After working for 67 years at the same business and living a frugal life, a carpenter has paid for 33 strangers to go to university since his 2005 death.
Dale Schroeder reportedly owned two pairs of jeans and a rusty Chevrolet truck, but quietly amassed US$3 million in savings. He set up a fund for students in his US state of Iowa who could not afford tuition.
Now, after 14 years, those funds have finally run out.
Mr Schroeder grew up poor and was never able to go to college, according to KCCI.
The carpenter never married or had children, so shortly before his death he approached his friend and lawyer Steve Nielsen to discuss what to do with his life savings.
“He wanted to help kids that were like him that probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to go to college but for his gift,” Mr Nielsen told the station.
‘Dale’s Kids’ promise to pay it forward
"I said, 'How much are we talking about, Dale?' And he said, 'Oh, just shy of US$3 million.' I nearly fell out of my chair."
Most of that money went into Mr Schroeder's scholarship fund, which helped future teachers, doctors and therapists fulfil their dreams of continuing to higher education.
Now that it’s run out, the 33 beneficiaries, who refer to themselves as Dale's Kids, have promised to pay it forward — which was the one caveat of accepting the scholarship.
"All we ask is that you pay it forward," Nielsen said. "You can't pay it back, because Dale's gone. But you can remember him and you can emulate him."
On Saturday, Dale's Kids gathered around Mr Schroeder's old lunchbox to talk about how he changed their lives, despite having never known them. One was Kira Conard.
"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," Ms Conrad told the station.
"[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’."
Ms Conrad, who had hoped to attend school to become a therapist, was planning on telling her friends and family that she would not be able to afford college at her high school graduation party.
However, before making the announcement, Ms Conrad received a phone call from Mr Nielsen informing her that her $80,000 tuition would be covered thanks to Mr Schroeder.
"I broke down into tears immediately," Ms Conrad 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."
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