Craig Smoldt remembered as administrator 'completely dedicated' to Mayo Clinic
Craig Smoldt worked at Mayo Clinic for 50 years. He died Aug. 5, 2022, after a battle with cancer.
ROCHESTER — If anyone personified Mayo Clinic values, it was Craig Smoldt.
Smoldt was a lot of things: a sailor, a hiker, a traveler.
And, before his retirement in December 2020, Smoldt worked at Mayo Clinic in Rochester for 50 years.
He was also “completely, completely dedicated to doing what was best for Mayo Clinic,” said his brother, Bob, himself a longtime Mayo administrator.
Smoldt died Aug. 5, 2022, in Rochester after a battle with cancer. He was 80.
After earning his bachelor’s degree at University of Colorado, spending a year at University of Vienna and getting his MBA at Cornell University, Smoldt got a direct commission into the U.S. Army’s Medical Service Corps, the medical administration of the Army. Smoldt was visiting his parents in Grundy Center, Iowa, shortly before his service was up. His dad asked what he would do after the Army. Smoldt decided he liked medical administration.
“My dad said, ‘Well, you know, the best medical center in the world is just 100 miles up the road. Why don’t you go up and see if they have a job?’” Bob said. “He did. He drove up and walked into personnel and asked if he could fill out an application.”
Smoldt made his mark at Mayo Clinic. If any physician or employee went to Smoldt and asked for help, he would get it done.
“He was a doer,” Bob said.
Though Smoldt was always happy to help, he never wanted to take credit and didn’t enjoy the spotlight.
“I remember one time that Dr. Hugh Smith, who was the head of Rochester practice, and Craig – I can't even remember what it was, but he did something and the press was over there covering something they did and Hugh was out there talking about it,” Bob said. “And Hugh and I are good friends. He came up to me and said, ‘You're gonna see this in the news. And you and I know that Craig is the one that did it, and yet I’m the one in the news. I just want you to know that I tried it to be him, but he absolutely just would not do it.’”
Smoldt cared immensely about people. He worked closely with the Sisters of Saint Francis to preserve the legacy and history of the sisters and Mayo Clinic. Bob included a quote attributed to Saint Francis in Smoldt’s obituary: “Preach always, when necessary use words.”
“Boy, did that ever apply to Craig,” Bob said. “He didn’t use words, didn’t want to get credit for things, but he could get stuff done.”
Helping others brings a lot of satisfaction, and that’s what medicine is.
“It’s easy to get caught up in that because you’re really doing good things for a lot of people,” Bob said. “Craig felt that in spades.”
Smoldt spent a lot of time outdoors. He liked to hike around the slot canyons in northern Arizona and southern Utah – sometimes when it was not recommended.
“On those Utah trips, he would look around the slot canyons and try to go at a time where there might be a monsoon coming,” Bob said. “You can’t be in those slot canyons when it’s raining because they’re so narrow, it just fills up, and people are killed in those settings.”
But that was the adventurousness of Smoldt. He traveled to Pakistan, England and Sydney, Australia. He embarked on missionary trips to Africa with Autumn Ridge Church. He completed numerous Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa with friends and family. He sailed on Lake Pepin.
After a trip to Utah, he sent Bob pictures and wrote: “I view these landscapes as examples of creative beauty. The sights are basically free – all we have to do is look.”