The Schoonmaker Award for Faculty Service is named in memory of the late Donald O. Schoonmaker. Below is a brief biography of Don’s life, prepared by the The Society for the Study of Afro-American History in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Inc.
Donald Owen Schoonmaker was born in 1938 in Queens, NY, to Walter A. and Florence Schoonmaker and died in 1993 at the young age of 55. He earned his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University in 1960 and his PhD from Princeton University in 1965. He had a distinguished teaching career of nearly 30 years at Wake Forest. The Winston-Salem Journal report of his death contained a statement by one of his colleagues that “Don cared deeply about social justice and racial justice and lived his beliefs, fighting for what he thought was right in the community and in the university.”
Don’s area of academic specialty was German politics, and he conducted extensive research in Germany and also received a Fulbright Research Fellowship at the University of Munich in the 1970s.
When he was 32, Don became the youngest president of the Winston-Salem Experiment in Self Reliance (ERC), an antipoverty group with which he worked for nearly 15 years. He was especially concerned about solving problems of unemployment in Winston-Salem and working with the Employment Security Commission to improve the skills of potential workers through city manpower projects. Don was also among the co-founders of the Afro-American Historical Society of Winston-Salem, now known as the Society for the Study of Afro-American History in Winston-Salem. At that time, Don was working on a project to record the history of black political involvement in Forsyth County. He was continually bothered and disturbed that the rich cultural history of Old Salem was totally devoid of documentation of the historical footsteps of Afro-Americans.
In 1993, in recognition of his commitment to Wake Forest University and the broader community, Don was awarded the Faculty Prize for Community Service, presented by the Alumni Association. The award, later named the “Schoonmaker Faculty Prize for Community Service” in his honor, is given annually.