Keith Schomig

In 2009 Keith Schomig was a journeyman union sheet metal worker, a member of Local 265. He was in his early 30s, a graduate of Minooka High School, and he had some community college classes under his belt but had no real plans to return to school. He had been working in the trade since he was 19 or 20 and things were going fine.

Keith Schomig

Keith Schomig

And then one day he stepped on a patch of frost. It was on the roof at a job site, and it sent him flying. You know that saying, Your life can change in an instant? Well, this was Schomig’s instant. He would never be able to work construction again.

The accident left him with a torn labrum, a debilitating shoulder and arm injury. He underwent surgery, and then six months later he had to endure yet another surgery. For the next three years he would spend his time in and out of physical therapy, and dealing with workman’s compensation issues. He would have to reinvent himself.

“I didn’t really have a choice,” Schomig says from his office in a Chicago highrise.

Today he is the human resources coordinator for Legacy Professionals LLP, a mid-sized accounting firm with offices in Chicago, Northwest Indiana and Minnesota. The firm specializes in audit, accounting and tax services to employee benefit plans, labor organizations, not-for-profit organizations, and governmental entities.

“I’m responsible for recruiting, hiring, employee reviews and all other facets of HR,” he says. “I wear so many hats.”

One hat he no longer wears is his construction helmet—but he does keep it on a shelf in his office as a reminder of how far he has come. He has his wife Michaelene to thank for getting the ball rolling on his second career. She was the one who encouraged him to enroll at USF.

“My beautiful wife would say, ‘Let’s go for a walk,’” he says. “We’d take the dogs and walk past USF and she would go, ‘Wow, this is such a beautiful campus.’ Then she would hand me USF literature and give me little wifely nudges now and then.”

Finally the two of them attended an open house on campus, and from that moment on, he was sold. He started in 2011, as a full-time day student at the age of 33, and finished two years later with a degree in Business Management.

“At first I was scared, going back as the old man of the class,” he says. “But when I got there I felt the warmth of the professors, especially in the business school. They were there because they wanted to be there—not because they had to.”

Schomig adapted this same attitude for himself, getting involved in everything he could—not just going to class and working toward his degree with blinders on. He got involved in clubs, and became president of one of them. He went on an international business trip to Panama, and completed a strategic planning internship through the USF Solutions Department. He and Michaelene attended USF football and basketball games, and cheered for the Fighting Saints. They even went to the Homecoming Dance.

“I told my wife, ‘If I’m going to do this, we’re going all-in,’” Schomig says. “I wanted the full college experience.”

He definitely got it. He also got a new start on life, and a new outlook.

“My education taught me that no matter what I was faced with I would be able to adapt and succeed,” he says. “I think that is what a liberal arts education gives you. You get exposure to all aspects of a business— not just one sector—and that makes you diverse and helps you become an asset.”

Schomig’s USF education prepared him for today’s competitive job market, and USF’s Career Success Center prepared him for his job search—running him through mock interviews, and helping him refine his resume. The ISCPA career fair, which USF participates in, is where he found his current job.

“I took full advantage of what USF had to offer, and when I go back to campus I tell students to get involved, to go to the Career Success Center and be prepared for any opportunity that comes along,” Schomig says.

Schomig serves on the USF Alumni Board, and has offered himself as a candidate for the presidentelect position of the board. It is safe to say that he is committed to USF, and could hardly be a bigger booster.

“St. Francis was one of the three best things that ever occurred in my life besides my wife and daughter,” he says. Those are not just words. He got the USF logo tattooed on his injured arm. He also purchased a brick in the quad near the fountain for his wife. It says, “Michaelene, thank you for all your love and support.”

Reminders are important— whether they are a brick in a courtyard, a tattoo, or a tattered old construction helmet covered in stickers and some residual grime. “It’s dirty, but it’s still a part of who I am,” he says.

Now and forever, so is USF.