Father Karl G. Schroeder, professor of English 1938-1994, was a strong supporter of libraries and was an avid collector of books, having developed an impressive personal collection, especially on Shakespeare, St. Thomas More, T.S. Eliot, Eric Gill, Virginia Woolf, and others. Many of the volumes were purchased in England where he travelled frequently (for many years with Fr. Kenneth Downing) on annual book buying adventures.
Upon his death in 1999, this outstanding library was generously bequeathed to the Loras College Library where it now resides in the Special Collections Room. Book donations made during his lifetime and the final bequest of his personal collection led to the designation of the room as The Rev. Karl G. Schroeder Special Collections Room.
The Schroeder Collection includes first editions of the works of St. Thomas More; the early William Shakespeare publications; novels by Charles Dickens in the original parts; first editions of Sir Walter Scott, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Graham Greene, and others; and the engraved printed works of Eric Gill.
Rev. Karl George Schroeder, or King Karl as he was affectionally known by students and co-workers, was a born and bred Dubuquer who served Loras College for 56 years and the Archdiocese for 65 years.
Fr. Schroeder was born on April 24, 1910, in Dubuque to George W. and Bertha (Fischer) Schroeder, who ran a successful produce market in town. He attended a Jesuit boarding school, Campion Academy, in Prairie du Chien, WI for secondary education. After graduation, he returned to Dubuque to attend Loras College, where he received a B.A. in 1930. To complete his theological training, he studied theology at Louvain University in Belgium, and was ordained there on July 7, 1934, by Bishop Paulines Ladenze.
After his ordination, he returned to Dubuque and served as the associate pastor at St. Mary’s, Dubuque, from 1934-36. Realizing he would better serve the community as a teacher, he took graduate study at Oxford University in England, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master’s degree.
When he returned to Dubuque he was assigned to the English Department at Loras College where he served for 56 years before retiring in 1994. During his tenure at Loras, he took delight in teaching History of English Language and Literature, a two-semester class most students delighted in abbreviating to HELL. Fr. Schroeder returned the favor by praying the rosary over students taking his tests and final exams. While his classes could be tough, he did want everyone to succeed, to the point where he would send students in class out to gather students who were missing from class.
In addition to teaching in the English Department, he was also named Director of Dramatics in 1939, a position he held for 30 years. During his tenure he collaborated with Eugene Loring, the Oscar winning choreographer of An American in Paris to stage the first full-scale musical at Loras, Finian’s Rainbow. During the musical, the Loring Dancers made a special appearance.
He was also a well-respected colleague, despite a habit of giving everyone (including students) a nickname. On Friday afternoons, he would host a bourbon gathering with select faculty and it was always an honor to be invited. His competitive friendship with Fr. Downing eventually led to the founding of the Special Collections room at Loras as they transferred the gems from their book-buying sprees to the Library.
When Fr. Schroeder retired in 1994 he was named professor emeritus. In 1991, Fr. Schroeder received the Loras College Distinguished Alumni Award for service provided as a faculty, staff, and administration member.
Mike Gibson shared the following memory that illustrates Fr. Schroeder’s love for books:
A few years before his death in 1999, at the age of 89, he began having sight problems. I vividly recall a program sponsored by the Friends of the Library held in the old Wahlert Memorial Library. Images of some of the rare books in the collection were being shown on a projector screen. Fr. Schroeder would ask what book was being shown on the screen as he could not see the image. Once he was told the title of the book, he proceeded to describe it in very intimate and exacting detail. While his eyes were dim, his memory of each book was crystal clear.