CANONSBURG – Bill Schmidt grew up in poverty. He attended a two-room schoolhouse with an outhouse in the back in the small mining area called Southview, and the family was raised by his hard-working mother after his father died.
From that humble background, Schmidt propelled himself to become one of the most successful and recognizable names in the history of this small town.
On a bright, warm Saturday morning on Pike Street in Canonsburg, the town with which Schmidt never lost ties said thank you, again. Schmidt was honored with a marquee celebrating his winning a bronze medal in the javelin during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The sign, produced by Al Tedeschi of Artworks of Canonsburg, is prominently displayed near the corner of Pike Street and Ashland Avenue and is most visible to motorists entering town from the west end of Pike Street.
The borough also proclaimed Dec. 1 as Bill Schmidt Day.
“Forty years seems like a couple of eye blinks now,” said Schmidt, whose business career surpassed his Olympics achievement. “Canonsburg has always been a special place for me.”
Numerous community leaders and politicians were on hand, including Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome; State Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg; State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane; Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair; John Bevec, president of Canonsburg Borough Council; Manuel Pihakis, former athletic director at Canon-McMillan and current school board director; Guy Montecalvo, athletic director at Canon-McMillan; and John Somsky, a marketing expert who was one of those individuals instrumental in organizing the event.
This is the second time Schmidt has been honored on the streets of Canonsburg. Following his bronze medal victory in 1972, the city organized a ticker-tape parade for him.
“This idea evolved around a lot of people,” said Rhome. “We have to be progressive about promoting Canonsburg. I remember the ticker-tape parade we had for Bill 40 years ago. We needed to recognize one of our native sons.”
Schmidt, who has been a longtime contributor to the school district and community, presented a framed plaque that documented his achievement in the Olympic. He also said he will donate the bronze medal he received to the town, and it will be put on display in the borough confines. “Bill has always been a supporter of Canonsburg,” said Somsky. “He never forgot where he was born, and he has always given something back.”
Rhome said there are security requirements that must be in place in order to showcase the medal.
“This is a great city, a great town to grow up in,” said Bob Schmidt, Bill’s twin brother and the older of the two by 10 minutes. “We were always competitive. Back in the ’60s, we created a mini Olympics with basketball and a cinder block throw. All through high school, we were like that.”
Bill and Bob Schmidt, who both turn 64 Dec. 29, were the only two of the seven siblings to graduate from high school. Both went on to college – Bill to North Texas State University, where he was a schoolmate of Joe Greene; and Bob to Clarion, where he competed in wrestling – then to successful business careers.
Bill Schmidt, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., and has been a strong supporter of the University of Tennessee, was an executive at Gatorade and had the distinction of landing Michael Jordan as a client. Yes, that Michael Jordan. Bob is the CEO of a radiology practice that serves 20 hospitals in Lexington, Ky., where he now lives.
The two get together to play golf, and Bob knows beating him will be difficult.
“The last time we played, he shot 71,” said Bob with a smile.
“There has been a lot of divine intervention with us,” said Bill. “I think our mother instilled focus and discipline in us. We both have a lot of drive when we left sports, and that translated to the business side of sports for me.”
Bill Schmidt’s resume is impressive. Besides his work as vice president of world wide marketing for Gatorade, Bill was the director of sports at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville and was vice president of sports at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee and does work with the local CBS television affiliate in Knoxville. He recently launched a sports agency that represents 25 professional players.
“This city has been great to me,” Bill Schmidt said, “and I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to give something back.”