Skip to main content

Schmiedts named SDSU Family of Year

The Schmiedt family, as seen in 2016. Front row, from left, Karleen Schmiedt, Sherree Schmiedt and Dean Schmiedt.  Middle row, Jen Wurtz, Edison Wurtz, Barbara Wurtz, Kim Sundling, Kelly Schmiedt, Monica Schmiedt and Robert Schmiedt. Back row, Chris Wurtz, Anniston Akin, Allison Akin, Aerie Wurtz, Kevin Wurtz, Mike Wurtz, Mike Sundling, Ben Akin and Sterne Akin.
The Schmiedt family, as seen in 2016. Front row, from left, Karleen Schmiedt, Sherree Schmiedt and Dean Schmiedt.
Middle row, Jen Wurtz, Edison Wurtz, Barbara Wurtz, Kim Sundling, Kelly Schmiedt, Monica Schmiedt and Robert Schmiedt.
Back row, Chris Wurtz, Anniston Akin, Allison Akin, Aerie Wurtz, Kevin Wurtz, Mike Wurtz, Mike Sundling, Ben Akin and Sterne Akin.

The Schmiedts and South Dakota State have been linked for a century, and now the connection includes selection as Family of the Year by the South Dakota State University Alumni Association.

The family will be honored March 2 at an awards luncheon at the Alumni Center and then at the women’s basketball game that afternoon.

While the first six Schmiedt family members to graduate from State were pharmacy majors, through the years their academic interests have widened while their devotion to their alma mater has not waned.

The line begins with Edgar (1925) and continues with brothers Ruben (1928) and Alvin (1929), all graduating when the pharmacy program was a two-year program. Through the years, another seven in the Schmiedt family have chosen pharmacy. Counting those that have married into the family, there are 21 in the family that graduated from State. 

The fifth generation is a few years away, but 2003 pharmacy graduate Allison Akin has a 14-year-old son who is a freshman at Elk Point High School.

Just what attracted the initial Schmiedt brothers to pharmacy is lost to history, but for newer generations, SDSU and pharmacy “just seemed like a natural fit,” said Dean Schmiedt, a 1973 pharmacy graduate and family spokesman.


Family roots in Tripp

The Schmiedt family originated in Tripp, but Edgar began his pharmacy career 60 miles east of there in Centerville. In 1946 he bought the store he had been working at and renamed it Schmiedt Drug. Brothers Ruben and Alvin headed west: Ruben to Belle Fourche and Alvin to Deadwood.

It was through Edgar that the family pharmacy line continued, initially through sons Stan ’53 and Morris ’56. Of Stan’s three children, two graduated from State — Dean and Robert ’78, psychology, whose career was in pharmaceutical sales and pharmaceutical industry lobbying. Daughter Barbara married Kevin Wurtz, who in January 1975 started an internship at the Centerville drug store Stan had purchased from his father in 1961.

Kevin Wurtz earned his five-year degree in pharmacy in May 1975, was married in June 1975 and started to work at Pioneer Drug in Elk Point in July 1975. Kevin and Barb Wurtz bought the store in 1977 and in 1989 created Edgar’s Ol’ Fashioned Soda Fountain as a part of Pioneer Drug. That was an inspiration from Edgar’s original soda fountain in Centerville and he was able to visit the new version a few months before his death Sept. 30, 1989.

Keith Wurtz said his brother was influential in his education choice. He earned his pharmacy degree in 1979 and practiced in Milford, Iowa.

Two of Kevin and Barb Wurtz’s daughters also have chosen pharmacy. Allison Akin ’03 works as a clinical program senior with Cigna Healthcare and Health Insurance. Kim Sundling ’14 is a behavioral health clinic pharmacist for Florida Blue.


Marrying into a family tradition

By the current century, a new generation of Schmiedts was attending State and their academic interests were broadening.

For example, Chris and Mike Wurtz, sons of Kevin and Barbara, earned degrees in electrical engineering (2001) and computer engineering (2016) while Kelly Schmiedt, daughter of Dean and Karleen, is a 2005 communication studies graduate.

But regardless of the major or the era, there is a family bond with SDSU, said Karleen Schmiedt, a 1973 home ec graduate.

“When you’re in that family, you’re in hook, line and sinker,” and that dates back to the family pharmacy in Centerville. “That’s just the way it was. They depended on each other. They enjoyed being together. They took a lot of pride in their university and their life paths. It is family tradition.”

Dean Schmiedt said, “Our family tree has branched in many directions since 1925, but SDSU remains a link that connects us.


Swapping professor stories

With a family that can date their South Dakota State connection back 100 years, the list of “favorite professor” stories could go into the next century.

For Stan and Morris Schmiedt, that would be Clark T. Eidsmoe, according to a spring 2000 issue of the SDSU College of Pharmacy magazine. Eidsmoe, who taught at SDSU from 1929 to 1966, would “in about the middle of the semester, tell us we should all be truck drivers instead of pharmacists. That was the truth, too,” Stan told the magazine.

He added, “That was the first semester we were there, and he was a weeder,” meaning Eidsmoe sought to flunk out students not suited for pharmacy’s demands.

Brother Morris Schmiedt told the magazine that he was in the first Eidsmoe class to allow use of the slide rule. “Before that you always had to do everything long division. We finally convinced Eidsmoe that the slide rule was just as accurate.”


Hietbrink made lasting impact

Dean Schmiedt thought he might have been an academic casualty when he got back his first college chemistry test. “The teacher was passing back the results. I had 56 out of 100 points. I thought I had failed that. ‘I’m going to Vietnam,’” he said to himself. At the time, young men could defer the miliary draft if they were full-time college students.

Schmiedt’s concerns quickly vanished. “It turned out to be a B+. That was the first time I had ever been graded on the curve.”

His professorial remembrance is Bernie Heitbrink, who was known for his unique test question style.

“The questions were structured so you truly needed in-depth knowledge about a drug, it’s mechanism of action, what it was used for and adverse effects. This test method developed one’s critical thinking skills. One could not just memorize facts.  For me, it stimulated a deep interest in applied therapeutics, leading to a clinical career in long-term care consulting,” Schmiedt said.  


Omodt struck fear in students

Kevin Wurtz remembers Gary Omodt, who taught from 1958 to 1992. “He really challenged you. That’s what made him a good teacher. You just shook when you went into his class. If you could get through that class, you could make it through pharmacy.”

Skipping to the most recent pharmacy graduate, Kim (Wurtz) Sundling recalls Dave Helgeland.

“He had such a unique sense of humor that sometimes went over people's heads, but not me. His classes were notoriously difficult and attention to detail was extremely important especially with him teaching pharmacy law. Yes, his classes were hard, but I remember South Dakota law better than I do any other state,” Sundling said.

The last Schmiedt to graduate from State is Brittany Schmiedt, a fall 2020 nursing graduate and the granddaughter of Morris Schmiedt, is a travel nurse at Creighton Medical Center-Bergan Mercy in Omaha, Nebraska.

Her professorial remembrance is Venita Winterboer. “She taught nursing courses at the beginning of the nursing program when everyone seemed to lack confidence in their ability to survive nursing school. In her class, there truly were no dumb questions. She taught with patience and positive energy, giving me a solid foundation for the semesters that were to come. 

“She made what seemed like an intimidating transition into something I was excited for. I couldn’t have asked for a better instructor to help me start off on my nursing journey,” Brittany Schmiedt said.

Dean Schiemdt expects a couple dozen family members to don Jackrabbits gear when the family’s tradition is honored March 2.