Eight Bells: Dick Schmidt

Published on October 7th, 2015

After an eight year battle with progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare degenerative brain disease, Richard A. “Dick” Schmidt, died peacefully at his home on October 1. He was 74. Schmidt had sailed all of his life, racing in Sea Shells, Geary 18s, Windmills, Finns, 470s, and for many years, Schmidt and his wife Gwen Gordon actively and successfully raced in the Snipe class. In 1987, he joined the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, California and began to seriously campaign his Schock 35, Outlier – winning the class National Championship in 1990, 1991 and 1992. Later, he successfully raced both a Star and a Farr 30.

Schmidt was a retired UCLA Professor Emeritus and leading scientist and researcher at the intersection of the fields of psychology, physical education and kinesiology. He graduated with advanced degrees from the University of California (Berkeley) and earned his doctorate at the University of Illinois (Champagne-Urbana) – establishing the foundation for his long career of teaching and ground-breaking research in motor control and learning, which ultimately made him a true international giant in the field. He earned many important academic awards, including Citation Classic and Distinguished Scholar.

He received honorary doctorate degrees, from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) and the University of Joseph Fournier (France); mentored many Ph.D-level students during his long academic career, and authored four textbooks, one of which continues to be the premier graduate-level text. In the late 1990’s he joined Failure Analysis Associates, a firm specializing in courtroom testimony. In 1998 Schmidt formed his own firm, Human Performance Research, to offer consulting in human performance as an expert witness. At that time, he was recognized as the world’s leading expert on driver pedal errors associated with unintended acceleration accidents in automobiles.

Truly a many-faceted human being, Schmidt had been an active and competitive runner since the 1980s and he successfully ran several sub-three-hour marathons. A motorsports enthusiast, he owned five Porsches and in later life became a competitive auto racer. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Gwen Gordon of Los Angeles; a brother, Craig, of Santa Barbara; two sons, Michael Nova, of Petaluma; Jeffrey, of Napa, and two grandchildren. Dick Schmidt was truly one of the good guys!
– Tom Leweck


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