anyone knew what that phrase meant.”

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