A scholarship fund set up by St. Francis Xavier graduate Nic Goeres not only helps Beckman Catholic graduates attending the University of Iowa, but also serves as a vehicle for them to remain active in their Catholic faith.
Now retired from a business career that saw Goeres work with several successful companies, with many years in corporate banking, along the way he recognized the need to give to others.
“I used to call it luck and wonder how lucky can I be. But I recognized these things came about by the grace of God — the fact we were able to attend the Catholic schools in Dyersville. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the values as well as the education we got there helped me form my life growing up.”
Goeres had a lot of jobs as he went to school at St. Francis Xavier in Dyersville. First as a grade school student, and then at Xavier High School, where he graduated in 1960, working to help pay the tuition at the Catholic School was just something he and his brothers did. He worked for the Dyersville Commercial and at the local drug store. At Iowa, he was editor of The Daily Iowan.
He began with anonymous donations to help defray tuition costs for families of Xavier students. “I went to work with a small startup company and received a huge signing bonus and commission. At that point, I was ready to start supporting some scholarships and began with the grade school. I would get the names of families that had several kids in school and I would send money each year to help those kids through.”
Goeres was contacted by the Center for Advancement at the University of Iowa. Remembering the support he received at the university, where he graduated with degrees in journalism and business, he said he was already thinking of how he could offer support for the university.
The Rev. Ed Fitzpatrick was at the Newman Catholic Student Center. He and a representative from the Center for Advancement met with Goeres to set up a foundation. What came out of the meeting was a scholarship for Beckman Catholic graduates who attend Iowa and are involved in programming at the Newman Center.
“I said I wanted these kids who get the scholarship to participate in one of the many, many programs offered at the Newman Center. That’s how we structured it. The funds go to the Center for Advancement and the Newman Center runs the program. I thought it was guidance from God to be directed to Father Ed. It didn’t require a lot of thought. Here was our mission and here’s what we were looking to do.”
Goeres said he remembers his faith being tested while he was a student at Iowa. “Almost all the philosophers are either agnostic or atheist or both, so you can get challenged in your faith. I’m not criticizing Iowa for that, but that was my first experience with noticing how my faith was tested when I got out of the environment of Dyersville.”
To date, 65 scholarships have been awarded from his Newman Center scholarship. He said that when he dies, he has dedicated $1 million to the Newman Center scholarships.
Goeres was initially reluctant to identify himself as the donor. But his brother, who was an administrator at the University of West Virginia, changed his mind. “He told me students that got scholarships out there liked to know who it’s from and why they are doing it. The Center for Advancement also said it was a good idea, that perhaps someday those students would then consider doing the same thing at some point after they graduate.”
He added, “I’ve received some very nice thank you notes from a number of recipients, many of them confirming they were glad to know who was behind it and why.”
He said he speaks with the recipients, encouraging them to pay it forward someday if they are able.
“This is something I used to think of as a kid,” he said. “I wished someone could have helped me with my tuition. Gratitude is really the bottom line for all of this. And the motivation for this of course, if to keep people from creeping away from their faith as their lives becomes more complicated. That happened to me in my career. My faith got weak once in a while. Fortunately, I would get a reminder that ‘hey, you are straying buddy, get back on the mission.’ That’s really what I want to see these kids do by participating at the Newman Center. I want them to reinforce their faith, to strengthen it for what lies ahead.”