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Texas Tech mourns loss of former professor shot to death at Delta State

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The Texas Tech community is mourning a former Tech professor who was shot Monday in his office at Delta State University, where he has worked as an assistant professor of American history since 2013.

Ethan A. Schmidt, 39, taught for six years at Tech, where he was the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011. He also received an Innovative Teaching Award from TTU’s Freshman Seminar Program in 2010.

Investigators said Shannon Lamb, 45, is a suspect in the slayings of Schmidt and 41-year-old Amy Prentiss, who was found dead in the home she shared with Lamb in Gautier, Mississippi. Officers in the two cities said they had not uncovered a motive for either slaying.

Sean Cunningham, history department chairman at Tech, said he is deeply saddened by the news of Schmidt’s death.

“It’s been terrible. It’s been shocking. It’s horrifying any time you see anything like this on TV when you have no idea who the victims were. When you know the individual, and you know his wife, and you know his little kids, and you worked with him closely, it’s hard to describe. It’s been very, very difficult, ” Cunningham said.

A number of former students and colleagues have reached out to Cunningham and faculty in the Tech history department to express their shock and condolences, Cunningham said.

“Ethan Schmidt was a tremendous scholar. He was a passionate and gifted teacher. He was an asset to this university and to my department. But really, what I will remember about Ethan is that he loved his wife; he loved his kids; he was a tremendous father. He was a lot of fun to be with, and this is just a very, very tragic and sad day, ” Cunningham said.

Describing Schmidt, he said the Delta State professor brought the same energy and passion to his personal life and friendships that he did to his classroom. A huge fan of the University of Kansas Jayhawks, Cunningham said Schmidt was easygoing, laughed all the time and was a lot of fun.

The Tech department head said it was hard to see Schmidt move to Delta State, since the two of them both started at Tech at the same time in 2007. But he said he knows Schmidt enjoyed being in Cleveland, Miss. “I think the move to Delta State was received well by he and his family, ” Cunningham said. “He liked being in that part of the country, he loved being at a small university. He enjoyed the students.”

In a statement from the university, Tech President M. Duane Nellis said Delta State University is in the thoughts and prayers of Texas Tech.

“Texas Tech University extends its deepest sympathies to the family and friends of former TTU faculty member Ethan Schmidt, ” Nellis said.

Cunningham said he has already had some preliminary conversations with other campus administrators about honoring Schmidt at Tech.

“We haven’t reached any decisions on what we plan to do. But we plan to do something, ” he said.

Schmidt earned a doctorate degree from the University of Kansas in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Emporia State University.

As an assistant professor at Delta State, he taught U.S. history, the Atlantic world, the American colonies, the American Revolution, the Old South, Native American history, historical methods and Baseball: A Mirror on America, all of which are undergraduate courses. He also taught five graduate-level courses, including Colonial and Revolutionary America, the Old South, Native American history, the Atlantic world and historiography.

Schmidt specialized in research in the Atlantic world, with an emphasis on the interactions between indigenous people and European colonists. Schmidt’s most recent book, “The Divided Dominion: Social Conflict and Indian Hatred in Early Virginia” was published April 1 by the University of Colorado Press and is available at online book retailers. He also has another book from 2014, “Native Americans in the American Revolution: How the War Divided, Devastated, and Transformed the Early American Indian World.”

He had also been working on a study of the experiences of Native Americans during the era of the American Revolution, and was currently under contract with Greenwood Praeger/ABC-CLIO publishing.

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