Three generations of Notre Dame graduates. One final home game together.

Author: Deanna Csomo Ferrell

On a sunny, high-60s-degree day on October 2, 1943, William “Bill” Schroeder’s father packed the family into his 1937 Studebaker and drove them from LaPorte, Indiana, to South Bend to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on Georgia Tech. It was the first time the 11-year-old Schroeder would see his favorite team in person. 

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Eighty years later, Schroeder ’60 B.A., now 91 and slowing down with age, attended his final home game. He cheered on Notre Dame against Ohio State on September 23, 2023, with his son, Douglas “Doug” Schroeder, ’81MS (preprofessional studies) and granddaughter, Margaret “Maggie” Rose ’21MS (Data Science). Other family members with whom he has passed down his passion for the University also attended to celebrate. 

Since his first game, Schroeder has missed only five seasons of attending at least one game. That’s 76 of 81 seasons with a seat in the stadium, through its changes and expansions. And his reasons for missing were sound. For one, Schroeder served in the Finance Corps in the Army for four years before attending Notre Dame on the GI Bill.

“There was 1946 and ‘47, 1953 and ‘54, and I couldn’t get a weekend pass,” Schroeder said. During those seasons, he listened to the games in Germany using a static-filled radio he bought using his military stipend. It was important to him not to miss games, especially when the tradition started long before he was born: His father saw George Gipp play in his final season in 1920 after returning home from World War I.

“Then, in 2020, there was Covid. So those were the only five seasons I couldn’t get to at least one home game,” he said. “It’s been quite a run.”

While at Notre Dame, Schroeder studied accounting in what’s now the Mendoza College of Business, and married his wife Patricia soon after graduation. Doug was born about nine months later, and Schroeder began passing down his love for the University. The loyalty eventually spread to the rest of the family.

“Well, I threatened them,” he said with a wry smile. “It works!”

He encouraged Doug to attend the University—and once Doug was accepted, he didn’t look back, graduating in 1981 after majoring in preprofessional studies. He went on to earn a doctoral degree in optometry from Indiana University.

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Maggie, who is Doug’s daughter, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Southern Methodist University, but decided that earning a master’s in data science would allow her to do more of the engineering work she enjoyed. Of course she applied to Notre Dame’s online Master’s in Data Science program—because as part of Schroeder’s family, how could she not?

Once Schroeder, who retired from White Farm Equipment in 1994 as Chief Financial Officer, found out she had been accepted at Notre Dame, it took less than two seconds for him to offer assistance to pay a portion of the tuition.

“He was so excited to help make this dream come true,” she said.

For Schroeder, the decision was what most would describe as a no-brainer.

“Notre Dame is special; it’s different, you know. Their whole history is different,” he said, describing his love for the University. “There’s a connection between the church and the school, and that was a big part of it when I was growing up.”

He broadcasts his loyalty loud and proud, Maggie described. 

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His garage door boasts a 6-foot-tall leprechaun, and the mascot graces a stained glass window in the house. The doorbell? Yep. The Notre Dame fight song. 

Doug and Maggie traveled from St. Louis to celebrate the Ohio State game with Schroeder, and invited others in the family, whomever could make it. Schroeder’s grandson, Robert Bachman, will attend and said he’s always enjoyed tailgating with his grandfather. Garrulous and friendly, Schroeder collected many friends through the years in their tailgate location near the former Robinson Community Center. 

“When we go tailgating we see all the connections he has and the people that he knows, everyone’s so excited to see him,” Bachman said. “For instance, somebody came up to him at the Georgia game in 2019 and started talking to him about games past, and how he used to act, like maybe he was kind of a partier!

“He had this whole life before me, and I’m just kind of seeing the tail end, unfortunately,” he continued. “But I can learn about it because his memory is next to none—he can recall statistics and facts from almost any game he’s gone to years prior.” 

Schroeder’s favorite part of attending his final game in Notre Dame Stadium, however, isn’t about how well the team played, with Ohio State eking out the win only in the final seconds (not exactly like Notre Dame’s blowout 55-13 win to Georgia Tech in 1943).

It’s family. 

“It’s the family connection; it brings more camaraderie,” he said. “You know, I’m 91 years old. I don’t like to think about the coming days, but I’m in good health, and I want to enjoy what I can.”