June 21, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Jim Schaper is waiting, but he is not sitting still. The two-time All-American in track for South Carolina wants someone to break his long standing school record in the 1,500 meters, but that hasn’t stopped him from keeping up a torrid pace when it comes to success in his professional life and giving back to his alma mater.
“Actually, I wish somebody would break it,” Schaper said of the record he set in 1974. “I’m all about someone doing better than me. My time at South Carolina as a student-athlete is something I take great pride in, primarily because I ran with great guys, and I had wonderful teammates, who made me look better than I probably was.”
Schaper was not only a two-time All-American for the Gamecocks, but he was also a member of the 1974 national championship two-mile relay team. To this day, Schaper still holds the school outdoor record in the 1,500-meters with a time of 3:42.48, which is the longest standing outdoor record in program history.
Jim and his wife, Rebecca, were recently presented with the Garnet Award from the University of South Carolina Athletics Department at the annual Gamecock Gala. The Garnet Award is the most distinguished and highest honor given to a member of Gamecock Nation as it recognizes an individual for outstanding service and dedication to South Carolina, and it pays tribute to the recipient for unwavering loyalty, sacrifice and commitment to the building of a championship program.
“I have been incredibly fortunate and lucky in my career since I left the University of South Carolina,” Schaper said. “I feel very strongly that the university, and the athletics department specifically, had so much to do with my success after I left. I’m glad to help other individuals have some of the same opportunities that I had.”
Originally from New York, Schaper moved to Atlanta when he was six. Former South Carolina track coach John West began recruiting Schaper when he was in the tenth grade, and although he had other offers, he remained committed to the Gamecocks.
“He was the first guy to recruit and offer me a scholarship,” Schaper said. “I guess there were three reasons I came. One was loyalty to the guy who recruited me. The second was that he was trying to building something, and I wanted to be part of that. Lastly, it’s only a few hours from Atlanta, so it was close enough to home, but also far enough away.”
Schaper made the most of his opportunities at South Carolina, creating lasting memories on and off the track.
“It was a different time,” Schaper laughed about his days on campus. “If my teammates and I had done some of the things now that we did back then, we wouldn’t have lasted there very long. My best memories are with the guys I lived with and competed with. I got to know a lot of the baseball players really well, and all of the athletes. The basketball players lived below us. I’ve been married for 42 years, and I met my wife at South Carolina.
“I love the university, but my memories are all about the guys that I was around all the time, and all of the athletes we had a chance to eat with and get to know really well. I still stay in touch with them. Some of my best friends today are guys that I ran with in college many years ago.”
I only care about helping the university that helped me so much.
As a senior, Schaper was selected to represent the United States in an indoor meet against Russia after qualifying at the AAU Championships in New York, and he also collected numerous United States Track and Field Federation honors.
“In 1974, it was a different experience than today,” Schaper said. “It was at the height of the Cold War, so you got what you expected. It was a very interesting experience. I’ve been back to Russia a couple of times since then on business, and it was a lot more ‘western.’ At the time I went, it was Eastern Bloc all the way. It was quite an experience for a 21 year old kid.”
Schaper said he didn’t run that well while over there, but he still took second place in the 800 meters and won the sprint medley relay.
Although he took time off from competitive running after college, he still works out as much as he can nearly every day. He has since made a career of running successful businesses, specifically in the technology industry. In 2002 he and his financial partners started his own company, Infor. He retired from running the company at the end of 2010, but the 64 year old still serves as chairman.
“I’ve gone from running companies to looking at acquiring, divesting and investing in companies is the easiest way to sum it up,” Schaper said. “Today it has about 17,000 employees and about $3 billion in revenue.”
Schaper actively serves the University of South Carolina in many capacities including service on the Athletics Director’s Cabinet for Gamecock Athletics. In addition to his time, he has been generous in his contributions to the university as a whole, and the athletics department in particular.
“The monetary piece of this is a no-brainer for me,” Schaper said.
“On the personal side, I have a great time interacting with people in the athletics department. It gives me a chance to interact with people who share the same passions that I do about intercollegiate athletics. When I go to Columbia and I interact with people in the athletics department and the student-athletes, it gets me jacked up. It’s so refreshing and energizing for me because it’s something that I love, and that I’m passionate about.”
Schaper noted that any donations he has made to the athletics department have no strings attached.
“(Athletics Director) Ray (Tanner) and his staff need to use the funds in the ways they deem appropriate based on the priorities that they have established to run their business,” Schaper said. “By no means am I going to tell them how they should spend their money, and Rebecca and I decided we were not going to direct funds for any specific project. The people that run that business know better than us where to spend it. They have been a phenomenal steward of the money that we donate as a family. I don’t direct anything. I only care about helping the university that helped me so much.”
Of note, Jim’s wife Rebecca has dedicated the last 15 years to homelessness and the education and treatment of mental illness. She created and produced an award winning documentary film, speaks at mental health conferences, and is in the process of writing a book.
The Schapers have two grown daughters. Jim currently enjoys playing golf and going to the beach, and of course coming back to watch Gamecock athletics events. While he has enjoyed tremendous success since his days as a student-athlete, Schaper recognizes how important those days were to him and has a message for those currently competing for the Garnet and Black.
“Live the dream baby, because it doesn’t get any better than being in college and being an athlete,” Schaper said. “I was ready to get out of college, and now I wish I could crawl back in. So I guess the message is, enjoy the ride.
“If I could go back and do it again with what we had, I would do it again.”
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