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Scholarship Established in Memory of Donor's Brother, Brother's Dog

RELEASED: June 10, 2009

Patches the dog
Patches, beloved dog of Tom Schroder, the deceased brother of UW-Eau Claire alumnus Rick Schroder, is the namesake of a UW-Eau Claire Foundation scholarship for nontraditional students.

EAU CLAIRE — A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire English major from Stanley is the first recipient of the Patches Scholarship, established by UW-Eau Claire alumnus Rick Schroder in memory of his brother, Tom Schroder, and Tom's beloved dog, Patches.

The scholarship, funded by a gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, is for a nontraditional student with financial need. The recipient of the scholarship, Joel Erickson, is a single parent studying to be a high school English teacher.

Tom Schroder's life and Erickson's life parallel each other in many ways. They both loved dogs: Schroder had Patches, a springer spaniel mix, and Erickson has three springer spaniels. Both men loved athletics: Schroder was awarded 12 athletic letters during his four years at Altoona High School, and Joel is a football coach. The two also were dedicated to helping people: Schroder was a teacher early in his career and eventually became a family therapist, and Erickson is studying to be a teacher.

Then there's a difference: Schroder's life was cut short by ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2007.

Tom Schroder wanted the scholarship to be for nontraditional students who required financial assistance to continue in school, Rick Schroder said, noting that his brother realized the difficulties of going to school while maintaining one's finances because of his own experience in working and going to school for his doctorate in family therapy. His brother always compared his education to a ladder, Rick Schroder said, because it required taking one step at a time in the educational process.

For Erickson, the Patches Scholarship is more than just an economic boost.

"It is expensive to afford school as a single parent, but receiving the award was more than just financial help," Erickson said. "It was a real jolt that kept me going when I was discouraged."

Erickson compared going to school, working and managing a family to remodeling a house.

"You start it and then in the middle of it you feel like it will never get done and you question if it's worth doing," he said. "I was at that point when I got this award, and it really helped me justify to myself what I was doing and got me out of a funk I was experiencing. As a result, this was my best semester yet."

-30-

KH/JP

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