Schroeder endowment aims to improve lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia

FARGO, N.D., — Donna Jean (DJ) Schroeder (Nellermoe), ’49, lived an active life. She loved spending time at the lake, gardening, playing cards and photography. She was a CEO, a coach, and directed plays through Bird Cage Theatre in Davenport, North Dakota. When she faced the challenges of dementia later in life, that desire to be active didn’t go away. In fact, she won the beanbag toss at a retirement and memory care facility in Fargo, North Dakota, the day before she died in March 2017.

DJ’s active lifestyle inspired her late-husband, Darrol Schroeder, ’52, and daughter, Terry Scherling, ’77, to establish an endowment, Improving the Quality of Life for Persons with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, through the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association. This endowment provides funding for NDSU student and faculty research in a variety of areas directed toward immediately bettering the lives of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

We have a real opportunity to help people who are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia today,” Sherling said. “We realize there are many organizations working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and demential. My father chose to target the endowment to this particular area

of improving quality of life because he felt it was something that could be done today to help people living with the disease, and, actually, by helping the people living with the disease, they’d actually be helping the caretaker as well.”

While establishing the endowment, Scherling and Darrol Schroeder wanted to direct research to two areas: nutrition and activities.

“As we learned about the disease, we learned that some individuals don’t remember to eat; other individuals don’t know when to stop eating. Some individuals require assistance in cutting their meat,” Scherling explained. “We looked at the fact that many of the folks were gaining weight; perhaps it would be helpful to take a look at the calorie requirements based on activity level — maybe the activity level could increase, maybe the calories could be better targeted to help them nutritionally.”

The Schroeders met while attending NDSU and were longtime supporters of the university and the Fargo community. DJ, an economics major, pioneered the Fargo publication, The Town Crier, and was CEO of Carlson Travel Agency. Darrol graduated with a degree in animal husbandry. After retiring from the Air Force, the major general returned to Davenport, North Dakota, to farm and start a crop dusting business. He served as co-chair of the Fargo AirSho for more than 20 years and was a founding member of the Fargo Air Museum. Both served as trustees for the NDSU Foundation. DJ received the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association Heritage Award in 2001. Darrol received the NDSU Foundation Alumni Achievement Award in 1991 and an honorary doctorate from NDSU in 2008.

Together, the Schroeders established an endowment with the NDSU Foundation to support student scholarships in the early 2000s. Through conversations with Margaret Fitzgerald, Dean of the College of Human Sciences and Education at NDSU, Scherling and Darrol Schroeder were able to redirect that endowment toward the new endowment. Scherling said she and her dad were inspired to fund research when they noticed a decline in planned activities for residents on weekends.

There are so many things that students could help with on the weekend — taking people for a walk, for example. Margaret even talked about working with people in horticulture (at NDSU) to look at starting some gardening activities,” Scherling said.

The Improving the Quality of Life for Persons with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease endowment-based research will start in the Fargo-Moorhead area, but the results could be more far-reaching. Scherling said she expects qualification for the funding to be tied to a report or presentation of the results so that the most people will benefit from the findings.

“We’re thrilled about NDSU taking this project and running with it,” Scherling said, “and look forward to seeing how the quality of life for people with this disease can be improved today.”

The Fargo AirSho will honor its co-founder Darrol Schroeder, who passed away March 3, 2019, at this year’s event July 20 and 21 at the Hector International Airport.


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