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Alumnus Sam Schmidt Inspiring Story of Never Giving Up and Overcoming Barriers

Pepperdine Graziadio alumnus Sam Schmidt (BA '86, MBA ’87) carries on Graziadio values of courage with compassion and leading with a pioneering spirit. After graduating from Pepperdine Graziadio, Schmidt became a successful businessman. Following his dreams in 1997, Schmidt became an Indy Racing League driver. In 2000 during a practice lap in Orlando, Schmidt suffered from a car accident that left him a quadriplegic. Schmidt was determined to drive again and to overcome the barrier. Just 14 months after his accident, Schmidt set up a race team and founded Sam Schmidt Motorsports, currently the most successful team in the history of the Indy flights series. 

Arrow Electronics teamed up with Schmidt to develop a car that would give him the freedom to drive again. The modified car allows Schmidt to drive the car by looking in the direction he wants to go. In 2016, Schmidt drove the modified car to the summit of Pike Peaks, where he completed the 12.42-mile course with 156 turns in 15 minutes.  

Schmidt partnered again with Arrow Electronics to develop a Semi-Autonomous Mobility (SAM) Suit to help people with high-level spinal cord injuries to walk without assistance. After 21 years, Schmidt took his first steps in the SAM Suit in March 2021 and was able to walk again thanks to the new technology. Fast Company magazine named the SAM Suit as a finalist in its “World-Changing Ideas'' program. Schmidt continues to work with Arrow Electronics and other organizations to enhance opportunities for people with disabilities. Schmidt and the technology he is helping to develop and showcase was featured on the Today Show.