Dale Schroeder, a carpenter from Des Moines, Iowa, had dedicated his entire life to his craft and had never had anything else. Schroeder, who was born in 1919, worked in the same workshop for 67 years, living simply and saving a large portion of his wages.
He had never married, had no children, and had no living relatives, so when he was ready to retire, he chose to send 33 strangers to college as a gift to his town. Schroeder had scraped and saved $3 million throughout the course of his career.
He came from a poor family and, because he was never able to attend college, he made sure that other less fortunate children received the education he never had.
All he requested in return was that they pass it on to someone else.
Schroeder transferred his wealth to his lawyer, Steve Nielsen, just before his death in 2005 at the age of 86.
“He wanted to help people like him who wouldn’t have been able to go to college if it weren’t for his gift,” Nielsen told KCCI. “‘How much are we talking about, Dale?’ I said. ‘Oh, just shy of $3 million,’ he said. “I was on the verge of falling out of my chair.”
The funds have been totally depleted 14 years later, in 2019, as 33 students have earned their college tuition over the years. Schroeder would be content and proud of his children, whom they refer to as Dale’s children.
Schroeder was a “blue-collar, lunch-pail sort of man,” according to Nielsen. He only had two pairs of pants, one for work and the other for church, and he drove a beat-up Chevrolet pickup until his death. He could have purchased a lovely automobile and a boatload of luxury clothing, but he had higher ambitions.
Pay it forward, Dale’s children.
Because there is no one to repay it to, Dale’s fund recipients are just expected to pay it forward to someone else in need in the future.
Dale’s children traveled from all over the country to Iowa on Saturday, July 13th, 2019 to meet and catch up on each other’s life. They’ve gone on to become physicians, attorneys, engineers, therapists, and a variety of other professions.
They gathered around Dale’s old lunch pail, reminiscing about the good old guy and keeping each other up to date on their own paths to success.
Kira Conard, the most recent recipient, recalls how upset she was when she graduated from high school many years ago.
Her ambition was to attend college and study to become a therapist, but education was expensive, and her family didn’t have much of it. “Paying for all four of us was never a possibility,” she told KCCI, because she had three elder sisters. At her graduation celebration, she was heartbroken as she watched her peers excitedly discuss their plans to attend various institutions and pursue their ambitions.
The day she received a call from Nielsen’s office, she was overjoyed. A kind elderly guy planned to send her to college and pay for her whole education on a full scholarship.
“I instantly burst into tears,” she added. “It’s remarkable that a man who has never met me would offer me essentially a full scholarship to college.” That’s not going to happen.”
Dale’s children were instructed by Nielsen to continue on his legacy by paying it forward. They would leave an indelible impression on the planet by making a difference in the lives of others who were in need.
Nielsen stated, “All we ask is that you pay it forward.” “You may remember him and follow in his footsteps.”