Lee Schlichtemeier Receives the 2016 USPA Lifetime Achievement Award
Steady, Solid and Dependable. The USPA Drop Zone Operators’ Conference, held every two years in conjunction with the Parachute Industry Association Symposium, always kicks off with a reception for DZOs and various skydiving VIPs. At this year’s reception on February 12, USPA gave special recognition to one of those VIPs—Dr. Alvin Lee Schlichtemeier—by presenting him with the association’s highest honor, the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lee Schlichtemeier was a success long before he started skydiving in 1989. A Nebraska native, he earned an M.D. degree from the University of Nebraska in 1969 after spending his senior year as an Air Force-sponsored medical student. After completing the Air Force Primary Aerospace Medicine Course, he received assignment to the Air Force Academy as a flight surgeon. Doing a mix of military and civilian flying along the way, Schlichtemeier earned his commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating, logging more than 2,900 hours as pilot in command. He retired from the Air Force with the rank of major.
In medicine, he specialized in radiation oncology, receiving medical specialty board certification in 1976. Upon leaving the Air Force, he entered private practice, eventually building, opening and operating several private radiation therapy centers in Texas and beyond. By 1996 he sold his own centers, and since then he has practiced at a center in Bryan, Texas.
Schlichtemeier began his skydiving career in 1989 two weeks after his wife, Carol, jumped. For her birthday, Lee surprised Carol with a tandem jump at Aerodrome Skydiving near McKinney, Texas. When she landed, she said, "It's great. You have to do this, too." It took him two weeks to follow through, and he confesses that the only reason he did was to assuage his male ego. They each made four more tandem jumps before the DZO said, “Enough. Either sign up for AFF or don’t come back.” They both signed up and became skydivers, though Lee believes he holds the unofficial record for the highest number of Level IV AFF jumps (a dozen or so).
Then the owner of the small airport where the DZ was located decided to discontinue all flying operations. The drop zone operators at the soon-to-be-closed airport, a husband-and-wife team, convinced the Schlichtemeiers to provide funding to re-create the skydiving club at Tri-County Aerodrome near Whitewright, Texas. Within a year, Lee bought a Cessna Caravan and flew it for the DZ; it was the first Caravan operated full-time exclusively for skydiving. After another year, it was clear that the club needed to be a business, and the Schlichtemeiers bought the DZ. Lee bought a Cessna 182 to supplement the Caravan, bought new student and tandem rigs and hired management and staff. Thus, in the first week of July 1993, Skydive Dallas was born. Over 23 years the DZ hosted two USPA Nationals and sponsored literally dozens of formation skydiving teams (including Dallas Heat, whose members went on to win multiple national and world FS medals). The Schlichtemeiers sold Skydive Dallas in April 2016.
In 1996, Lee was elected to the USPA Board as the Southwest Regional Director and was reelected at every election afterward until 2013, when he decided not to run. Upon joining the board, he immediately put his organizational and business skills to use by serving on the Finance & Budget Committee, serving one term as a committee member and seven terms as the chairman. The board elected him to the Executive Committee as treasurer in 1999, a post he served in throughout his time on the board, and he also served on the Competition and Membership Services Committees.
Determining he still wasn’t giving back enough, Schlichtemeier began accumulating judge ratings, earning national and international ratings in style, accuracy landing, formation skydiving and canopy piloting. He put those ratings to work judging 18 USPA Nationals, three USPA Collegiates and three Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Category 1 international events. Most recently, he was assistant meet director at the 2016 FAI World Championships Mondial at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois.
For his service to USPA and to skydiving, the board at its summer 2016 meeting unanimously chose Schlichtemeier as the 30th recipient of the USPA Lifetime Achievement Award. His citation plaque, which will be permanently affixed to the mahogany base supporting the large sterling silver bowl prominently displayed at USPA Headquarters, reads: “In recognition of his unwavering dedication to USPA’s financial well-being, his wise counsel as a career-long USPA Board member and his contribution to the competition community as a national and international judge.”
USPA Executive Director Ed Scott, USPA Executive Director Emeritus Chris Needels (himself the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree), former USPA staffer Larry Bagley (the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree) and former USPA Board member Marylou Laughlin spoke on Schlichtemeier’s behalf at the award ceremony. They all used words such as “steady,” “solid” and “dependable” to describe his approach as the association’s longtime treasurer, during which time the association flourished.
Lee Schlichtemeier continues to hold national and international judge ratings, so when you see him at an upcoming USPA Nationals or FAI World Championships or World Cup, shake his hand and thank him on behalf of all skydivers.