Most people want to pursue higher education, but college costs can hinder many potential students. Fortunately for 33 students, one kind man in Ames, Iowa, made sure that they completed their college educations debt-free and with full sponsorships. Dale Schroeder, a carpenter by profession, had saved about US$3 million over 67 years and he used it to start a scholarship program to help underprivileged teens attend college.
The life of Dale Schroeder
Born in 1919, Dale lived a simple life. He is described as a shy guy who never married and had no kids. Despite his humble beginnings, Dale worked as a carpenter in his early years at Moehl Millwork and went on to work for the same company for 67 years.
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He reportedly had two pairs of jeans (one for work and the other for church) and owned a rusty old Chevrolet. Surprisingly, the money he had saved for almost seven decades amounted to around US$3 million.
Behind Dale’s college donations
Since Dale had no kids to inherit his money, he started a scholarship program to help underprivileged teens attend college. Dale wanted to transform other people’s lives with his savings, so he asked his friends for advice. Walt Tomenga, a friend of Dale’s, advised him on the best charities to donate to, but Dale wanted to take kids to college. So he opted not to donate to charity organizations.
Dale’s lawyer and long-time friend Steve Nielsen was also consulted. Initially, Nielsen and Walt thought the savings were a couple hundred thousand dollars, but it was staggering.
The power of philanthropy
Dale Schroeder passed away in 2005, and it was up to Nielsen and Walt to manage and ensure his legacy had an impact. And almost 18 years on, 33 people have benefited from full scholarships from this foundation. Donating or giving the money to institutions would have been easier, but Dale wanted it to help individuals directly.
He mainly wanted his donation to help students from smaller towns in Iowa who would otherwise have no way to access higher education. So Walt and Nielsen partnered with ACT (Acing the Test) to reach needy students in schools across Iowa. ACT would then trim the list of student applicants from about 600-800 applicants per year to about 20.
The last group would then write essays based on prompts and receive weighted points to whittle the list to 8 finalists. Four of the eight finalists received one-time US$5,000 scholarships, but the last four received full scholarships.
The 33 direct beneficiaries of Dale Schroder’s donations are now doctors, therapists, and teachers. They call themselves “Dale’s Kids” and are forever grateful for the opportunity. Kira Conrad, the last beneficiary of the Dale fund, says that opportunity changed her life.
“I grew up in a single-parent household and had three older sisters, so paying for all four of us was never an option. So for a man who would never meet me to give me a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen,” Kira told CNN. Nielsen believes Dale would have been very proud of his contribution to these 33 young lives.
He adds that though the beneficiaries can’t repay Dale, they can contribute and transform other people’s lives in Iowa and the world.
Dale Schroeder’s legacy
Dale Schroeder’s legacy lives on through the 33 students he helped. He is an example of how a single person can have a significant impact on the lives of others. His story is a testament to the power of philanthropy, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations.