by Emily Landgraf
The life of Ludmilla Kapschutschenko Schmitt, a professor who colleagues said was passionate about her subject matter and her students, was celebrated July 18 by friends, family, colleagues and students.
Schmitt, a Spanish professor at Rider and former head of the Foreign Languages Department, died suddenly on July 14 at the age of 63. Her funeral was held at St. Andrew’s Memorial Church, a Ukrainian-Catholic church in South Bound Brook, N.J.
Schmitt was born in Regensburg, Germany, and emigrated to Argentina in 1949. She moved to the United States in 1963 and attended Temple University, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish.
She received her doctorate in Latin-American culture from the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at both of her alma maters, as well as Vassar and Lafayette before joining Rider as the chair of the Foreign Languages Department in 1983.
Schmitt’s funeral was brief, but well attended. The guests had nothing but praise for her.
Dr. Linda Materna, a Spanish professor and former head of the department, said Schmitt mentored her upon her arrival at Rider in 1983.
“She fought for me to get my job,” Materna said. “She mentored me when I was working on getting a grant.”
Dr. Dominick Finello, a former colleague, met Schmitt when she came to Rider in 1983 as the department chair.
According to Finello, Schmitt wrote consistently throughout her career. She was well known in the community of Latin American literature scholars, Finello said.
“Dr. Schmitt was a very positive force in the department and the institution,” he said. “She was the sweetest, most magnetic person I’ve met in this profession. The institution is losing something very important here.”
Although Finello retired in 2007, he and Schmitt kept up their friendship until her death.
Dr. Daria Cohen, an associate professor of Spanish, echoed Materna’s and Finello’s praise.
“Ludmilla [was] the heart of the Spanish section,” she said. “She always kept her students in mind.”
Professor Magnolia Perez-Garrido met her in 1998 as an adjunct professor at Rider.
“She was totally dedicated to her profession,” she said. “I remember her as an elegant woman. She was also soft-spoken, but very professional.”
Both Cohen and Perez-Garrido said that Schmitt loved traveling.
Lynnette Dortrait, who graduated from Rider in 2005, praised Schmitt highly.
“She was the essence of what a professor should be,” Dortrait said. “She motivated and empowered her students. She taught us about the Latin culture, but she also taught us about having faith in our dreams and in ourselves. She truly made a difference in my life.”
Senior Luz Espaillat agreed with Dortrait. Espaillat was one of Schmitt’s advisees and credited much of her success to Schmitt.
“She was always there for me,” Espaillat said. “She put me on the path to success. She was always very proud of her students, and I think that made a big difference.”
According to Perez-Garrido, Schmitt had a saying that she used in the midst of tragic events and troubled times: “Así es la vida,” which translates to, “That’s the way life is.”
“I imagine that’s what she would say about this tragic event,” Perez- Garrido said.