Jerome D. “Jerry” Schnydman, a three-time lacrosse All-American at the Johns Hopkins University who later worked at his alma mater for nearly four decades in roles that included assistant lacrosse coach, admissions director, alumni director, executive assistant to two university presidents, and secretary of the board of trustees, died of cancer Monday at his Pikesville home. He was 77.
“There was simply no one like Jerry Schnydman. He gave his all to his beloved alma mater from the moment he walked onto Homewood Field to the moment he left the president’s office for the last time,” Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said this week in a university obituary announcing Mr. Schnydman’s death.
“Bringing unceasing optimism and joie de vivre to every situation, Jerry could and would talk to anybody, freely and generously giving his wise counsel to generations of Hopkins students, colleagues, and of course, presidents, including me on occasions too numerous to count. But anybody who knew Jerry knew that his love for Hopkins was only eclipsed by that for his family.”
Said William R. Brody, president of Hopkins from 1996 to 2008, when he was succeeded by Mr. Daniels: “Jerry was my chief of staff and chair of the board of trustees and he was Hopkins through and through. He served in many different roles starting out in lacrosse, and moved on to admissions and alumni director, chief of staff and chairman of the board.
“This was his background and he lived Hopkins. He was just terrific and terrific with people. He could connect with them and had a good way of handling problems. They didn’t always get what they wanted, but they left satisfied.”
Dr. Brody added: “Jerry did anything that needed to be done. It’s really critical to have someone like that on your staff.”
Said Mr. Schnydman’s wife of 54 years, the former Tamara Tucker: “He never severed his connection with Hopkins.”
Jerome David Schnydman, son of Rubie Schnydman, a furniture company vice president, and his wife, Florine “Flo” Rosenberg, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Vickers Road in the city’s Ashburton neighborhood.
After graduating from Garrison Junior High School in 1959, he entered Baltimore City College High School where he became an outstanding lacrosse player and led City to the Maryland Scholastic Association crown with a 7-5 win against St. Paul’s. After graduating in 1963, he began his college studies at Hopkins.
“When I was accepted at Hopkins my senior year at City College, it was a dream come true,” Mr. Schnydman told The Hopkins News-Letter in a 2017 interview. ”When I began playing lacrosse at 12 years old, I would take two buses to get to Homewood every weekend for the game. Playing for Hopkins is something I will always cherish.”
What he might have lacked in size — his father was 5 feet 3, his mother was 5 feet and his brother Sam, who became lacrosse captain at the University of Pennsylvania in 1962, was 5-6 — he made up with athletic determination and pure grit, which gave a rude awakening to hecklers who called him “Midget.”
Lacrosse scholars say Mr. Schnydman was the smallest player in the sport since John Knipp, also a City College and Johns Hopkins alumnus, during the World War I era. “I’ve never seen a smaller player,” legendary Hopkins lacrosse coach Bob Scott, then in his 13th season as coach, told The Evening Sun in 1967. “Jerry ranks with the outstanding midfielders we’ve had here. He and Bill Dietrich are our co-captains, and leadership is one of Jerry’s main contributions. He’s a very dynamic person.”
Observed The Evening Sun: “Although Jerry is short, he’s hardly frail. He doesn’t dazzle anybody with his weight, but when you put 144 pounds on a 5-1 1/4 frame, you’ve got a thick, compact athlete.”
He told the newspaper: “The only time I’m at a disadvantage is when an opponent is exceptionally tall. Then he can reach over my head for the ball. But on the faceoff being short helps. I’m already at ground level. I don’t have to bend over.”
He was selected as a first-team All-American in 1966 and 1967, and is “considered one of the top faceoff specialists in the sport’s history,” according to the Hopkins obituary.
In his senior year, the Blue Jays were undefeated until they lost their season finale, 9-5, to Maryland, giving the Terps a share of the national championship. The memory of defeat remained searing for Mr. Schnydman for decades.
“It was just a heartbreak. I still haven’t gotten over it,” he told The Sun in 2004.
Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, who represents the 41st District, and Mr. Schnydman were close first cousins who loved watching and talking about sports, politics and public policy. “He always wanted to know what I was doing,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
“Jerry told me he was never on a losing team,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “As captain, he was a great motivator because that was part of his personality, and my mother always said he had street smarts.”
Mr. Rosenberg said his cousin grew into the jobs he held because of what he had learned as an athlete.
He’d say, ‘A good coach deals with each player individually and is a good spotter of talent,’” Mr. Rosenberg said.
Mr. Schnydman was co-captain of the 1967 Hopkins lacrosse team that won a share of the national championship that year and in 1998 was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and was also in the halls of fame of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Lacrosse Foundation and Baltimore City College High School.
After graduating in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in English, he went to work for the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance in the insurance and pension business for eight years, but his heart remained at Homewood.
In 1968, he began serving as an assistant coach at Hopkins where he tutored every faceoff specialist until 1990, while holding various other university positions.
Ross Jones, who had been an aide and adviser to six Hopkins presidents during his 40-year career at the university, had gotten to know Mr. Schnydman when the former was executive assistant to university President Milton S. Eisenhower and the latter was an undergraduate.
In addition to being a senior, Mr. Schnydman was president of the university’s interfraternity council when a phone rang in Mr. Jones’ office from a neighbor complaining about tall, uncut grass at a fraternity house on Canterbury Road.
“Milton wanted that grass cut down and I called Jerry, and he told me, ‘Mr. Jones, I’ll take care of it,’ and he kept that grass cut for the rest of the summer,” Mr. Jones said. “I knew then that he was a fine person.”
In the early 1970s, Mr. Jones helped Mr. Schnydman realize his dream of returning to Hopkins.
“I had heard he wanted to come back, so I arranged for him to come back and I remembered what a great guy he had been when he had been a student,” Mr. Jones said. “Through his years as an assistant lacrosse coach, admission director, alumni director, assistant to the president and secretary of the board of trustees, he has touched thousands of lives.”
He added: “He was such a generous and affable guy who had a special ability when it came to sizing up people and he did it with a wonderful sense of humor. He could reach out when it came to issues, and finding positive outcomes. I loved the guy.”
In 1998, Mr. Schnydman was named executive assistant to the university president and secretary to the board of trustees, positions he held until retiring in 2012.
“I am sure that when people came to him for advice he would not tower over them and would ask, ‘How can we address this problem?’ He always came to you as an equal. He was very levelheaded and wanted positive discussions.”
In addition to his work at Hopkins, Mr. Schnydman sat on various boards, including the Associated Jewish Federation, Central Scholarship Fund, Baltimore School for the Arts and St. Paul’s School.
In his private life, Mr. Schnydman remained a Hopkins sports supporter and enjoyed traveling the world with Hopkins tours. He also liked spending time at a condominium he and his wife owned in Bethany Beach, Delaware, for two decades, until selling it last year because of failing health.
“He was courageous when it came to fighting cancer,” Mr. Jones said. “He was as tough as he was on the lacrosse field.”
Mr. Schnydman was a member and former president of Beth El Congregation at 8101 Park Heights Ave. in Pikesville, where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son, Andrew Schnydman of Owings Mills; a daughter, Rebecca Mossing of Cheswolde; a brother, Samuel Schnydman of Locust Point; a sister, Hobie Bruckner of Longmont, Colorado; and four grandchildren.