Hugh Schaefer Receives N. Philip Shelton Humanitarian Award

The first thing some people may think of when they hear the name Hugh Schaefer is – basketball. While he may know the in’s and out’s of every local game for the past 60 years, Mr. Schaefer has also made an impact on countless lives in the community in other ways. As an educator, coach, mentor and friend, he has dedicated his time to helping others succeed in life, and is a worthy recipient of this year’s N. Philip Shelton Humanitarian Award.

When he learned of his recent nomination for the award, Schaefer felt very shocked and surprised. “This award signifies the combination of my life’s work,” stated Schaefer. “I did not know Dr. Shelton but I know his story, and to receive this award in his name is an honor. I am extremely grateful.”

Hugh Scott Schaefer was born on May 25, 1943 in Freelandville, Indiana to Arthur and Pansy Schaefer. “I grew up in the 50s and early 60s,” said Schaefer. “To me, it was a much simpler time, but the best of times.” His parents grew up during The Great Depression, which contributed to them being very frugal and extremely hard workers.

A Knox County native, he spent most of his youth watching or playing basketball. He fell in love with the sport so much that he pursued a degree in education at Oakland City College, so he could fulfill his dream of becoming a coach. Schaefer began his coaching career in 1966 at Monroe City High School. After following Sam Alford to South Knox when it opened, at the age of 34, he became the head coach of the Spartans until the 1981 season. South Knox High School is also where he taught Social Studies for many years and met his wife, Glenda. The couple was married in 1982.

In addition to being an avid historian and researcher of Indiana high school basketball, Schaefer has written numerous recommendation letters, made multiple calls and spoke on behalf of countless students who needed his help. “I have written letters of recommendations for students to get scholarships or made reference calls to help people get jobs,” said Schaefer. “There are some things that I am not able to do, but this is something that I can do. It becomes a full circle – I help a student get into college or receive financial aid, that student attends medical school and becomes a physician, they join the workforce and contribute to the health and well-being of our community.”

“The selection of Hugh Schaefer as a recipient of the Dr. N. Philip Shelton Award is an excellent choice,” said Sam Alford. “Mr. Schaefer has spent his entire life caring and educating young people. His influence has reached all corners of Knox County and beyond. When one thinks of a humanitarian, Hugh Schaefer certainly comes to my mind. The committee that selects the award winner each year should be proud, you hit a home run this year.”

Schaefer’s dedication to his players on the court and his students in the classroom is evident by the endless amount of praise and appreciation he receives every day. Just a week before, he received a call from a woman who said he “changed her life,” which meant the world to him. “I truly enjoy helping others,” he said. “It is self-fulfilling to me too and I know that I am doing the right thing.”

“As a teacher, Mr. Schaefer had a huge impact upon my education. His teaching style, his demand for excellence and his knowledge of U.S. history has stuck with me for over 30 years,” said Tony Burkhart, former student and friend. “Life certainly has its twists and turns. As a 16-year-old high school student, there is no way I could have envisioned becoming a friend to Coach Schaefer. Over time, Coach has become a trusted friend, advisor and mentor to me. It is truly a blessing to have him in my life and I am proud to say that I love him and I am so thankful for his wise instruction.”

At 74-years old, Schaefer remains dedicated to helping others, including speaking at events or award ceremonies. After a liver transplant in 2008, due to non-alcoholic idiopathic cirrhosis of the liver, he has become a huge advocate for organ donation. He has spoke to members of his church about the transplant process and even recounted his experience for a student who was writing a research paper on the topic. He has taken all of his life experiences and used them as opportunities to educate or help others.

A former student and friend, Keith Doades, described Schaefer’s willingness to assist anyone who asks in the best way. “Hugh Schaefer is, without question, one of the most giving people I’ve ever known,” said Doades. “Most people have no idea what he has done for so many years on behalf of others, and in addition to that, he chooses to stay in the background, often times giving other people credit for work that he’s done. He’s the definition of selflessness, and is more than worthy of an honor such as this.”

Mr. Schaefer’s response? “I am just very honored,” he said. “I am very appreciative of the award and grateful Kiwanis chose me as this year’s recipient.”

Schaefer will be presented with the Shelton Award on Sunday, January 28 at 2 p.m. in Eva Hill Auditorium at Good Samaritan’s Health Pavilion. The public is invited to attend.

A family physician in Vincennes, Dr. Shelton lived a life of dedication to his community and serving others. In recognition of his service, the Dr. N. Philip Shelton Humanitarian Award was established in 1998. The purpose of the award is to recognize and promote humanitarian achievement in our community.

Shelton Humanitarian Award nominees must be Knox County residents who have demonstrated extraordinary efforts in working to improve the general well being and happiness of others; worked consistently to meet the physical, social, economic and/or educational needs of individuals in our community; and exemplified the spirit of Dr. N. Philip Shelton by actions and deeds. Some of the past winners include: Horace Foncannon, Scott Shipman, Mark Hill, Siegfried E. Schleicher, Jimmie Morrison, Nancy Carie, Jennifer Jones, Velma Hendrix, John Lyons and Max Renshaw.

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