MICHIGAN CITY — The Ivy Tech community is in mourning this week over the death of a man who served the college in almost every conceivable way over the last 30 years, much of that time in Michigan City.
John “Jack” Schoenfelder, 74 of Chesterton, who was serving as vice chancellor of the Michigan City campus, died Sunday, Oct. 13.
“Jack was an awesome person ... a cornerstone for the MC campus,” said Angie Nelson Deuitch, who formerly worked under Schoenfelder as an adjunct business professor in Michigan City. “He filled in the leadership gap time and time again. He was passionate and cared deeply for the students.”
Schoenfelder was appointed vice chancellor in August following the internal realignment of the Michigan City campus with the Valparaiso campus. In his 30-plus years at Ivy Tech, he served in multiple roles, including program and department chair, dean, campus president, interim dean and interim vice chancellor.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the MC campus wrote: “It is a sad, sad time for us at the Michigan City site. Jack was so dedicated to Ivy Tech, the students, and the community. His presence and influence will be sorely missed.”
Rick Soria, who spent 14 years at the MC campus, totally agrees.
“I was obviously shocked to hear the news,” he said Wednesday. “Jack was a wonderful man. I’ve known him since 2002 as a mentor and someone I always looked up to. He served as an interim administrator time and again. He was an amazing man.”
Soria said when he was appointed vice chancellor in 2012, Schoenfelder had been serving in that role on an interim basis.
“The administration always looked to him as someone to keep the campus afloat. He led with heart and he led with courage. But the most important thing was he always knew his students and he knew the challenges they faced.”
One such challenge was when some of his Ivy Tech business students wanted to get into the bachelor program at Purdue North Central but had vehicle or transportation issues, Soria said.
“He came to me and said, ‘How about we offer classes on campus through PNC. That could motivate some of these students to keep going.’ So we met with PNC and got it done.”
Schoenfelder “saw those kinds of challenges and said we have to help these students,” Soria said. “That was the kind of thing he did – find solutions; even if everyone else was scratching their heads about how to do it, he got it done.”
Nelson Deuitch agreed that for Schoenfelder, the students came first.
“He really cared about the students, with my mother being one of them,” she said. “He supported my mother and was her advisor. He helped her receive the Chancellor’s Scholarship. Just a great human being. He was my mom’s favorite professor [and] I loved working for him.”
Soria said both men found it amusing that when Soria left Ivy Tech in 2016, Schoenfelder was again named interim vice chancellor to replace him.
“We had a real chuckle about that; we laughed about, ‘Here you are, back in leadership again.’ But he just cleared his calendar and jumped back in.”
Schoenfelder held a Master of Arts in Business Administration from Governors State University, and was a veteran of the U.S. Army. His career in business management led him to teaching college courses, including as a professor of business administration on the MC campus.
During his time at Ivy Tech, he taught more than 25 business and marketing courses, authored four state syllabi, and created two courses for the statewide system. He was the 2016 recipient of the Ivy Tech President’s Award for the Northwest Region, while serving as Business and Logistics Chair in Michigan City.
When named interim vice chancellor again, he said he was “proud to have begun my Ivy Tech career at the Valparaiso campus and look forward to once again working with the dedicated and professional staff and leadership, as we regrow the Michigan City site together.”
“His passion was teaching and helping students hands-on,” family members wrote in his obituary. “He loved walking on the beach, canoeing, campfires and the great outdoors with a good cigar.”
Schoenfelder was a lifetime member and former president of the Chicago Herpetological Society, a retired Boy Scout and Scout Leader, and an active board member of the Duneland Resale Shop and many non-profit organizations.
“Our hearts are with our former Northwest Region colleagues at Michigan City and Valparaiso on the passing of Jack Schoenfelder,” a statement on the Lake County Campus Facebook page said. “No one was more of an advocate for his campus, his students and his program. RIP, Jack.”