June 27, 2023 by Cathy Stack
Dale Schroeder worked as a carpenter at the same company for 67 years. He grew up in poverty and never had the opportunity to go to college. With no children of his own, he wanted to do something to help the young people in his community. With the help of his lawyer, he created a plan to fund college for financially disadvantaged youth in Iowa using the money he had saved over the years.
Dale’s friend, Steve Nielson, described him as a “hard-working, blue-collar, lunch-pail, frugal kind of guy.”
“He had church jeans and work jeans,” Steve recalled with a smile.
His hard work and frugal lifestyle amounted to savings of nearly $3 million, enough to fund college for 33 strangers who might not have had that opportunity otherwise. Dale simply wanted to provide them with the options that he never had.
“He said, 'I never got the opportunity to go to college. So, I'd like to help kids go to college,” Steve recalled. Steve said he nearly fell out of his chair when he learned how much Dale had saved.
Dale passed away in 2005. When news of his generous education fund circulated, people in town expressed shock at his secret fortune. He had lived a simple life and made sound investments to grow his savings over decades.
The instructions in Dale’s will were simple: Send small town Iowa kids to college. His generous education fund changed the course of dozens of lives. Each year, between 2007 and 2015, four students received full scholarships and another four received one-time grants of $5,000.
Kira Conard received money from Dale’s education fund. She had earned high grades in high school and wanted to attend college but could not afford tuition. She dreamed of becoming a therapist but could not foresee a way to pay for her schooling. She felt discouraged.
“I grew up in a single parent household, and I had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option,” she said.
Then she learned that she could apply for Dale’s education grant.
“I broke down into tears immediately,” she shared. “For a man that would basically never meet me to give me a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That just doesn’t happen.”
The recipients of the grants have ventured into many diverse professions, including medicine, education, and mental health.
The 33 recipients have nicknamed themselves “Dale’s kids.” They organized an event in 2019 to honor the selfless man who had changed their lives.
Dale’s instructions beseeched the recipients to “Pay It Forward.” He hoped that his generous gift would start a ripple effect of kind acts. The students all agree that they plan to help others in their own unique way – the way one kind man helped them.
The Foundation for A Better Life and PassItOn believe that Dale Schroeder is a hero. His kind and selfless act is a great example of the value of generosity. Dale could have spent his fortune on himself – traveling the world, owning many homes and cars – but instead he lived modestly. He hoped that one day he could do something impactful with his money for others less fortunate. His gift of education has certainly fulfilled that goal. Please help us honor his memory by sharing his heartwarming story.
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