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Longtime OU Professor Al Schwarzkopf Remembered for his Charisma and Congeniality

Longtime OU Professor Al Schwarzkopf Remembered for his Charisma and Congeniality

Portrait of Al Schwarzkopf

Jan and Al Schwarzkopf

Both during his illustrious 50-year career at the University of Oklahoma and in the hometown that he and his wife, Jan, adopted early in their marriage, Albert B. Schwarzkopf III made a deep impact on most people he met, including colleagues, students and politicians.

Among the many adjectives bestowed upon him upon learning of his passing on Oct. 6, 2020, were the following: an enthusiastic advocate for his students, and witty, thoughtful and ever-so-ready to lend a helping hand.

Schwarzkopf, a native of Newton, Massachusetts, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. He met the woman who was to become the love of his life, Jan Bredeson, while attending Vanderbilt University. The couple was married in 1965 and studied together while pursuing graduate degrees in mathematics at the University of Virginia.

After earning his doctorate in 1968 in math, where his research focused on optimal control and advanced analysis, the Schwarzkopfs headed to Monterey, California, where he taught math and statistics at the Naval Postgraduate School as an assistant professor and U.S. Naval Reserve lieutenant.

The couple and their first son, Albert, arrived in Norman in 1970 to begin Schwarzkopf’s half-century-long tenure at OU – beginning as an assistant professor of mathematics. He taught statistics and analytics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels at OU for 14 years.

While teaching in the mathematics department, Schwarzkopf established the Statistics Consulting Center to work with university groups doing data research, and with ISP/PDS, an oil and gas database that was marketed from OU to the industry.

In 1984, he moved to the College of Business to help establish a new area of Management Information Systems within the Management Division, along with Leon Price. Schwarzkopf served as division director of management from 1991-1995 before the MIS Division was created in 1998.

In the article he wrote for the spring 2020 Center for MIS Studies newsletter, Schwarzkopf recalled participating in two summer training sessions conducted by the national business community designed to convert established academics to the MIS discipline. He wrote, “My wife, who was an established computer science/businesswoman, called it ’90-day wonder’ training. In the beginning, Leon Price and I taught the MIS concentration in the Management Division. While other faculty contributed individual courses, we taught the core.”

Schwarzkopf is given credit for managing to keep OU’s Energy Management Program alive while many others closed. He taught the Energy Management Capstone Field Project Course for 20 years, first with Price and Richard Van Horn, then alone. He supervised over 160 projects with his students and dozens of Oklahoma companies. He called it the most rewarding of his teaching experiences.

Schwarzkopf also established OU’s technical presence in Tulsa, where he created and taught in the Telecommunication Engineering Program, dividing his teaching between MIS and Tulsa. He returned full time to MIS in 1998 when the Tulsa program was consolidated with Electrical and Computing Engineering.

In 2005, he and Jan decided to extend a recent tradition of hosting an end-of-semester party for graduating students, MIS faculty and families. Schwarzkopf had developed a hobby of cooking Cajun style in big colorful iron-clad pots and lots of rice to complement the dishes. As the division grew, so did the parties – from 10-15 through upwards of 50. In the CMISS newsletter article, he wrote that one of his and Jan’s biggest disappointments last spring was having to cancel the final field project party due to the pandemic.

During his OU tenure, Schwarzkopf was active in faculty governance, serving on the IT council as either member or president in Mathematics and then in MIS. He was elected to the Faculty Senate from Business and served as chair of the Senate from 2001-2002.

As part of his service on the Faculty Senate, Schwarzkopf became a lobbyist for OU at the state Capitol. In an article he wrote for the spring MIS newsletter, he recalled his less-than-stellar start, approaching legislators with the following: “Hi, I’m Al Schwarzkopf. Give us money.” Finding that approach less than successful, he took on a two-pronged strategy as a lobbyist: placing a face of the OU faculty for the legislator and thanking them for what they do.

Later, when Schwarzkopf was appointed Regents’ Professor, then-OU President David Boren commented that he was an effective lobbyist.

The Schwarzkopfs believed in giving back. They established the Schwarzkopf Memorial Scholarship Fund in 1998 a few years after the death of Al’s mother. Proceeds from the fund have supported MIS students for many years. While an executive at Kerr McGee, wife Jan was influential in obtaining significant scholarship support from the company. Last summer, additional donations supported both the endowment and the naming of an MIS office. They also were founding members of the Adams Society of Price College.

To give to the Schwarzkopf Memorial Scholarship Fund, click here.

To learn more about this beloved professor, including more about his family life and his early contributions to the Norman Youth Soccer League, read his article in the spring 2020 issue of the CMISS Newsletter by clicking here.

Colleagues and Former Students Remember Dr. Schwarzkopf

“I am saddened to announce the loss of one of our family members, Dr. Al Schwarzkopf, who passed away recently. Al retired this spring after serving the University of Oklahoma for an impressive 50 years, most recently as Emeritus Regents’ Professor of Management Information Systems. For the past 36 years, he was a faculty member in the Division of MIS where, most notably, he taught the field project course. He had a strong service mindset and participated in many committees in the Division, Price College and OU. He was always ready to help, had a good sense of humor, and was liked by students, faculty and staff. He will be missed.” -Dean Corey Phelps, Michael F. Price College of Business

“Al Schwarzkopf cared deeply for OU and his colleagues. He was witty, thoughtful and ever-so-ready to lend a helping hand. He leaves a deep and lasting impact on so many students, faculty and community partners through his interactions over the last 50 years as an OU faculty. We will truly miss him.” -Radhika Santhanam, Michael F. Price Chair and Director of MIS

“Al spent half a century contributing to OU, Price College and the MIS Division – a remarkable feat in itself. What makes his contributions even more special is his willingness to go above and beyond his professional role as a faculty member. Every semester, he and his wife, Jan, would host the graduating MIS seniors in their home for a gumbo dinner that Al would cook from scratch. He would make different versions of the gumbo to meet the different dietary restrictions of the guests. The care he took with that dinner is the care he showed his students – individualized and thoughtful. We will all miss that care.” - Laku Chidambaram, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Engagement

“I, like so many other students, had the pleasure of fostering a relationship with Al. While Al was a great ambassador for the university, he was also an enthusiastic advocate for his students. Seeing them succeed was Al’s primary motivating force. Al’s impact on my education and career cannot be understated. He will be dearly missed by all that crossed paths with him.” - Frederic Clarke Daugherty, Instructor of MIS and former student of Schwarzkopf (M.S. MIT, May 2020)

“Dr. Al Schwarzkopf was a dedicated teacher. He loved his undergraduate students and stayed in touch with them as they went into their career positions. He also guided many Ph.D. candidates through their dissertations. I watched him work with the Ph.D. students helping them and supporting them as they worked to finish their degrees. He was dedicated to excellence in everything he did. In the undergraduate classroom, he demanded excellence and was always fair with all his students. I team-taught with him in several classes. He was a wonderful colleague in the classroom.” - R. Leon Price, Professor Emeritus, MIS        

By Jerri Culpepper

Article Published:  Wednesday, October 21, 2020