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2013 ENE Outstanding Alumni Awards

Eric J. Schmidt

BSE IDE, ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING, 1976

Corporate Director, Environmental Engineering RockTenn Corporation

AS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT GROWING UP in Pittsburgh, Eric Schmidt had a technical bent: he liked to see how mechanical things worked and was good in math and science. After graduation, he headed to Purdue for a degree in electrical engineering.
 
He changed course during his sophomore year. The environment was becoming an urgent issue—the first Earth Day had happened only a few years before—and Purdue was a pioneer in environmental studies, having hosted the Purdue Industrial Waste Conference since 1948. In consultation with Dr. Dick Grace (then head of Interdisciplinary Engineering), Schmidt decided to major in environmental engineering, foreseeing a future in which he could help change the world by working
to reduce pollution.
 
His time at Purdue (the “best four years of my life,”
he says) featured, on the academic side, memorable professors including Drs. Al Chiscon (biology), Don Schlueter (physics), and Bob Jacko (civil engineering). Outside the classroom, Schmidt worked at the co-recreational gym, refereed Indiana high school basketball games, and became an advisor in the Department of Freshman Engineering.
 
Following graduation, he joined the agency that is now the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and then began an industry career in which he has held successively responsible positions in the forest products industry, rising to Vice President, Environmental Engineering, at Georgia-Pacific. He currently serves as Corporate Director of Environmental Engineering for Rock-Tenn Corporation, a paper and packaging manufacturer.
 
Career highlights include creating the initial group supporting Georgia-Pacific’s Superfund and remediation response at more than 200 sites in North America, including major remediation projects on Wisconsin’s Fox River and the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. He also created and led a network of regional environmental engineers that supported Georgia-Pacific’s manufacturing sites across 42 states, Mexico, and every Canadian province.
 
In his role at RockTenn Corporation, Schmidt leads a group supporting environmental compliance at more than 80 manufacturing operations, including 10 major pulp and paper mills. The goal: Limit the environmental footprint; be good neighbors; be good citizens.