Pharmacy family goes back generations

Fireworks, pharmacy and State.

Those are just a few of the items that unite the Schmiedt and Wurtz families.

“Our family fireworks display is huge. We go a little beyond the normal with pyrotechnics,” said Dean Schmiedt. “I guess we get carried away at times.”

From left, Kevin Wurtz ’75, Kim Wurtz ’14, Allison Akin ’03 and Dean Schmiedt ’73 pose at a recent family gathering. They represent the most recent generations of State pharmacy graduates in the family, a line that dates to 1925.

From left, Kevin Wurtz ’75, Kim Wurtz ’14, Allison Akin ’03 and Dean Schmiedt ’73 pose at a recent family gathering. They represent the most recent generations of State pharmacy graduates in the family, a line that dates to 1925.

That’s also a way to describe their feelings toward South Dakota State University and its College of Pharmacy.

The Schmiedt connection dates to Edgar Schmiedt, who graduated from State in pharmacy in 1925 with brothers Ruben and Alvin following suit in 1928 and 1929, respectively.

The line continues as Edgar’s son, Stan, received his pharmacy degree from State in 1953 with his brother, Morris, graduating in 1956. Then comes Dean, Stan’s son, who graduated with his pharmacy degree in 1973. Robert, Dean’s brother, graduated with a degree in psychology in 1978. Dean’s daughter, Kelly, graduated in 2005 with a degree in communications studies and theatre.

The connection with the Wurtz name enters the picture because, Kevin Wurtz ’75—while working for Stan at his store in Centerville—met, fell in love with and later married Stan’s daughter, Barb.

Kevin’s brother, Keith, added his pharmacy degree in 1979. Kevin and Barb’s four children have either graduated from or are attending State. Of course, two graduated with degrees in pharmacy—Allison in 2003 and Kim in 2014. Sons Chris and Mike did not choose pharmacy. Chris graduated from State in 2005 with a degree in electrical engineering while Mike is currently pursuing computer science.

“We do have a blast when we get together,” said Dean, noting the pun and mentioning the families recently attended a national pyrotechnical convention.

“Dean’s a chemistry nut. He just loves fireworks and so did Stan,” said Kevin Wurtz, who proclaims to be the pyrotechnical expert in Elk Point when not serving as the pharmacist at Pioneer Drug. “When we get together on the Fourth (of July), it’s just unbelievable.”

Memories of State

The connections the families share about State and pharmacy rival their love of fireworks.

Dean and his wife, Karleen (Johnson ’73), met when both served on the Hobo Day Committee in the early ’70s. Both returned to dress as Weary Wil and Dirty Lil at the 100th anniversary of the homecoming celebration. They took on the roles so well they were unrecognized by Dean’s mother, Sherree, and sister, Barb Wurtz.

“My father went to SDSU so we heard about the Jackrabbits all of the time,” Dean said. “I didn’t feel like I had to go to SDSU and into pharmacy. It just seemed like a natural fit. Maybe it’s in the genes. Whatever it was, SDSU was a great place.”

Kevin Wurtz agrees. After attending one game in “The Barn,” he was hooked.

“It was packed, it was loud and everyone was cheering the Jacks. I loved it,” said Wurtz, who played basketball three years for the Jacks. “I wasn’t offered a scholarship out of high school but a chance to be a preferred walk-on. It just worked out great because I could play basketball and go to pharmacy school. It was a marriage right there. No matter what, I’d have gone to SDSU.”

And once at State, he continued his love of pharmacy—something he discovered while working for the pharmacist in his hometown of Parkston.

Almost no connection

After attending a class that featured Stan Schmiedt speaking about veterinary pharmacy, Wurtz was set on that field for a career. As a result, he chose it for his senior rotation. However, as that start date neared, he tried to switch.

“In January of 1975, I was starting to apply for jobs and Lewis Drug called,” Wurtz recalled. “They said if I could switch my internship to them in Sioux Falls, I could probably get a job with them when I graduated. This came about two days before I was scheduled to start in Centerville with Stan.”

He called then-assistant professor Gary Van Riper and pleaded his case to switch.

“I told Gary you have to get me out of this rotation in Centerville because if you can, I will have a job when I get out of college. Gary said not a chance,” Wurtz said. “I reluctantly went over to Centerville that Monday.

“I was working in the store and Barb came in after school that day to work. The first time I saw her, I was ‘wow.’ She knocked me out and six or seven months later, Barb and I got married,” he continued, noting that is how he got his start in retail pharmacy.

Dean Schmiedt also started in retail pharmacy but switched shortly afterward to work at a hospital. After 12 years in that area, he started a consulting pharmaceutical company in the late ’80s for nursing homes in central Minnesota. He hired State grad Jody Garry Ellingson ’06. Sisters Kim and Allison both did geriatrics rotations with their uncle .

“I can’t imagine doing anything else—I think it’s on the best-kept secrets in pharmacy,” said Dean. “I love that SDSU prepared me for it. And it still does that today. I was really impressed with Jody and the skill sets she had when she came to work for us. And when Kim worked with us as her geriatrics rotation, I was amazed at what the College of Pharmacy had taught her … her education level, the knowledge base and skills set. Just amazing.”

Kim Wurtz currently is a pharmacy resident at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Her preceptors have stated that her education has allowed her to handle various situations and become a well-rounded pharmacist.

“As a little girl, I could see how much SDSU and pharmacy impacted my grandpa, my dad, my great uncle, my uncle, my great-grandpa, and so on,” Kim said. “I wanted to be what they were and I know they all would state their success came from choosing to go to SDSU.”

Next generation

On a recent Wednesday afternoon in Elk Point, both Pioneer Drug and Edgar’s Ol’ Fashioned Soda Fountain—named after Edgar Schmiedt—are busy. Nearly 20 children and parents take a seat at Edgar’s for a treat after the first day of school while the phone rings consistently at Pioneer Drug.

It was that atmosphere that drew Allison—who married Sterne Akin, ’99—to pharmacy. However, instead of working retail, she is a pharmacist for Cigna and works in Elk Point.

“When I went to SDSU, I thought I’d take classes to be a doctor but the more I worked in the pharmacy, I decided that was what I wanted to do,” Allison said. “I never thought about the family tradition. It was never something that I HAD to do. I liked the lifestyle. I really like the respect I saw people give my dad and how people would trust him.”

Allison has two children who are the next in line to carry on the Schmiedt/Wurtz tradition of SDSU and pharmacy. Son Benjamin is 5 and Anniston is 2.

“Ben’s my little clone,” Allison said. “He might be the next one.”

Matt Schmidt

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