An Iowa carpenter used his life savings to send 33 kids to college

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  • An Iowa carpenter worked for 67 years and saved just over $3 million.
  • Dale Schroeder never had children of his own and used the money to send needy strangers to school.
  • Fourteen years after his death in 2005, the last of his scholarship funds have run dry and 33 students have graduated debt free.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

After pinching pennies and frugally saving for over 67 years, an Iowa carpenter named Dale Schroeder found himself with more than $3 million in savings. With no immediate children of his own, the humble carpenter decided to set up a scholarship to put struggling Iowan teens through college. Now, fourteen years after his death, the last cohort of what is now called “Dale’s Kids” has graduated college debt-free.

Before his death, Schroeder contacted Steve Nielsen, a lawyer and his longtime friend, to help start the fund. Schroeder did not have the opportunity to attend college himself and wanted to give that chance to younger students facing similar situations. Nielson told KWWL he was shocked to learn just how much money the unassuming Midwestern worker had saved.

“I nearly fell out of my chair,” Nielsen said.

According to CNN, Schroeder was born in 1919, lived a simple life, and was described by his friends as “quiet and shy.” The carpenter worked for the same company for 67 years and reportedly owned two pairs of pants: one for work and one for church.

“He was that kind of a blue-collar, lunch pail kind of a guy,” Nielsen, told. KCCI. “[He] went to work every day, worked really hard, was frugal like a lot of Iowans.”

In an interview with KWWL, Kira Conard – one of the last beneficiaries of Schroeder’s scholarship – reflected on the importance of the carpenter’s help four years ago.

“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. At the time, Conard had the grades to attend school with the hopes of one day becoming a therapist, but the costs of college proved insurmountable. Conard said she was going to give up until she received a phone call from an older man with a light gentle voice. It was Schroeder telling a student he had never met before that he would cover over $80,000 worth of her college costs.

“For a man that would never meet me, to give me basically a full-ride to college, that’s incredible. That doesn’t happen,” Conard said.

Last week, all 33 of Dale’s Kids reunited in Iowa to pay their respects to the man who made their dreams possible. Schroeder’s scholars have gone on to become therapists, doctors, and educators, according to Newsweek, and all are free from creeping student loan debt.

Commenters on social media poured out their support for the man’s generosity and selflessness. While most of the comments were positive, some warned against relying too heavily on philanthropic donations when seeking out solutions to remedy the expensive cost of college.

“What this man did is undoubtedly amazing and needs to be celebrated,” a Twitter user going by the name Rodrigo Pinto wrote. “But that he felt he need to do it, shows that your university system in the US is not accessible to most (thus a failure?). In EU you just need to enroll and maintain yourself but government also helps with that.”

The now-graduated Iowan students will not have to worry about student debt but they are bound to one unbreakable condition. “All we ask is that you pay it forward,” Nielsen told KWWL. “You can remember him, and you can emulate him.”