Schroeder spent 34 years at Mayer Lutheran as a teacher, principal, superintendant and coach. He came to LHS in 1963, when the school was just a few years old, as a German, English and Social Studies teacher. He was appointed principal in 1968, and in 1977, he became the school’s superintendent. He retired in 1997.
“You can’t talk about the history of Mayer Lutheran without talking about Erlen Schroeder,” current LHS Executive Director Joel Landskroener said Monday morning, a few hours before Schroeder’s funeral was held in the school’s Fine Arts Center.
Landskroener, who took over as Mayer Lutheran’s director seven years ago, said he became close to Schroder during his first several years on the job. Landskroner said he enjoyed hearing Schroeder’s stories about Mayer Lutheran’s past, and that Schroder was pivotal in helping him settle into the job, whether that was introducing him to important people, offering advice, or perhaps most importantly, offering reassurance.
“In the seven years I’ve been here, he was nothing but an advocate and an encourager,” Landskroner said. “He was always one of those guys to say, ‘you’re doing a good job; keep it up,’ which was always very reassuring to me. He put all his blood, sweat and tears into this school, and I didn’t want to blow it.”
Indeed, Schroeder is widely credited with building Mayer Lutheran into one of the state’s most successful Lutheran schools. When he came to Mayer Lutheran in 1963, the school was in dire financial straights. By the time he left in 1997, it was one of the most financially stable in the state. According to a Carver County News story at the time of his retirement, the school had net assets of more than $5 million in 1995. In 1964, around the time Schroeder arrived, the school had a net worth of minus-$2,119.
Schroder’s biggest achievements at Mayer Lutheran were focused on his fundraising ability. Landskroener said Schroeder set the tone not just for Mayer Lutheran’s future, but other private schools as well.
“He was ahead of his time in a number of things in leading the school,” Landskroner said. “One of them was fundraising. Back in the day, he talked to people about putting us in their estate plans and things like that. He had a way of doing that in a very natural way, and that’s a blessing. Years later, lots of other private schools figured that out, but he was already doing that.”
Schroeder’s fundraising skills also helped the school develop a student aid endowment fund, allowing more students to have an opportunity for a Christian education.
“We have a nice endowment fund for student aid, and a lot of that is because Erlen was able to work with donors, raise money and keep Mayer Lutheran in business,” Landskroener said. “At that time, you really had to be savvy and sharp to keep a rural Lutheran high school going, and Erlen was the man.”
Schroeder came to LHS as a teacher in 1963, and he also coached baseball. In 1968, Schroeder was appointed as the interim principal for the year, and he was given the job full time on May 4, 1969.
Schroeder was later promoted to superintendent when the school went to a dual administration in 1977. Schroeder was given the task of financial development and student recruitment, both areas that thrived under his leadership.
Born in Watertown, Schroeder grew up in the Norwood Young America and New Germany areas. His teaching career started at St. John’s Lutheran School in Hollywood Township in 1955-56. He then got his teaching degree from Concordia Teachers College in Seward, Neb., before accepting a job at a Lutheran school in Lansing, Mich., in 1957. He taught there until coming home to take the teaching job at Mayer Lutheran in 1963.
Even after becoming principal and superintendent, Schroeder was active in the classroom in some capacity right up until his final years at the school. Even after he retired, Schroeder eventually returned to education, spending four years as the principal at St. John’s Lutheran School in Norwood Young America, retiring in 2011 because of his health.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]