Published May 1, 2014
Thomas L. Schroeder, associate professor emeritus in the Graduate School of Education, died suddenly April 23 at Gates Vascular Institute, Buffalo.
He is remembered by friends, colleagues and students as a first-rate educator; a hard-working colleague, researcher and author; a gourmet cook; a deeply involved churchman; and a man who cared dearly about disadvantaged communities.
“Tom was one of the most sincere, gracious and reflective individuals I have ever met,” said UB colleague Deborah Moore-Russo. “A true gentleman who loved to learn — that love only being eclipsed by his love of singing, his love of people in general, his love of family and his love of God. He was a remarkable individual who’ll be missed by many for his role in their lives as colleague, friend and mentor.”
Her sentiments were echoed online by many of his students and colleagues.
Schroeder joined the UB faculty in 1993, teaching mathematics education and courses in statistical analysis in the Department of Learning and Instruction, from which he retired in 2012. He served as department chair from 2000-05, during which time he led the department through the re-registration of graduate teacher education certification programs, a multi-year process required of all New York State institutions of higher learning.
Schroeder graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and spent five years as a member of the Peace Corps, teaching math in Barbados and Dominica. He remained lifelong friends with the British math educators with whom he worked in the West Indies.
He received his PhD from the University of Indiana in 1983, served on the faculty of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Calgary from 1980-88 — with a six-month sabbatical at Simon Frazer University — and as an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Science Education at the University of British Columbia from 1988-93.
He and his wife, Susan, raised their two sons for 14 years in Western Canada and were considering a move back to the region at the time of his death.
One of the highlights of Schroeder’s academic career was his membership in the working group that produced “Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics” (1991), one of three curriculum, teaching and evaluation standards produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics between 1989 and 1995, which was highly praised by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.
He was the author of many academic articles in peer-reviewed journals during his career and in 2007, co-authored two books on methods of critical thinking in texts for middle and high school students.
Former student Beth Walker calls him “an outstanding teacher and a thinker who constantly thought outside the box. We only got a glimpse of all he had to offer. My fondest memories are teaching the rational numbers class with him and playing around with Farey Sums, fractional sequences and bicimals, making water parabolas during the virtual reality class and my pleasure at seeing him one last time walking down the hallway of Baldy (Hall, UB) with his new black pup when I thought he was in the Canadian northwest. I will miss him terribly.”
Schroeder was an avid cyclist and cook, as well as a consummate sailor. He grew up boating with his family on Atwood Lake, one of the lakes of Ohio’s Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. While at Princeton, he built and sailed a thistle-class high-performance racing dinghy and continued sailing in the West Indies during the Peace Corps and with his young family on lakes in the Canadian Rockies, in the Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver and later, on Lake Erie.
He was an active member of the UB faculty/professional staff union, United University Professions, which he served as a UUP department representative for many years, and at the time of his death was chair of the Board of Directors of the Morton R. Lane Federal Credit Union, a position he had held for several years.
As a boy, Schroeder sang in the choir of his Episcopal church in Akron, Ohio, and his love of music and the church continued into adulthood. As a member of Calvary Episcopal Church, Williamsville, he served as a lector, a member of the vestry and longtime member of the choir. He also co-chaired Calvary’s membership committee with his wife, a retired member of the faculty of Buffalo State College Department of English Education, and served as a member of the church’s minister of music search committee.
His family calls him “a tinkerer and problem-solver with a tool for every occasion,” who most recently had put those skills to work as a volunteer handyman for the Northtowns satellite of the Erie County Family Justice Center, which offers safe haven to victims of domestic violence.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. May 10 in Calvary Episcopal Church, 20 Milton St., Williamsville. In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to consider a donation to a fund close to Schroeder’s heart, Great Music at Calvary Church. Checks should be made out to Calvary Church, in memory of Tom Schroeder.