Scholarships established by physician, musician aim to inspire next generation of LU students

Dr. John Schnick is not interested in his own legacy. Though he has made a generous donation to both Lamar University and the University of Texas Medical Branch, Schnick said that upon his death, he hopes to inspire the next generation of physicians and musicians at LU.

A scholarship, along with a piano, has been promised to Lamar University and the University of Texas Medical Branch students and graduates to help those with financial need.

Through a planned gift, Schnick will create multi-million-dollar endowments to support Lamar University students.

Not only is he an alumnus, but Schnick is a legacy student, as his father attended South Park Junior College. Both his brother and sister also graduated from Lamar University. The donor is establishing a scholarship in honor of his parents, William Burl Schnick and LaDonna C. Schnick. Dr. John Schnick

“I want to honor my parents. (This scholarship) will honor their legacy by hopefully giving others an opportunity to attend LU. And there’s absolutely a family connection to Lamar University,” he said.

After a successful career in the medical field, Schnick still looks upon his time at LU fondly.

“My experience was very, very positive. If it hadn’t been for Lamar University, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” he said. “It gave me the foundation to grow and develop into a mature adult.”

Schnick was in the band and a member of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity, where he served terms as the fraternity’s secretary and vice president. He also served as the band representative to the Student Government Association House of Representatives and was a Lamar University Ambassador.

After graduating from Lamar State College of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1968, Schnick then attended the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he earned his Medical Doctor Degree. He practiced medicine with the Hillcroft Medical Clinic as a family practitioner in Houston until his retirement. In the latter stage of his career, Schnick also served as Chief Operation Officer of the Hillcroft Medical Clinic. As a medical professional, he served as a clinical assistant professor at both Baylor College of Medicine and UT Health Science Center in Houston.

Though Schnick played the baritone during his time at LU, he said his passion belongs to the piano.

Upon his death, Schnick will also gift his beloved Bosendorfer piano, which he has been playing for the past 30 years. Growing up, his father forbid him from taking piano lessons, though he’d come to change his mind. After many years, Schnick began taking piano lessons when he was 40 years old.

“Dad thought boys don’t play piano. Later in life, he was happy for me playing,” he said, noting that he’s always had a passion for music. “(My love for music) was always there. It was always there. My grandparents had a stand-up piano in the living room, which I would play. It’s always been there even as a child. (Music) can give you peace, give you calm when you’re playing. It’s very peaceful, you know?”

In recognition of his generous gift to LU, the university also will name a piano rehearsal room after the woman Schnick said raised him and his siblings — the “Irish Williams Rehearsal Room.”

“Dad worked; mother worked. (Irish Williams) was my second mother. She passed at 53. She never saw me graduate from medical school. She’s very important to me,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am but for her. Irish would be so honored to have a rehearsal room named for her. She will be dancing in heaven.”

Schnick also has established a scholarship for Lamar University students to attend the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston so that other aspiring doctors can follow in his footsteps, as medicine has been an important part of his life.

“I’ve always wanted to be doctor since I was 8 or 9 years old. My cousin was a physician and I always looked up to him. There was no other profession I wanted to be in,” he said. “Medicine has been very important in my life. Healing people and taking care of the ill was always very important. Always put the patients ahead of everyone else.”

Schnick said that medicine and music aren’t as different as they may appear on the surface.

“Diagnosing a patient is a puzzle and so is playing a piece of music; it’s a puzzle which keys to play,” he noted. “So, they’re both connected in a way.”

Distributions from the William B. Schnick and LaDonna C. Schnick Scholarship will provide scholarship support to Lamar University undergraduate students from Beaumont, high school graduates in Hardin, Jefferson and Orange counties or in the state of Texas based on financial need.

The John C. Schnick, MD Endowed Scholarship will be used to support students who demonstrate financial need and meet one of the following preference criteria: Recipients who are from Beaumont with a Lamar University undergraduate degree; recipients who are from Hardin, Orange or Jefferson counties with a Lamar University undergraduate degree; and recipients in the state of Texas, with favor given to students in that order.

Randall Terry, associate professor and chair of the Department of Biology, said this type of donation is unprecedented and affects LU in a tremendous way.

"Dr. Schnick has established a transformative scholarship program for Lamar University students pursuing medical careers,” Burch said. “The impressive scope of the scholarship program, including scholarship awards for LU undergraduate students and scholarship opportunities for students who persist to medical school, is unprecedented and truly paves the way for student success in that field of study. Dr. Schnick's vision and generosity are remarkable.

“Among the greatest challenges students face is the rising cost of higher education. This is particularly true for students pursuing professional careers in medicine and dentistry. Given the many challenges students face in today’s higher education environment, the importance of financial assistance cannot be underestimated. The generous support of Dr. Schnick, especially to attend a prestigious medical school like UTMB, has the potential to change lives.”

Schnick said that he just hopes that these scholarships will inspire the next generation of musicians and doctors at Lamar University.

“I hope it (inspires students) to go into medicine or to enter the performing arts, whatever their choice,” he said, adding that his gifts are not about him. “(The scholarship) is not about my legacy. It’s out of generosity. It’s not out my own fanfare. After I’ve passed on, if I can give a helping hand to a student to go to medical school or study music, I’m happy to do it from the grave.”