December 5, 2011

A lot of people claim to bleed purple and gold, but how many lull their grandchildren to sleep by singing the “LSU Alma Mater”? Karen Schmitt did so proudly.

She and husband Ed are LSU alumni, as are their two daughters and so many family members that they joke about the inevitability of their five grandchildren attending. The Schmitts even have an LSU-themed barn, complete with a Tiger-emblazoned pool table and a custom-upholstered purple and gold couch.

Growing up in North Baton Rouge, Ed saw men from his neighborhood bike to their jobs at area plants. Assuming he would work as a plant operator, Ed never dreamed he would be president and CEO of Georgia Gulf Corporation.

He worked construction jobs and bagged groceries to put himself through college. After earning a degree from the Cain Department of Chemical Engineering, Ed worked for a handful of companies before settling into Georgia Gulf until he retired, in 2008.

“LSU afforded me this opportunity,” Ed says. “It opened the doors for me.”

Karen grew up in Denham Springs, La., and built a career teaching in Livingston Parish. Now retired, she is a new member of the Livingston Parish School Board. Karen was encouraged to pursue the position given her professional experience, the foundation of which she attributes to the LSU College of Education.

The Karen Wax Schmitt & Family Endowed Professorship in the College of Education celebrates the three generations of Karen’s family who have earned eight degrees there. Both of her daughters are graduates: Laura is now a guidance councelor in Lake Charles, La., and Mary teaches in Denham Springs.

When fully funded through a match from the state of Louisiana, the professorship will be the college’s largest. The Schmitts have also established two professorships in the College of Engineering and are major contributors to the Chemical Engineering Building Fund.

Karen recalls a Bible verse that reflects her and Ed’s view of philanthropy: “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48). Karen clarifies that she and Ed see giving as an opportunity rather than obligation. 

“By giving, others will have the opportunity to benefit as we have,” Ed explains. “We feel like we’re led to it.”

That sentiment mirrors a deep love for LSU that their family shares. When her older daughter was in high school, Karen asked if she was considering LSU. Laura responded incredulously: “Is there any other place?” 

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The above article was published in the Fall 2011 edition of the Cornerstone Magazine produced by the LSU Foundation. To see the complete publication, click here.



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