A Tribute to Mary Ellen Heian Schmider

The Board of Directors of the Fulbright Association would like to publicly thank a most trusted and treasured colleague, Mary Ellen Schmider, for her long-time service to the association.  At the end of December 2019, she stepped down from her role as President of the Board and will continue to serve as Past President for the coming year.  But we couldn’t let the opportunity pass to acknowledge how important her leadership has been not just for this past year but for so many years in the past.

Mary Ellen was awarded her first Fulbright to China in 1997 and again to Macedonia in 2005.  A long time member of the Association, she was elected to the Board of Directors in 2008 and served until she was asked to serve as Executive Director in 2012 for one year.  Her second term on the Board was again interrupted in 2016 when she was asked to serve as the Interim Executive Director in 2016, while a search was conducted that led to the hiring of John Bader in 2017.  These commitments took Mary Ellen and her husband, Carl away from their home in Chippewa Falls, WI in order to provide for these smooth transitions.   At the same time, she has continued to travel the globe and teach students on-line as an adjunct professor in history and women’s studies at the University of Maryland Global Campus.

“A steady hand at the wheel…a role model of dedication, commitment and perseverance…a dear mentor… the quintessential example of good leadership…”  These are just examples of the superlatives offered up by colleagues.

The Fulbright Association Travel Program is the brainchild of Mary Ellen Schmider.  She realized many alumni would like to continue the Fulbright experience after their grants were over.  Mary Ellen creatively envisioned international trips that would promote mutual understanding among cultures through connecting with alumni and grantees in other countries, service with locals, and in-depth travel.

Possibly standing above all else has been her resolve in recognizing others for their achievements. She launched and continues to support the Outstanding Chapter Award which recognizes the impact that members have made in their home communities through chapter involvement. And she has been instrumental in the awarding of the J. William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding, most notably the awarding of the Fulbright Prize in 2019 to Chancellor Angela Merkel. This event in Berlin increased both the visibility and prestige of the FA in the global community.

For all that she has done and for who she is, we congratulate Mary Ellen for the tremendous impact she has had on the Fulbright community.

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