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Remembering Wayne Schmidt, FAIA, LEED AP, July 23, 1945 - June 1, 2024

Wayne Schmidt, FAIA, LEED AP
Wayne Schmidt, FAIA, LEED AP
INDIANAPOLIS – Wayne Sam Schmidt, FAIA, LEED AP, Schmidt Associates founder, CEO, friend, mentor, and prominent community leader passed away peacefully on June 1 at the age of 78 surrounded by family.

Born and raised in Evansville, IN as the son of the city’s first hoteliers, Wayne often reminisced about growing up with his living room being the motel lounge. At exactly 3:37 pm one day in 1956 when he was in sixth grade, Wayne realized he wanted to be an architect. He wanted a bookshelf for his room and his mother said he would have to build it with a drawing. After completing the drawing, he went to the lumber yard for materials. He showed the clerk the sizes of plywood he needed and mentioned that he also would need 16 nails. The clerk peered down and said, “Let’s just make it a half pound and you should consider becoming an architect.” He did not know what an architect did, but liked the name and was determined to become one while leaving a legacy.

Wayne continued his studies at Evansville North High School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he graduated in 1970 with a Bachelor of Architecture. Following graduation, Wayne worked for Wollen Associates before declaring his independence on July 4, 1976, when he founded his own firm in Indianapolis in the American Building on the corner of Vermont and Pennsylvania Streets. That firm would become Schmidt Associates, founded on the belief that an architectural firm should facilitate and understand—not impose and dictate. He felt that the client was best served when included as a partner in the design process.

Not long after declaring his independence, Wayne received a call from the City of Indianapolis, informing him he had been awarded his first major project. That call was intended for another architect, but in true Wayne fashion, and grounded by his faith, he looked to the heavens and told God, “If you keep tossing them, I’ll keep catching them.” With the City of Indianapolis on the books, Wayne was on his way to positively shaping Indianapolis’ built environment.

As the firm grew, every year as the first snowflakes of the season fell, Wayne led an annual Moose Trek down Massachusetts Avenue. This Trek resulted in him treating employees to breakfast as a thank you for making the effort. He would host monthly group lunches, coffee talks, and employee outings to the Moonstruck Chocolate Bar. Other times you could find him leading schoolchildren on downtown “safaris,” finding the animals carved into buildings throughout the city.

Always full of positivity, and wearing his trademark red hat, Wayne often told others, “Plant a seed. It may not grow today or tomorrow, but eventually, it will.” Fully embracing this line and holding his Lutheran faith close to his heart, Wayne was a gifted designer and storyteller with a quick wit, matched only by his passion and drive for servant leadership. These values continue to guide Schmidt Associates today. Wayne had a deep passion for community service and was never shy about stepping up when he saw a need. He served in leadership positions for countless organizations, including the Board of Governors for the Economic Club of Indiana, on the Workforce Development Committee for the Indy Chamber, and on the Boards of the Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, the Parks Alliance of Indianapolis, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Indianapolis City Market, the International School of Indiana, the Athenaeum Foundation, the Rotary Club of Indianapolis, and St. Francis Hospital. He also was a member of the Hoosier Fellows Class of 2008, a graduate of the Stanley K. Lacy Leadership Association, a vital part of the Reconnecting our Waterways initiative, and a lay leader for The Great Banquet weekends and the Kairos Prison Ministry of Indiana where he ministered inmates worked with others to bake chocolate chip cookies he would bring into prisons.

Professionally, Wayne taught classes at Ball State University, served as the president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Indianapolis and Indiana chapters, and regularly mentored emerging designers. He also authored “Indianapolis Architecture” in 1976 and was a featured presenter for many organizations, such as the Midwest Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers, the Indiana Construction Industry Conference, and the Midwest Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers.

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When it came to projects, Wayne stated, “As architects, we have a responsibility to design structures that meet an intended purpose, of course, but also structures that energize and help move neighborhoods and cities forward.” Leaving his mark on the City of Indianapolis, some of Wayne’s most notable projects were the Mass Ave revitalization, including the Hammond Block that eventually housed Schmidt Associates’ offices, Stout’s Shoes, the Athenaeum, the Davlan, Penrose on Mass, the 3 Mass Condos and the Phi-Dan-Ste building, which was the first new construction project on Mass Ave in 50 years. Wayne also was a key player in the Indianapolis Public Schools Capital Improvements Program, the Plainfield High School renovation, the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument restoration, the African University Campus Master Plan, and the Gathertorium at Martin University, among many others.

For his contributions to the profession Wayne received an honorary Doctorate of Creative Thought from Martin University in 2007. Wayne also was the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1982 AIA Indiana Edward Pierre Award, a 1985 fellowship from the AIA National organization, making him the youngest architect in Indiana to receive the designation at age 40, the 1998 City of Indianapolis Development Award from the Department of Metropolitan Development, the 2002 Robert D. Beckmann, Jr. Leadership Award from Riley Area Development Corporation, the 2008 Distinguished Service Award from AIA Indiana, the 2010 Juliet Peddle Award from AIA Indiana, the 2010 Legends IN Design award from the Indiana Design Coalition, the 2014 Gold Medal Award from AIA Indiana, and the 2015 Wings Award from Martin University. He also was named a 2006 Finalist - Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young and to Indianapolis Business Journal’s 2011 Who’s Who in Construction, Design, and Engineering list.

As Schmidt Associates’ founding CEO, Wayne’s leadership resulted in significant wins for the firm, including being named a Best Places to Work in Indiana company nine times from 2007-2017, and to the Indianapolis Business Journal, the Engineering-News Record, and the Architectural Record lists for Largest Architecture and Design Firms. Under Wayne, the firm also won the 2010 Distinguished Firm of the Year and the 2013 25-Year Awards from AIA Indiana.

Wayne is survived by his wife of 54 years, Susan, and their sons Phillip (Johanna) and Daniel (Jennifer) Schmidt, daughter Stephanie (Scott) Sego, 10 grandchildren, and countless Architects and Engineers who considered him their personal mentor and friend.  Wayne's passion for design, kind spirit, quirky sense of humor, and positive nature will be missed, but his spirit will live on through the stories of the buildings he designed and the lives he touched along the way.

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