Sanford D. Schemnitz was born March 10, 1930 in Cleveland, Ohio to David & Evelyn Schemnitz. Shortly thereafter, they moved to California. When he was five years old, tragedy struck and his mother died. After her death he lived for a brief time with his aunt, Theresa Wertheimer, in Glencoe, IL. In 1937, he went back out to California and lived briefly with his grandparents before moving back to Cleveland. His father remarried Rhoda Goodman, who helped raise him along with his two sisters. The family eventually moved to Milwaukee, Wis.
Sanford loved exploring the woods around his home in Milwaukee. At age 10 he started hunting deer and upland game and fishing local lakes with his father and grandfather. He was active in Boy Scouts and eventually became an Eagle Scout. His love of the outdoors led him to the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 1949 where famed conservationist, Aldo Leopold, had been teaching. He started in forestry, but switched to wildlife management. Leopold had died the fall before, but his course in wildlife ecology continued to be taught. One of his professors commented years later that he was one of few people to get an A in Leopold’s wildlife ecology course. Although he never had the opportunity to study under Aldo Leopold, he was definitely influenced by him.
His studies took him to the University of Michigan, where he earned his B.S. in Forestry in 1952, and to graduate schools in Florida and Oklahoma. He completed his M.S. In Forestry in 1953 while at the University of Florida and received his PhD in Wildlife Conservation from Oklahoma State University in 1958.
While at Oklahoma State he met Mary Newby who was both fetching and smart. He was persistent in his pursuit of Mary and he chased her around the OSU campus. He finally caught her and they were married at Madelia, Minnesota July 7, 1958. The couple moved to Orno, Maine where he served as a wildlife professor at The University of Maine. The two shared a passion for breeding and training Weimaraners and German Shorthairs. Together the pair raised countless puppies and three children - Ellen, Steven, & Stuart.
In 1975 he moved his family to Las Cruces to become the first head of New Mexico State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences. In his 21 years at NMSU he helped many students learn about wildlife management. He taught 14 different classes, including principles of wildlife management; wildlife law enforcement, policy and administration; and wildlife habitat management. He also published over 100 research papers on various wildlife topics and held senior Fulbright lectureships in Nepal and Kenya. His research and studies contributed significantly to reintroductions of desert bighorn sheep and Gould’s turkeys to their historic ranges in New Mexico.
Sanford was active in nearly a dozen sportsmen’s organizations including Quail Unlimited, the Resource Advisory Council for the Bureau of Land Management, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the New Mexico Riparian Council, and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. He served on the board of directors of New Mexico Wildlife Federation, as the chairman of Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen and was appointed to the State Land Office sportsmen’s advisory committee. Even in his retirement he was devoted to wildlife affairs and stayed busy in this arena. In 2017 he was presented with the Governor’s Conservationist Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his step-mother; his son, Steve; and his wife Mary.
He is survived by his sisters, Leanne Martinson (Ed) & Ruth Spivack (Milton); his nieces and nephews; his cousin, Bruce Wertheimer; his daughter, Ellen; his son, Stuart (Denise); and his grandchildren -Beth, Alden, Emma, and Allyson.
Dr. Schemnitz passed away on May, 11, 2018, at the Haciendas at Grace Village in Las Cruces. To honor his work in advocating for the issues that matter to the sportsmen and women of New Mexico and his dedication to the students, the university, and his profession , memorial contributions may be made to the New Mexico Wildlife Federation http://nmwildlife.org/get-involved/support-nmwf/donate-today/ or to the New Mexico State University Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology. Checks should be made out to the New Mexico State University Foundation, earmarked Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation General Fund, and mailed to the department:
NMSU Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Ecology
PO Box 30003, MSC 4901
Las Cruces, NM 88003