Honoring his family . . . and students
Joe Schultz has never forgotten the scholarship that helped him get through his senior year as a civil engineering student, husband and father of two children at the University of Minnesota. And even though he's not an alumnus, Schultz has chosen to remember his good fortune by establishing several scholarships to support students at his adopted alma mater, Winona State University.
In the 1950s, Schultz's scholarship took him a long way. "Back then, 80 cents an hour was a good wage, so my $300 scholarship paid for a year's tuition and some of my books. I got my degree without any debt, and also without any money!" said Schultz.
Tuition and books cost a little more these days, but that hasn't stopped Schultz from setting up two substantial scholarships at Winona State. Initially, he created the Lois Olson Schultz Memorial Scholarship to honor his wife, who was a nurse at Winona Manor. The scholarship covers tuition, fees and books annually for two eligible nursing students.
Schultz knew he wanted to support Winona State students when two nursing majors, Patty Haggerty and Mary Bronk, cared for his wife at Winona Community Memorial Hospital and Winona Area Hospice Services. "They helped me care for Lois in her final days," Schultz said. "I was aware that they received scholarship money while getting their degrees because they had worked with Lois at Winona Manor."
Later he added a scholarship in memory of his son, Thomas Wayne Schultz, who graduated from the environmental biology program at Winona State. Schultz appreciated Thomas' close relationship with Cal Fremling, professor emeritus of biology. The Schultz scholarship is awarded annually to an environmental biology student.
In addition to scholarships honoring his wife and son, Schultz supports the Dixie Midnight Runners, WSU's Dixieland jazz ensemble, simply because he "loves the music of that era."
Schultz firmly believes that Winona State graduates make a difference. He says the nurses who cared for his wife were compassionate and considerate of his grief. He admits that "they still look out for me," and looks forward to having dinner with them and their husbands each month.
He recognizes the commitment of current WSU students in other ways, too. In addition to his scholarship work, Schultz reads to a first grade class every week at Rollingstone School, where he sees Winona State education majors at work. He thinks that WSU students are involved in the community and their home towns.
It's a quality he considers in awarding his scholarships. "I look for students who are motivated to improve themselves and the world, are hard-working and dedicated; I believe students with those qualities make good citizens."
Debra Dokken and Julie Holt are the current recipients of the Lois Olson Schultz Memorial Scholarship. "It was so encouraging to receive the scholarship and feel that someone took an interest in my past and future," explained Dokken.
Dokken believes she has received more than financial assistance from the Schultz scholarship. She hopes to support her patients and the community, much like the nurses did who inspired Schultz to create the award. "I'd like to thank the two public health nurses that inspired everything. This started with their incredible service to one family, but their dedication left a deep impression on all of us that have received this scholarship, met Mr. Schultz, and heard his story."
Schultz enjoys meeting scholarship recipients and takes pleasure in seeing them succeed. He attended Dokken's graduation pinning ceremony in May. "I wanted to give now so I could help others like my wife, Lois. She was a kind, considerate and loving person who cared for her patients, and I wanted to continue her legacy. Life is too short to save that joy for later."
Students like Dokken provide affirmation for Schultz, who says he hopes that the students he supports will pass on the opportunities they receive. "I didn't think that I could get a scholarship when I was a student, but my teacher recommended me and told me to apply," he remembers. "I hope my support will give similar opportunities to current students, who in turn will support the next generation of citizens."
When asked what his hopes are for his own legacy, Schultz confided, "I've known many impressive people. I just hope to be like them. After all, if I had to give someone advice for living, I'd have to claim the Golden Rule."
Treat others as you want to be treated. Coming from Joe Schultz, that sounds like good advice, from someone who has lived it.