William “Bill” Schmidt, of Wichita, is the recipient of the 2022 Bethel College Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognizes character and citizenship, achievement in a chosen profession or profession, and work that benefits humanity.
You might say that Schmidt acts as a translator – the only “languages” he translates are “human” and “computer”.
The award will be presented at the Alumni Banquet on October 9 as part of the annual Fall Festival in Bethel.
Schmidt is the lead compiler engineer for Intel’s development software engineering group, a position he held earlier this year after working at IBM for 29 years.
For most of those years, he and his family (his wife and “college sweetheart” Laurie Foran and daughters Rebecca and Rochelle) lived in Rochester, Minnesota.
In 2021, Bill and Laurie move to Wichita to be closer to their elderly parents.
Bell grew up in North Newton as a “campus kid”. “Anyone with a lot of history in Bethel probably knows my parents, Harzl and Elaine Schmidt,” he says.
“My father passed away in 2021 at the age of 95 after a life full of humor. He ran a BC business office in the 1960s and 1970s.
“My mother ran the college herself from her precinct in front of Harold Schultz—at least, those were common among many students and faculty. Indeed, she was ‘just’ his very effective secretary, who guarded the entrance to the inner sanctuary. She worked in the same capacity for many presidents. others after Dr. Schultz’s transition.”
Eileen Schmidt and Laurie’s father, Omar Foran, now live in the village of Kidron Bethel in North Newton.
Bill Schmidt is introduced to Bethel’s class in 1982, although it took until 1984 to finish the coursework, when he completed his bachelor’s degree with a double major in mathematics and music.
“All my time at Bethel,” he says, “I vacillated between my major in music and my major in math/computer science, until I ended up with enough credits for both but not enough for either.”
He and Laurie married in 1982, and Bell began working full-time at Kansas Gas & Electric as a COBOL programmer while taking one class per semester to finish his bachelor’s degree.
After a few years working in programming, he decided to go back to school for his Ph.D. He received a National Science Foundation fellowship, and attended Iowa State University, Ames.
“Professor Arnold Weddell was very happy that I had chosen his alma mater,” Schmidt says. “I got an MA in 1991 and a Ph.D. in 1992 [both in computer science] And I went to work for IBM in Rochester.”
Schmidt was an audio specialist at Bethel, and after moving to Rochester, he began “re-engaging in some musical activities”.
He sang with the Rochester Choral Arts, a 40-voice select choir, and the Rochester Aria Group, which performed excerpts from operas, and also served on the boards of both organizations.
“One of the highlights of my amateur musical ‘career’ was to come back to Bethel a few years ago to sing baritone solos at Orff Carmina Burana For the annual Masterworks Gala with the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra. It was a huge pleasure that I will never forget.”
Schmidt was also a board member of the Rochester Duplicate Bridge Club. He says, “I have enjoyed playing competitive repeat bridge for many years, although I must admit my severe limitations.
“This is another Bethel-born skill, playing with Arnold Wedel, Richard Rempel, and some other students in Arnold’s office during the occasional lunch hour.”
Working at IBM, Schmidt has held a variety of positions, most recently as Chief Technical Officer and Tool Chain Engineer for Linux on Power. Then, nearly 30 years later, he “felt the need to change the landscape” and joined Intel.
As the lead compiler engineer, Schmidt develops tools called “optimizing compilers” that are used by software developers who write code for the Intel CPU and GPU architecture.
“If you have a Windows PC, chances are there are applications on your PC that were developed using these assemblers,” he says.
He explains that a compiler is “a special type of software that translates programs that humans understand into programs that a computer understands.”
“People use high-level languages like Java, C++, Python, Fortran, SYCL, etc. to express what they want computers to do. But computers only understand binary number encodings – zeros and ones. The compiler is responsible for making the conversion of concepts High level to low level machine instructions.
The “optimal compiler” attempts to make the compiled program as efficient as possible according to some chosen metric or metric, usually a scale of speed, size, and power consumption.
“What I love about this area is that the problems we solve are always challenging and require creative thinking to meet all limitations.”
Beginning in 1992 at IBM, Schmidt has worked on translators throughout his career, both proprietary and open source.
He has contributed to 85 patents issued, mostly in the field of compiler improvement, and has been selected as a lead inventor at IBM. He served on the Core Technology Inventions Review Board for many years.
Since 2006, Schmidt has been a member of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) advisory board at Bethel. In 2020, he began working on a small committee to help design the new software development discipline at Bethel.
He co-taught an independent course with John Thiessen in January 2020, although, he says, “it mostly reminded me of how much I teach and how grateful I am to people who are good at it.”
Bill and Laurie Schmidt’s daughters, Becky and Rochelle, live in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Becky is a client relationship coordinator at Examinetics in Kansas City, as well as a part-time paramedic and fitness trainer, and Rochelle is a mortgage fraud investigator for Wells Fargo.
Bill continues to work remotely for Intel, while Lowry is retired as a medical administrative support employee, first at the Mayo Clinic and later at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, but remains busy as a volunteer with the American Red Cross.
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for academic excellence, ranking 14th in the Washington Monthly List of “Best Undergraduate Colleges” for 2022-23. Bethel is the only college or university in Kansas that has been named the Campus Center for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT). For more information see www.betelks.edu
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