Tiger pride knows no bounds when it comes to Randy Schroeder, the man who has spent 18 years keeping Northwestern’s marching band on the road.
When he was a student at Northwestern High School, Schroeder worked on a farm, and thought he’d pursue dairy farming as a career. Instead of farming, he now finds himself a professional truck driver with 47 years of experience.
That experience prepared him be the go-to guy for the band, helping load and transport the equipment when the band travels for competitions or games.
Even though he was never part of the band as a student, he still felt compelled to give back in his own way.
“There are a lot of people that donate buildings and all that stuff. This is something little, but it’s big for me and they need me,” he said. “It’s been a fun adventure giving back to the school one way or the other.”
What’s most important to Schroeder is his connection with the band kids he has worked with for nearly two decades.
“I got to take care of them. They call me ‘Pip pop,’ ‘dad,’ it’s kind of cool,” he said. “The kids who now have kids are still calling me ‘mister.’ I say just call me Randy.”
Northwestern Assistant Director of Bands Jon Rodgers looks at Schroeder’s staying power at the school as something that shows his dedication to the band.
“There are kids who went through this program and now they have kids in band and Randy is still here,” he said. “I just think that’s a cool thing that shows his heart.”
Northwestern Director of Bands Jeremy Snyder is thrilled to have someone like Schroeder involved with the program.
“He donates food and water and he and his wife make meals for the kids,” he said. “He does such a good job with the parents. He’s just a fantastic guy to have around.”
Former five-year marching band alumnus Terin Tharp was on hand to help load the trailer as the band prepared for a recent trip to Lucas Oil Stadium. Tharp was glad to have someone as interested in band as Schroeder around.
“He always wanted to support us; he’d always watch the shows and always stick with us until he had to leave,” he said. “He treated the band as if it was his child.”
“Rain, hail or snowstorm he’d still always be there and always get it done,” four-year band member Jordan Tharp said. “It’s incredible. I would not have anyone else to do the job.”
Schroeder enjoys his job as a truck driver because of all the interesting places he’s gone, including 48 states. He has yet to visit Alaska or Hawaii, but both are possibilities in the future.
“I do stuff where a lot of people don’t see what I see,” he said. “I’ve been to the base of the Statue of Liberty, unloaded on the (Indianapolis) 500 race track and unloading in the middle of the Mississippi River when they built a bridge down by St. Louis.”
While trucking can sound like a lonely job, he’s rarely alone. Usually accompanying Schroeder is his pug, Gabby. Schroeder has had four pugs during his trucking career, and prior to Gabby, there was Gilligan, a companion for more than 15 years. He became quite a popular pooch.
“Everybody knew him,” said Schroeder. “To get Christmas cards and packages for my dog in the mail is very unique.”
Schroeder has no plans of leaving his volunteer work with Northwestern anytime soon and jokes he’s “got a 99-year contract” with the band. The band even gave him a special polo shirt with the title “Director of Transportation and Logistics” embroidered on it due to all the work he puts in. He also is looking forward to next year when his grandson will hopefully the Northwestern band.
Snyder is thankful Schroeder is there for the kids and described the experience as almost too good to be true.
“The guy is so willing to work with organizations, help kids and make the experience special for all the kids … he’s got a fantastic heart,” Snyder said.