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Ringling College media maestro Rich Schineller dies

The PR guru helped raise the profile of the arts, the environment and social justice in Sarasota.

Rich Schineller
Rich Schineller
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Sarasota has lost a tireless advocate for the arts and the environment and a force of nature. Rich Schineller, longtime media counselor to Ringling College of Art & Design, died on June 21. He was 63.

Schineller's daughter, Amy, said that he "passed away peacefully" in a post on Facebook. No cause of death was given, and his survivors were not listed. Amy Schineller did not respond to requests for comment.

"Known and loved by his family and friends, the magnitude of his influence and engagement in our lives is beyond measure," Amy Schineller wrote. "Nothing brought our dad greater joy than forging connections. He was a spirited tireless, visionary model of inclusiveness and possibility."

For the past 21 years, Schineller was managing director of Perception Management Inc., a Sarasota strategic communications and business development firm that specialized in entertainment, the arts and education.

"We were so fortunate to have Rich working behind the scenes, representing Ringling College of Art and Design and telling our stories for over 20 years as an independent contractor," Ringling College President Larry Thompson told Sarasota ABC7 TV. "He was a dedicated member of the Ringling family and genuinely loved supporting our creative community."

When filmmaker KT Curran heard the news that Schineller had died, her first thought was, "Sarasota has lost its sunshine," she said. "He seemed to exude it — but in the coolest way possible — never forced — just a laidback warm kindness and sincere love of people that seemed effortless."

In a town filled with dashing gentlemen, Schineller stood out in the crowd. With his blazing blue eyes, thick silver hair and prominent nose, he looked like a better-looking cousin of the late Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author and TV host. But unlike Bourdain, Schineller was always smiling. 

"He was the coolest guy in town, gorgeously handsome and sexy with the most piercing eyes," says Robert Plunket, author of "My Search for Warren Harding" and retired gossip columnist for Sarasota Magazine.

"We were constantly scheming to get his picture in the magazine," Plunket says. "He lit up every issue he was in. As if that wasn't enough, he was a wonderful human being, tirelessly working to publicize the arts and other good causes."

Members of Sarasota's arts community took to social media in the days following Schineller's death to mourn his passing. "It's hard to imagine Sarasota without Rich Schineller," said writer Phil Lederer, who noted that Schineller was the first person he met when he wrote his first article for SRQ Magazine.

"I don't know if Sarasota really knows what it had in this adopted champion," Lederer wrote on Facebook. "There is no Sarasota without Rich and there is no Rich without Sarasota." 

"Rich was an an intrinsic part of the fiber of our Sarasota community and of all of our hearts — wrapping his brilliant eye and lens around every piece of humanity he could find," wrote Jamie Coffey, director of external relations at the Savannah Philharmonic in Georgia. A former Disney on Ice performer, Coffey was previously special assistant to the president at Ringling College.

"He loved his family so much. He valued his friendships deeply. I always knew I could call on him anytime and he would show up," Coffey wrote.

Although Schineller was paid for his work as media counselor for Ringling College, he was involved in ad hoc pro bono efforts to cultivate the arts in Sarasota. Curran, whose latest film, "Bridge to the Other Side," was shot in Sarasota, was one of the artists that Schineller helped. 

"He encouraged so many artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers and students, and not just with words," Curran said. "He actively looked for ways to help promote local artists to a larger stage.  His loss is immeasurable for our community."

Rich Schineller with his mother, Eileen Schineller

Richard J. Schineller Jr. was one of five children of the late Richard J. Schineller Sr., a successful technology corporate executive, and his wife, Eileen, who retired to Sarasota.

Schineller Jr. graduated from Bronxville High School in New York and earned a Bachelor of Science in international economics from the London School of Economics in 1981. After his graduating from LSE, Schineller lived in New York and held corporate, film and TV production jobs.

In addition to advocating for the arts, Schineller was an ardent environmentalist. For nearly 12 years, he was director of communications and outreach at Save Our Siesta Sand. In 2020, the group lost its lawsuit to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from dredging Big Pass to replenish South Lido Beach.

With Schineller's death, the environmental protection group lost a powerful voice for its crusade to protect Siesta Key beaches and waterfront property and to preserve navigation in Big Pass.

On Facebook, Schineller's family said details of a celebration of his life would be forthcoming. In lieu of flowers, Amy Schineller asked that contributions be made in her father's name to the anti-human trafficking and social justice group More Too Life.

Even in death, Schineller is working to lift up his community.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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