Pitt Provided a Launchpad for this World Traveler and Successful Publisher

Johanna and Edward on a recent visit to Pittsburgh
Johanna and Edward on a recent visit to Pittsburgh.

It had been nearly 30 years since Johanna Schmid (A&S ’67) had been on the University of Pittsburgh campus when she and her husband, Edward Reed, returned for a tour in October 2018. She visited Heinz Chapel, the William Pitt Union, and some of her old classrooms.

“It was really wonderful. I remembered my professors and some of my favorite lectures as though they were yesterday,” said Johanna, who now lives in California. “I regret not having come back sooner.”

Perhaps the most moving part of the tour was when she visited the Cathedral of Learning, including the Nationality Rooms and, of course, the Commons Room.

“I was so taken by all the students using the Commons. They were intensely focused on their notebooks and their laptops and I saw myself in them,” Johanna said.

“When I look at today’s students, my heart blooms thinking about the adventures that await them."
- Johanna Schmid (A&S ’67)

For Johanna and her classmates, the Commons Room was more of a pass through to get from place to place. As a student, she was more likely to spend her time between classes in the Tuck Shop where she would meet with her sorority sisters and play bridge.

“When I look at today’s students, my heart blooms thinking about the adventures that await them and the contributions they will make to the sciences, humanities, and the world.”

Johanna grew up in Bethel Park in what she describes as a solidly middle-class family. After graduating high school, she enrolled at Pitt with a focus on English and pre-med. For her first three years, she took the trolley to school nearly every day. She decided to be a commuter to save money, but she thinks her father—a “strong family man”—liked having her at home just about as much as saving the money.

During the same trip that brought her back to campus last year, Johanna visited the Heinz History Center and sat in a trolley car that curators say offered service throughout the South Hills, which included Bethel Park.

Johanna Schmid sits in a streetcar on display in the Heinz History Center in which she could have ridden as a Pitt student.
Johanna Schmid sits in a streetcar on display in the Heinz History Center in which she could have ridden as a Pitt student.

“I would take the streetcar downtown and then transfer to one that would go out to the University,” Johanna said, convinced that it was one of the streetcars she sat in as an undergrad.

By her senior year, Johanna had left the trolley behind, instead living at the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house as the house manager. By then she had also changed her academic focus.

“In my junior year, I realized I did not have the constitutional fortitude to practice medicine,” she said.

Upon graduation, Johanna moved to New York to earn a master’s degree in English from Columbia University and then “heard the siren call of the New York publishing world.” She began a career in higher-educational and professional book and journal publishing, primarily in the fields of the life sciences and medicine. She moved up through the ranks and eventually had her own product lines. Along the way, she earned a PhD in Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and dabbled a bit in teaching before returning to the publishing industry.

Johanna retired in 2010 and has been pursuing a love she shares with Edward: hiking in some of the most beautiful places on earth. They have traveled in many countries on most of the continents and especially enjoy hiking in the Andes, Pyrenees, Alps, and High Sierra.

Johanna and Edward on a recent hiking trip in California’s Eastern Sierra.
Johanna and Edward on a recent hiking trip in California’s Eastern Sierra.

The path through life for Johanna Schmid has been influenced by family, friends, coworkers, and institutions, but she considers Pitt among the most impactful.

“Pitt was my gateway to becoming who I am today. My professors, fellow students, and the learning resources at Pitt opened worlds to me. They fostered knowledge, insight, understanding, tolerance, curiosity, and confidence,” she said.  “My Pitt experience launched me into the wide, wonderful worlds that awaited me. For that and more, I will always be grateful.”

Johanna is honoring Pitt’s role in her life with a planned gift that will create an endowed scholarship for an undergraduate in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences who demonstrates financial need.

“I want future generations of Pitt students to have the opportunities I had,” she said. “I want them to be able to pursue their studies, achieve their goals, and become all that they can be.”

Johanna’s publishing career gave her exposure and insights on a wide range of subjects in the humanities and sciences, and along the way, her initial love for medicine has been fed continuously and served her well.  

“Pitt was my gateway to becoming who I am today. My professors, fellow students, and the learning resources at Pitt opened worlds to me."
- Johanna Schmid

“She is an amazing person with a rich life story,” said Gordon Fraser, Director of Gift and Charitable Estate Planning, University of Pittsburgh. “She has been associated with so many institutions, yet she realizes just how important Pitt was to her and has made certain that future students will have the same launch pad into the future.”

Johanna also makes annual gifts to Pitt, most often to the general scholarship fund and the office of financial aid. Such gifts allow the University the most flexibility in meeting student needs.

“I continue to glow with pride at how Pitt is changing in positive ways yet maintaining its rich traditions. The University is constantly adapting and growing in ways that are very thoughtful,” Johanna said. “I strongly encourage other Pitt graduates who share my feelings to contribute to our wonderful University.”

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