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Iowa Man Posthumously Sends 33 Strangers to College

Graduation Ceremony (Photo: MaxPixel)
Graduation Ceremony (Photo: MaxPixel)

“He was that kind of a blue-collar, lunch-pail kind of a guy. Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans.”

Before Dale Schroeder died in 2005, the hard-working carpenter left his fortune in the care of his lawyer and friend, instructing him to use the money to send kids to college who otherwise would not have the means to go.

Many High School Graduates Unable to Afford College

Many kids dream of one day going to college, but for some, that dream never becomes a reality. According to CollegeBoard, the average cost to attend a four-year college (in state) is $21,370. Attending an out-of-state university costs significantly more at an average of $37.430. The average price of a four-year private college is even higher at $48,510.

Many people who do attend college are stuck paying off their debts long after they graduate. For this reason, attending college is simply not feasible for everyone.

Kira Conrad, a native of Winterset, Iowa, had given up her dream of going to college. She planned to tell her parents after her high school graduation party that she would not be going to college because of the financial strain it would cause.

“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,” Conrad said, as WSFA 12 News reported.

“Almost made me feel powerless,” Conrad continued. “I want to do this. I have this goal, but I can’t get there just because of the financial part.”

Before His Death, Blue Collar Carpenter Leaves Fortune with Instructions to Use for Strangers’ College Tuition

Then one day, Conrad received a phone call from Steve Nielsen – Schroeder’s lawyer and friend. Nielsen explained to her about his friend’s plan to posthumously pay for some of his fellow-Iowans to go to college.

“I broke down into tears immediately,” Conrad said, as Upworthy reported. “For a man that would never meet me, to give me basically a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen.”

Before Schroeder’s death, he had explained his plan to Nielsen. “He said, ‘I never got the opportunity to go to college. So, I’d like to help kids go to college,’” Nielsen said, as CBS reported.

“I kind of was curious,” said Nielsen, as WSFA 12 News reported. “I said, ‘How much are we talking about, Dale?’ And he said, ‘Oh, just shy of $3 million,’ and I nearly fell out of my chair.”

Nielsen spoke of his friend who was employed by the same company for 67 years. “He was that kind of a blue-collar, lunch-pail kind of a guy,” Nielsen explained. “Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans.”

Schroeder was a simple, hard-working man who owned only two pairs of jeans – a pair for work and a pair for church, according to Nielsen.

‘Dale’s Kids’ Gather to Remember His Benevolence

In total, Schroeder posthumously paid for 33 strangers’ college tuition. “He wanted to help kids that were like him, that probably would have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift,” Nielsen said, as CBS reported.

In July, the 33 recipients of Dale’s kindness – now college graduates – gathered to remember and honor the man who helped make their dreams a reality. “Dale’s kids,” as they call themselves, are now working in the careers they never thought would be possible.

“Dale would be extremely proud,” Nielsen told WSFA 12 News. “All we ask is that you pay it forward. You can’t pay it back, because Dale is gone, but you can remember him and you can emulate him.”



Leighanna Shirey

Leighanna graduated with a degree in English from Pensacola Christian College. After teaching high school English for five years, she decided to pursue her dream of writing and editing. When not working, she enjoys traveling with her husband, spending time with her dogs, and drinking way too much coffee.

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1 Comment

  1. Larry Stout August 5, 2019

    Isn’t it a shame that rare people like Dale Schroeder tend not to gravitate to politics. And those few who do are denied entry by the powers that be.

    A small-world note: I sit here this morning in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, reading — to my surprise — about Winterset, Iowa. More than 60 years ago, as a student in Kansas City, Missouri, I used to collect fossils from an outcrop of the Winterset Limestone, which forms part of the bedrock underlying my former high school there. The formation extends in bedrock continuously between the Iowa town (for which it is named) and K.C., and beyond. What were the odds that Winterset, Iowa, would ever be thrust again into my cognizance? 100%, evidently.


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