We Remember Dr. Kurt R. Schmeller

Published: January 19, 2022

Queensborough Community College mourns the death of former president, Dr. Kurt R. Schmeller, who passed away on Saturday, January 15.

Schmeller.pngDr. Schmeller, 84, served as President of Queensborough for 32 years (from 1966 to 1999). He was just 29 when he was named the College’s third President. He was a former assistant to the president and history professor at Wisconsin State. During his tenure, Dr. Schmeller presided over historic growth and change at Queensborough and throughout the country. His vision for the College ran parallel to these changes. He advocated for students to attend college who would not, under ordinary admission standards, be eligible for enrollment. In his first year as President, he founded a performing arts series, established an art gallery on the third floor of the administration building and broke ground on three new buildings, including the library, now known as the Kurt R. Schmeller Library.

His accomplishments and contributions to Queensborough included the establishment of Port of Entry, an innovative program developed to ease adjustment to life in the United States for foreign students, particularly those from China. It was considered the first such comprehensive program in the country.

Dr. Schmeller opened an off-campus extension center to assist students interested in aviation and transportation-related areas of study. Classes were held in Pan American Cargo Building #67 at JFK International Airport. He invited Senator Robert Kennedy to speak on campus on January 10, 1968, to a packed gymnasium. Five months later, Senator Kennedy was assassinated. In May of 1969, the gymnasium was named in Kennedy’s honor.

Dr. Schmeller was an ardent supporter of the QCC Art Gallery. He and his wife Beata regularly attended Art Gallery openings on campus until a few years ago due to his health.

Dr. Schmeller, who was born in Johnson City, N.Y., majored in European history at Bates College and earned his master's and doctoral degrees at Princeton.

Donations in memory of Dr. Schmeller may be made to the QCC Art Gallery.

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