Remembering Nathan

Editor’s Note: This story mentions suicide in relation to a student’s death and may be triggering for some readers. Resources are listed below.


Photo from The Hawk Eye

by Zoe Seiler, News Editor

Nathan Schroeder was a freshman student at Simpson College studying to become a neurosurgeon. Those who knew Nathan describe him as kind, intelligent and thoughtful.

Nathan died on Sept. 23 in his hometown of West Burlington, Iowa.  

President Jay Simmons emailed all of campus on Sept. 24 notifying campus of his death by apparent suicide.

Nathan worked as a lifeguard during summers at the West Burlington pool. Junior Claire Tillotson worked with him and said one of her favorite memories was working with Nathan

“I worked with over the summer at the pool, and he would carry around “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks and he would read that on his breaks. We were just like, ‘What are you doing Nathan? This is such a girly thing.’ But he was super romantic, and he loved really all kinds of literature,” Tillotson said.

He enjoyed hanging out with friends, taking walks in parks and working out. He was passionate about tattoos, flowers, animals and clothing, according to his obituary in The Hawk Eye, the West Burlington newspaper.

Senior Sherwin Lacsa went to high school with Nathan and his older brother. He remembers Schroeder as a quiet person who was caring, compassionate and funny once people got to know him.

“Whenever I was with his brother and then Nathan would come around, it would always be a moment to remember. I wouldn’t forget it,” Lacsa said.

Nathan’s classmates and professors noticed his intelligence upon meeting him.

“I remember I met with him on Thursday (Sept. 20) evening about his paper, and just the way he laid things out in his paper was interesting,” said his Writing Fellow, Traci Francis. “He was just a very smart individual and had some special things to say. I remember there was a word in his paper that I didn’t know the meaning of and didn’t know how to pronounce it. I asked him how to pronounce it, and he told me. I just thought that was cool. I learned a word from him.”

Nathan went through fraternity recruitment and accepted a bid from Lambda Chi Alpha. He announced his decision on Walk Night, the time where all prospective new members walk or run to join the members of the house they choose to join.

“My favorite memory would probably be of him on Walk Night. I wasn’t expecting him to come out and join us. Seeing him in high school, he didn’t smile too much, so whenever I saw him on Walk Night and seeing him all happy for once was a different side. I was ready to welcome him to college and to our brotherhood,” Lacsa said.

Lacsa reflected on the time before Nathan joined the fraternity. He reached out to Nathan’s older brother for his opinion and knew that he would need a good brotherhood to join.

“The last words I told Gradin, his older brother, were, ‘I’ll take care of him.’ That’s been tearing me apart these last few days. He’s left a big impact on my life, that’s for sure,” Lacsa said.

Nathan was enrolled in the Simpson Colloquium class “Love as Strong as Death,” taught by associate professor of religion Maeve Callan. She described a daily assignment her class does where they write short responses to class readings.

“Nathan’s (thoughts) were the most perceptive. He was able to make so many connections between different levels of the text and things outside of the text. He just really engaged beautifully with the text and expressed himself so, so well,” Callan said.

He was quiet in class but offered intelligent insights through his writing, Callan and Francis said.

“I told him by email and also in person how much I appreciated his insights and encouraged him to share them with the rest of the class, as we all would be richer for it,” Callan said. “When I told him in person, he lit up with such delight and gratitude for the praise. He had the biggest smile and the brightest blue eyes, and he genuinely glowed with happiness at having his intelligence appreciated. I am so grateful that I was able to share that pure joy with him.”

A candlelight vigil was held on Tuesday, Sept. 25, in Smith Chapel. Many students and members of Nathan’s family attended, including his older brother. Callan attended the vigil with her SC class and was able to talk to Nathan’s family.

Callan said when she first heard his older brother speak, it reminded her of Nathan’s own voice and “was like hearing Nathan one more time.”

“To be able to share this time to remember Nathan with Gradin, that meant a lot because you know he knew Nathan,” Callan added. “He was there so we could remember Nathan together.”

Nathan left a positive impact on those he interacted with at Simpson. He cared about his friends and family and had an interest in the futures of others, Lacsa said.

“I know he wants to be remembered by everyone knowing that they should live life to the fullest. That’s what he wanted people to do,” Tillotson said.

Nathan’s death may bring up topics such as suicide prevention and mental health to the campus as the community mourns his loss. However, Callan does not want Nathan’s death to overshadow the interactions he had in life.

“You don’t have to have known him to be deeply impacted, but those of us who do know him are especially impacted because it’s not just about all these other things. It’s about this person who was bright and clever and witty and kind and thoughtful, who took his own life,” Callan said.

If anyone who is in need of support or would like to talk can contact Simpson Counseling Services at 515-961-1332, [email protected], College Chaplain Mara Bailey, 515-961-1684, [email protected], or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.

 Services for Nathan will be held on Thursday, Oct. 4 at the Prugh-Thielen Funeral Home in West Burlington, Iowa. The visitation will be held from 3-5 p.m. Mara Bailey will officiate the funeral following the visitation.