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Originally published Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 6:27 PM

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Seattle U.'s longtime education dean, Sue Schmitt, dies at 66

Dr. Sue Schmitt, who served 16 years as dean of Seattle University's College of Education, has died. She was 66.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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From building the robustness of Seattle University's College of Education to improving campus accessibility for people with disabilities, professor Sue Schmitt left a legacy.

In her 16 years as dean of the university's College of Education, she secured millions of dollars in grant funding, championed diversity among faculty and the student body and worked to connect the school to both local and global communities.

She made things happen, her colleagues say, through her vision for education, commitment to students and her strength of will.

" 'Indomitable' — I think of that word and I think of her," said Bob Hughes, interim dean of the College of Education. "This is a woman who really loved people and loved the work that she did but really had no patience for barriers."

Dr. Schmitt died Sept. 28. She was 66.

At Seattle University, Dr. Schmitt, who served as dean of the College of Education until she stepped down in July, was known for her commitment to social justice.

She encouraged those in the Master in Teaching program to get student-teaching placements at schools with ethnic and economic diversity.

She advocated for a more global framework — one that looked at the impact of education in the U.S. as well as other countries and that prepared students to work with students from here and abroad.

"I think she had the real vision for education — what education could be and should be," said Jill Wakefield, a graduate of the College of Education and a member of the university's board of trustees.

Dr. Schmitt, who used a wheelchair, was committed to making a difference in the lives of those with disabilities.

At Seattle University, she made "a significant difference in the accessibility of the campus," said former Provost John Eshelman. "We thought we were accessible because we've always taken that very seriously. But just in working on campus, Sue was able to point out places we hadn't noticed."

She also wrote about disabled women in higher education, secured a grant that resulted in two nonprofits serving severely disabled people, and designed one of the first independent-living apartment complexes in the nation, according to Seattle University.

Before coming to Seattle University, Dr. Schmitt had served in administrative roles at the University of North Dakota and at the University of Wisconsin, Stout.

She earned her Ed.D. in counselor education from Mississippi State University.

Dr. Schmitt is survived by her sister, Sylvia Myhre (Butch) of Wisconsin; and by a sister-in-law, a niece, three nephews, three grandnieces and three grandnephews.

The Dr. Sue A. Schmitt Scholarship Fund has been established to honor her legacy. The fund will support the academic advancement of underrepresented students enrolled in the College of Education. Contributors may donate online (https://connect.seattleu.edu/netcommunity/coegiving) or by calling 206-296-1896.

A public memorial service led by Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., will be held at 4 p.m. Monday (Oct. 8) at Immaculate Conception Church, 820 18th Ave., Seattle.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @janettu.

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