Norman W. Schmid, 87, of Blue Bell, principal of Abington Senior High School for 27 years, died Sunday, April 8, of a heart condition at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health.
Mr. Schmid began his career in 1956 as a substitute teacher at Glenside-Weldon Junior High School. In 1959, he transferred to Huntington Junior High School, where he taught American history.
He was assistant principal at the senior high school before becoming principal in 1969, and he remained in that role until retiring in 1996.
Amy Sichel, Abington School District superintendent, said she first encountered Mr. Schmid when she was a guidance counselor at Abington Junior High School. When she became a school district administrator in 1983, he served as “a wonderful mentor,” she said.
“From the moment I stepped into the position, his advice was wise, supportive, on-target, clear, and direct,” Sichel said.
Mr. Schmid was a strong advocate for educational excellence and high-quality facilities. He did not think the high school’s small library was adequate to meet the needs of students and faculty, so he lobbied for the construction of an expanded library inside the school.
In fact, his family said, he petitioned the Abington school board each year, for 26 consecutive years, until toward the end of his tenure, he got his wish. He was instrumental in planning for the library, which featured internet access, computer work stations, classroom space, and tables in a quiet place conducive to study.
“He never gave up,” Sichel said. “He kept lobbying for it. It had been a small, ineffective space on the second floor. He made it a larger space on the first floor, where it remains today.”
Mr. Schmid had already been retired for three years when the new library opened on Oct. 30, 1999. It is the Norm Schmid Library Media Center.
“It’s much more media-driven now, but he pushed and pushed and pushed. His dream came true, and it was dedicated to him,” Sichel said.
In 1999, when Blue Ribbon School evaluators came through the high school, they gave it a coveted Blue Ribbon rating. “I felt like I was a part of a family at Abington Senior High School,” one evaluator wrote, according to an account in the spring 1999 alumni association bulletin. “The success achieved started with Norm Schmid.”
Under his watch, the school produced Ashton B. Carter, secretary of defense in the Obama administration; Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a noted professor at the Yale University School of Management; and Adam Aron, chief executive officer of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and AMC Entertainment Inc. and a co-owner of the 76ers.
“They all kept in touch with my dad,” said his daughter Jeanne Beadell Schmid. “They all came to his retirement party.”
Born in Philadelphia to Norman Henry Schmid and Elizabeth Beadell, he was raised in West Oak Lane. He graduated from Germantown High School and East Stroudsburg University with a bachelor’s degree in history and geography. He earned a master’s degree from Temple University in 1967.
He served in the Army in the early 1950s and was stationed in France.
In 1959, he married Bonnie McElroy. The couple settled in Broad Axe, Montgomery County. They moved to Normandy Farms Estates, Blue Bell, in 2016.
In his spare time, Mr. Schmid enjoyed reading, history, playing bridge, summers in Ocean City, N.J., and traveling with his wife and family. He toured Russia, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Turkey. He also enjoyed cruising to Europe, through the Panama Canal, and to Central America, Bermuda, and the islands of the Caribbean.
He was a longtime member of the First Presbyterian Church of Ambler.
“He was a good, ethical, honorable man, and I was lucky to have him for a dad,” his daughter said.
In addition to his daughter, and his wife of 59 years, he is survived by another daughter, Nancy Calkins; two grandchildren; and a sister.
Plans are pending for a memorial service this summer at Abington Senior High School. Interment with military honors will be in the cemetery at St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Salvation Army, 701 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19123.