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Gift of Giving: Daughter Inspires Single-Parent Scholarship

katie with kids

Katie Roemer and children Lauren, Justin and Zackery

July 2014

As a senior at Davenport West High School, Katie Roemer dreamt of helping others interpret their dreams.

"I was going to graduate from high school and go to the University of Northern Iowa," she remembered. "I wanted to major in psychology and talk to people about their dreams."

Too soon, she learned that not all dreams come true.

"I ran into life," she said. "I hooked up with the wrong guy right away, and started that evil cycle of domestic violence and control. I was pregnant at 20 and my twins were born the day after I turned 21. And that was kind of it. I didn't have the opportunity to go back to school for a while."

Fast forward to a happy ending. In 2007, Roemer found that some dreams are merely delayed when she earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree through the St. Ambrose ACCEL adult-learning program.

Now, a happily married mother of four who is working two jobs while pursuing her Master of Organizational Leadership degree at SAU, Katie Roemer stands as a shining example of life-long learning. She also is a role model for perseverance in the face of potential despair.

In time, she will serve as the inspiration for an endowed scholarship that will help future single parents earn degrees at St. Ambrose.

Roemer learned only recently of arrangements made by her mother and stepfather, Diane and Jim Tiedje, eventually to endow the scholarship through their estate. Although she knew her parents were proud, Roemer said the planned endowment serves to validate the determination she showed in pursuit of a college education.

"Determined is a good word," Diane Tiedje said of Katie, her youngest of two daughters. "I think she is a really good example of taking a situation that usually brings you down and keeps you down for a long time and not letting that happen."

Indeed, the life that Katie Roemer "ran into" after high school easily could have led to a lifetime of poverty and dependence. Early on, she and her twins lived for eight months in shelter housing for struggling single parents. She later lived in subsidized housing for several years, and lost one low-paying job when she was forced to miss work, instead going to court to preserve a restraining order against an abusive ex-boyfriend.

Two things Katie never lost sight of were her desire for a college education and the chance to provide more for her children. After starting in a two-year degree program, she turned to St. Ambrose to finish. It is where Walter Roemer, the father she lost to cancer at age 11, had earned his bachelor's degree in 1973. It also is where Jim Tiedje, who became her new father when she was 14, first attended college.

Ultimately, Katie found the ACCEL program worked best for her, partly because that's where she found fellow learners with life experience.

Roemer intends to continue learning, with a goal of becoming a teacher herself. "That is my true passion - getting people educated," she said. "And to do that, I have to keep educating myself."

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