Currents News Staff
An Iowa man has offered a life changing gift not once, but 33 times.
The generosity of a simple carpenter who lived in Ames has altered the future for people he’s never met.
Four years ago, Winterset, Iowa native Kira Conard was stuck. She had the grades to be a therapist, but not the tuition money.
“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 explained.
At her high school graduation party, she was preparing to break the news that college wasn’t possible.
“It almost made me feel powerless. Like, I want to do this. I have this goal, but I can’t get there just because of the financial part.”
That’s when her phone rang, and Kira says she “broke down into tears immediately.”
The man on the other end of the call dropped the name ‘Dale Schroeder.’
A man kira had never met grew up poor, never married and worked as a carpenter for 67 years at the same Des Moines business. Ten years before Kira’s dilemma, he had walked into his lawyer’s office.
“He said, ‘I never got the opportunity to go to college, and so I’d like to help kids go to college,’” said Dale’s friend Steve Nielsen.
“He was very quiet. dale was shy,” Steve added.
“He was that kind of a blue collar, lunch pale kind of a guy. Went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans.”
When Dale died in 2005, the guy who had only “church jeans and work jeans,” according to Steve, left behind a rusty chevy truck and instructions to send small town Iowa kids to college.
“He wanted to help kids that were like him that probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift,” Steve explained.
Then came the jaw-dropper.
“Finally, i kinda was curious. I said, ‘How much are we talking about Dale?’ And he said, ‘Oh, just shy of three million dollars.’ And I nearly fell out of my chair,” he recalled.
Now, what Dale left behind is helping kids like Kira.
“Realistically, if it wasn’t for this scholarship I would be here,” she said. “For a man that would never meet me, to give me basically a full ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen.”
But for 14 years, it has.
Dale Schoeder’s obituary says he died having no descendants, and on a Saturday night the 33 Iowans he put through college gathered around his old lunch box and dubbed themselves Dale’s kids.
The man they never met had changed the course of every life in the room, allowing these doctors, teachers and therapists to start their careers with no college debt.
But, they found out there was a string attached.
“All we ask is that you pay it forward. You can’t pay it back, because Dale’s gone. But you can remember him and you can emulate him,” said Steve.
Now, those professionals are making sure the generosity of an Iowa carpenter reaches patients, students and strangers all over.
After paying the full $80,000 college tab for Kira and 32 other Iowans, Dale’s account finally just ran out of money.