Alumnus honors faculty mentor and his wife with establishment of scholarship

The Professor Frank and Mary Schmidt Scholarship in Mechanical Engineering will help undergraduates while honoring the Schmidts’ legacy and impact


By Sarah Small

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a young professional looking to go back to school in the 1980s, Bob Phillips was awarded a NASA Traineeship in Computational Fluid Mechanics, which would support him as a doctoral candidate with a full scholarship and living stipend at Stanford, MIT or Penn State. Knowing that he and his wife, Sherry, wanted to move back to the east coast, Phillips interviewed at MIT and Penn State.

“I was married and had done a lot of graduate studies, as well as working in the field, so one of my goals was to complete the program in two years,” said Phillips, who graduated from Penn State in 1984 with a doctorate in mechanical engineering. “I interviewed with MIT, but when I told them that I wanted to finish in two years, they basically told me it was impossible. When I came to Penn State and expressed my goals, they told me I needed to meet Frank Schmidt.”

Schmidt, who was a senior faculty member and researcher in fluid mechanics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, told Phillips that as long as he was willing to put in the work, it was possible.

“I made my choice that day to come to Penn State and work with Frank,” Phillips said. “I never regretted it for a minute.” 

Now, Phillips is honoring Schmidt, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, and his late wife, Mary, while also creating financial support opportunities for mechanical engineering students by establishing the Professor Frank and Mary Schmidt Scholarship in Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering with an endowment of $50,000.

Consideration for this endowed scholarship will be given to full-time undergraduate students majoring in or planning to major in mechanical engineering who have demonstrated financial need. First preference will be given to students who either contribute to the diversity of the student body and/or who are first-generation college students.

“For students with financial need, this scholarship will provide resources to ease the financial burden and allow recipients to focus on their studies in mechanical engineering,” said Mary Frecker, mechanical engineering department head, Riess Chair of Engineering and director of the Penn State Center for Biodevices. “It is also a testimony to the lasting positive impact of our faculty as mentors, professionally and personally.”

Phillips recalled the Schmidts hosting many meals for graduate students and creating a warm social environment while setting high expectations academically. 

“Frank was demanding but always very supportive,” Phillips said. “His approach to his profession and life in general was something I looked up to and have attempted to emulate. My wife, Sherry, and I always deeply admired the relationship Frank and Mary had and have tried to live our lives in the same manner.”

Phillips’s academic work focused on predictive modeling, and after graduation, he held several engineering leadership positions at multiple companies before transitioning to his current field of asset management. He is now managing partner and chief technology officer at 3EDGE Asset Management, a firm focusing on managing money for individuals and institutions.

Schmidt, who will turn 93 this month, said that he and Mary always tried to welcome the graduate students and include them in events beyond the classroom.

“Bob was brilliant, an entrepreneur and a proactive student,” he said. “He and his wife lived in student housing, and we would have them over along with other graduate students. That he’s setting up this scholarship in my name and Mary’s is very touching. I’m very honored.” 

Phillips said that Frank and Mary enjoyed being part of the Penn State community and wanted to see as many students as possible get the opportunity to be a part of it. 

“I hope my contribution will honor them both by helping some students to live and learn in the community,” he said.

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


College of Engineering Media Relations

A portrait of a man and a woman smiling at the camera

Frank and Mary Schmidt. Credit: Provided by Frank Schmidt