The sport of track and field lost one of its pioneers on Thursday night.
Howard Schmertz, longtime meet director of the Millrose Games in New York City, and a 2012 inductee into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, died at the age of 88.
Along with his father, Howard Schmertz played a prominent role in the development of track and field in America, especially surrounding the annual Millrose Games.
Howard Schmertz served as meet director of the Millrose Games from 1975 to 2003, helping the event grow into the most iconic indoor track and field meet in the world.
His father, Fred Schmertz, was one of the founding members of the Millrose Games before taking over as meet director for 40 years, from 1934 to 1974.
“In the last century,” said TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna. “I’m not sure anybody has had more of an impact on track and field meets and meet promotion than Howard Schmertz, and his father, Fred Schmertz.”
Howard Schmertz is also a member of the Millrose Games Hall of Fame and International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Eugene’s Mary Slaney, a four-time Olympian and two-time World Championship gold medalist, had a close relationship with Howard Schmertz which extended outside the track.
Slaney was a six-time winner at the Millrose Games, winning her first crown at the age of 15 and her last at age 38.
“Howard Schmertz will be remembered as one of the most important people in the sport of track and field,” said Dr. Norbert Sander, president of The Armory Foundation.
“His influence spans decades. He took the baton from his father and maintained not only the Millrose Games, but he contributed to many aspects of the sport, including sponsorship for track and field outside of Millrose. At the same time, he carried the Millrose Games forward for years, making it the most prestigious indoor track and field meet in the world.”
Howard Schmertz graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in 1941 and served in World War II as an Army infantryman. Upon his discharge, he earned his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and in 1948, graduated from Columbia Law School and went to work for the firm Dean Magill & Huber, which later became Huber, Lawrence & Abell.
Schmertz worked days as a partner in his law firm and devoted nights and weekends, with an assist from his wife, Judy, to his post as meet director at the Millrose Games.