A Trip from War-Torn Yugoslavia to Illinois
Born in Yugoslavia in 1940, Frank Schneider experienced a tragic life at a young age. His small town of Krnjaja was inhabited predominantly by people of German extraction. Being of German origin, his father, Andrew Schneider, was drafted into the German army and served as a baker (his previous profession) during the war.
His mother, Marie (Hertzog) Schneider, along with other able-bodied women in the town, were sent to a Russian labor camp for one year when the Russians pushed the German army back through Yugoslavia. He and his brother, Andy, had been sent to live with Hungarian relations to protect them from being sent to concentration camps.
In an excerpt from a speech written by Dr. Schneider, “… our home and all of our possessions were confiscated and never returned. Mom told me that they buried some of our valuables in the yard, but they were never able to return to get them.
“The war came to an end and to the day, one year later, the Russians brought the women back. In the meantime, my dad had been captured by the U.S. Army and was in a prisoner of war camp in Austria.”
When the war ended, the camp was changed into housing for people displaced by the war. Due to strong penalties of border crossing, his father was not able to come home to his family, so his parents began smuggling letters across the border and developing a plan of escape.
“Finally on my sixth birthday, a smuggler guided Mom, Andy and I across the Yugoslav/Hungarian border. We had to hide in corn shocks along the way because the border patrol were shooting people escaping. My dad was captured by the Austrian/Hungarian border patrol. He told them that he wanted to get his wife and sons and return to Austria. They let him go. Amazingly we were reunited at the relatives’ house.”
The family was captured once again, but allowed to continue into Austria to the displaced persons camp, where they lived for nine years. Andrew Schneider continued to work as a baker and Marie worked in a factory while Frank and Andy went to school in Austria. In 1955, sponsored by an uncle who had come to Chicago after the war, the family applied and were allowed to come to America. Frank was 15 at the time.
He spent a year in grade school and was then placed in a Catholic high school. Since he spoke no English, he was enrolled in mostly math classes. After high school, he went on to DePaul University, graduating in 1964. He then attended graduate school in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he met his bride-to-be, Carole Finney, and earned his graduate degree from the University of Nebraska in July 1971. He applied for a position at Southeastern Illinois College and he and Carole honeymooned in Southern Illinois so that he could interview for the position. He began teaching physics at SIC a month later, and taught for 32 years.
Carole Schneider attended SIC after the move, and the couple had two children, Eric and Monica. The children grew up in the child study center – now the Mary Jo Oldham Center for Child Study – and also attended SIC after high school, as did one of their grandchildren who recently graduated from the Diesel Technology program.
Carole Schneider remains in Harrisburg, son Eric Schneider is part owner in the new Krispy Kreme store in Marion, and daughter Monica Warren is in her 19th year of teaching in the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis. Dr. Schneider’s brother Andy still resides in Chicago. Dr. Schneider passed away in November 2016.
In Dr. Schneider’s honor, his wife and children have established a $500 scholarship available to students at Southeastern Illinois College this year.
“He had a great love of physics and dedicated his life to his students, and he overcame a lot,” said Carole Schneider. “He was a success story in his own right – not just the successes he created for his students.”
The scholarship will be marked specifically for math and science majors. Applicants must plan to attend SIC full time and maintain a B average or higher. The scholarship will be awarded each year to a freshman or sophomore, and can be used toward tuition, books, lab fees and any required class materials.
In remembering his colleague, SIC biology instructor John Shultz said, “Dr. Schneider was an ‘old school’ professor with an excellent education, incredible knowledge of his material and an energy and enthusiasm for teaching and learning. He was a gentleman and a scholar. Also, everyone appreciated and enjoyed his sense of humor!
“Of course, most of his colleagues are now long-gone, but Frank will be fondly remembered by those who knew him – especially by his former students for his contributions to their educations and for helping to direct them towards successful careers and lives.”
Dr. Schneider touched many students in his 32-year teaching career. One of those students was Kim Martin, who later became a colleague and continues to teach math classes at SIC.
“Having had Dr. Schneider as my physics instructor and then years later teaching as a colleague in the same program, I came to appreciate his great skill as an educator from many different angles,” said Martin. “His classes were tough and interesting, and you knew every student who did the work was well prepared for anything that came next.”
Another of Dr. Schneider’s students, Dr. Robert Holmes, has gone on to be a National Flood Hazard Coordinator with U.S. Geological Survey. Holmes said of his former instructor, “Dr. Schneider was one of the finest instructors I had in my academic life. He possessed a great intellect and knowledge of physics, yet was able to harness that intellect and translate his knowledge to make physics understandable to undergraduate students.”
Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC President added, “Frank Schneider invested in many students throughout his lifetime, and now his memory through this scholarship will invest in the futures of students to come.”
Not long after retiring from SIC in 2003, Dr. Schneider began suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s.
“Who knows, maybe one of the students aided by his scholarship will come up with a cure for Alzheimer’s,” said Carole Schneider.
The application deadline for scholarships is Feb. 28. Students can apply for more than 300 available awards, including the Frank Schneider Memorial Scholarship with a single application, which can be found at www.sic.edu/scholarships.
For additional information, contact the Financial Aid office at 618-252-5400 ext. 4110 or [email protected]. For more information about the Frank Schneider Memorial Scholarship, contact Pam Kingston at 618-252-5400 ext. 2104.