Inspiring the next generation of educators

Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 10:55

The Eugene H. and Joye C. Schutte Family Fund is less than a year old, but it's a lifetime in the making. Both Schuttes earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in education at schools in the Upper Midwest. Both Eugene and Joye's first jobs as newly minted teachers were in the White Bear Lake Area Schools system, where they met and fell in love. Now, after giving 34 years to public education and the White Bear Lake community, the Schuttes have decided to leave a legacy that's a direct extension of their lives.

"I felt a lot of loyalty and gratitude to where I went to college," Eugene says. "When we set up the fund, I wanted to both help a student and help my alma mater."

This thinking led to the creation of an academic scholarship fund that mirrors the experiences of its founders. The Eugene H. and Joye C. Schutte Family Fund awards two $2,000 scholarships annually to two White Bear Lake high school students, with two important stipulations. One student must be on their way to the University of Wisconsin (River Falls), which is where Eugene received both his undergraduate and master’s degree. The other must be attending Mankato State University, which is Joye's alma mater. Both students must plan to pursue a degree in education, but beyond that the Schuttes are open.

"We don't want to limit them," Joye says. "Anyone interested in education is general is welcome to apply."

This openness also reflects the Schuttes, who both went into education with various interests but no concrete career goals. Joye received her Master’s in Education in remedial reading from Bemidji State University. She taught fifth grade, was part of a team that taught multiple primary school grades, and then finally settled on first grade with an emphasis on teaching independent reading skills. Meanwhile Eugene started out wanting to be a high school history teacher, but eventually discovered that fourth and fifth grade were where he could do the most good.

"Kids have to master reading and math before they can move on," Eugene says. "I'm happy I could help them lay the foundation for high school and college."

The Eugene H. and Joye C. Schutte Family Fund is administered by the White Bear Lake Area Education Foundation (WBLAEF), which is an organization that the Schuttes already knew well. Whenever a co-worker passed away Eugene and Joye would donate in their honor to their colleague's memorial fund. When it was time for the Schuttes to set up their own fund their Thrivent advisor recommended setting up a meeting with the WBLAEF. Eugene remembers their advisor saying, "Do more with the people you know."

This spring the Schutte Family Fund will make its first awards. Despite the personal nature of the fund's requirements, the Schuttes won't be involved in the selection process. "I want someone else picking, not me," Joye says. "We trust that the teachers on the committee know the students best." Eugene says they're comfortable being at the awards ceremony, but that it's not their place to push the award recipients in any particular career direction. When asked what he'd like the recipients to do with their degrees he replies, "I would hope they have a successful career in education as Joye and I did."

The Schutte Family Fund is a reflection of Eugene and Joye’s strong commitment to public education and belief that public school teachers serve all people who come to them for an education.