(Meredith/KCCI/CNN) - An Iowa carpenter is responsible for sending dozens of people to college, though he never got the chance to meet any of them.
Dale Schroeder lived a simple life. He grew up poor, never married and worked as a carpenter for 67 years at the same Des Moines business.
“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,” said Schroeder's attorney, Steve Nielsen.
Before he died in 2005, Schroeder wanted to use his life savings to help underprivileged kids in his state go to college.
"I said, 'How much are we talking about Dale?' He said, 'Oh just shy of $3 million.' And I nearly fell out of my chair,” Nielsen recalled.
Over the past 14 years, Schroeder's generosity has changed the lives of 33 Iowans, including Kira Conard. Just four years ago, she 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 said. "[It] almost made me feel powerless."
Then, she received a call from Nielsen, who said her $80,000 tuition bill would be covered by Schroeder's scholarship.
"I broke down into tears immediately," 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."
Last Saturday, Conard and the other 32 kids Schroeder put through college gathered around his old lunch box to honor his legacy.
They graduated without any college debt, but there's just one catch.
"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."
After paying the full $80,000 college tab for Kira, Schroeder's account finally ran out of money. According to his obituary, he died having no descendants.