Phil Schneider Alumni of the Year

schneider_croppedOn April 10, Dr. Phil Schneider, class of ‘79, was honored with the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award for the Chemistry and Biochemistry department. Dr. Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director at Holy Cross Hospital, credits his undergraduate experience at UMD for the course of his professional life.

“Getting my undergraduate degree at Maryland helped me focus on what I wanted to become. I love orthopedics, because we get to fix things that are wrong. In many other areas of medicine a doctor will be in the position of managing a chronic condition. The patient may not get worse, but they will never be better. But in orthopedics, we can often find the problem and fix it. The coolest thing my education has allowed me to do is help semi-paralyzed people to walk again.”

He credits the excellent program for the solid grounding it gave him.

“I found that, in my first and partly into my second year of medical school, what I was being taught I had already learned at Maryland. It was mainly review for me, and many of my other classmates who came from other schools were not as well prepared.”

When Dr. Schneider came to the University of Maryland, it was a much different place.

“Back in 1975, when I started, the school was a commuter school. There were around 40,000 students. I actually commuted the entire time I attended, driving in from Silver Spring.”

To make his college experience the best he could, Dr. Schneider joined a lot of organizations including becoming an ODK member and joining student government. But, he notes, there have been many amazing changes from then to the present.

“When the College Park campus became the flagship school in the 80’s a lot of work happened to make it an elite school. Entry requirements became tougher. Some programs were moved to other campuses. Dorms were built. It’s gratifying to see the University change, during my lifetime, from what was considered a run-of-the-mill public college into a top tier research institution.  It’s more like a private university now with regard to how the students are valued, and the type of community it has. It offers a private university education, but at a state school price.”

Dr. Schneider’s commitment to the community continues as he is on the board of trustees for the University of Maryland Foundation, is part of Friends of Men’s Basketball, and is also part of the Red Coat Society which supports football.  He also is conducting research with Dr. Frederick Khachik, lectures in the Neuroanatomy class with Dr. Joshua Singer, and gives lectures in the required professional development classes that help chemistry and biochemistry majors prepare for their careers.

When asked how he keeps up with all of his professional and avocational commitments, he joked that he “doesn’t sleep much.”

More seriously, however, education in general, and education in particular at Maryland, is a deeply important subject for him.

“Education is what changes a person’s life. It’s an equalizer. It is the greatest key to bettering our civilization.”