One look at Ray Schmidgall’s resume, and it’s easy to see that he bleeds green. Not only was Schmidgall a two-time graduate of the Broad College at MSU (earning his MBA in 1969 and Ph.D. in 1980), but he has also been a dedicated faculty member with the School of Hospitality Business since 1975.
Throughout his tenure, Schmidgall has served as the resident accounting expert for the hospitality business program, publishing numerous research articles, authoring books, giving seminars and lectures and even consulting to various organizations.
In 1989, he had the esteemed honor of being the first MSU professor selected to serve as the Hilton Hotels Professor of Hospitality Financial Management — and has remained the only person to hold this title. Schmidgall conceived the idea of the Hilton Lecture Series as an innovative lecture series to connect industry experts with students and faculty each year.
He has been recognized for his research and service with numerous awards, including Faculty Member of the Year (2009–2010) and the Alumni Association 2013 Academic Achievement Award.
As Schmidgall retires from MSU, we celebrate his contributions, look back on his memories as a Spartan and hear about what he has planned next in this Q&A.
What are some of your fondest memories as a Spartan?
There are many great memories. A big highlight was passing my accounting preliminary exam and then finishing my dissertation in 1980. Publishing my first article in 1980 was big, and being an author of my major managerial accounting text, which is used by many hospitality programs around the world, felt like big accomplishments.
In addition, many of my students have had great professional success. Several have successfully started hospitality businesses, including expanding to multiple locations. Still others have continued their education leading to terminal degrees such as a Ph.D.
What has it meant for you to be the first (and only) Hilton Hotels Professor and the organizer of the Hilton Lecture Series over your time at MSU?
Being an endowed professor provided funding that has enabled me to undertake many industry research projects and make presentations at various academic conferences. Further, the endowment has provided funding to attending numerous industry conferences and to serve on industry committees.
The Hilton Lecture Series has resulted in the exploration of dynamic topics with the sharing by both academic leaders and industry executives with both students and my fellow faculty stars. I am grateful to the directors of the School who have enabled me to pursue this venture and faculty who have faithfully supported them.
In your role as a professor, what will you miss the most?
Though clearly, I am a numbers person, I will greatly miss the people. I have taught a number of outstanding students over the years. It has been a great joy to hear from former students who have indicated how the accounting and finance courses have made a difference in their professional lives.
Further, I have enjoyed working with our faculty and staff over the many years. I certainly hope to keep in touch with them going forward.
What’s next? What are you looking forward to doing in your retirement?
Going forward I will be revising at least a couple of textbooks, including the aforementioned managerial accounting textbook. I am open to teaching on a part-time basis and have been approached already.
In addition, I plan to spend more time on my hobby tree farm and to visit my daughters and their families more often. I also want to explore opportunities in teaching financial literary courses to interested people in a non-university setting.