Fred Schroeder, the youngest member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, was born in 1957 in Lima, Peru. His parents decided that he and his brother (six years older) would have beer opportunities growing up in the United States, so they took steps to make it happen. By the time he was two, Fred had been adopted by Florence Schroeder of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
When he was seven, Schroeder developed an obscure little-known disorder known as Stephens-Johnson's Syndrome, which caused a gradual deterioration of eyesight and other serious physical problems. By the time he was sixteen, he was totally blind.
In order to do his school work during junior high and high school, he used a combination of taped materials, live readers and simply not doing homework. He was able to take extra courses during these years and still maintain above-average grades. In spite of worsening eyesight, he resisted the idea of learning to read and write Braille By the time he was a senior in high school, however, he had changed his mind and taught himself to read and write it. He used Braille constantly throughout college.
Schroeder received a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1977 from San Francisco State University. In 1978 he earned a master's in elementary education and qualified for a California teaching certificate. He had then just turned twenty-one.
By 1977 Fred Schroeder had attended several conventions of the National Federation of the Blind of California, and in that year he was elected president of the Student Division in that state. He attended his first national conventions in Baltimore during July of 1978. While there, he was offered a job as instructor at the Orentation and Adjustment Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Initially Schroeder turned the job down, preferring to teach children. By the time he received his master's in August, however, he had decided to take the job and move to Nebraska, where he worked for two years. During this time he met Cathlene Nusser, a leader in the N.F.B. of Nebraska, and the two were married in January of 1981.
Also during these Nebraska years, Schroeder took course work at San Francisco State University to strengthen his credentials as an instructor in orientation and mobility.
In September of 1980 Schroeder moved back to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he became an itinerant teacher of blind children for the Albuquerque Public Schools. He worked for a year in this job before being promoted to the position of Coordinator of Low-Incidence Programs for the Albuquerque Public School System, a job he held with distinction for five years.
In 1986 he was appointed director of the newly-established New Mexico Commission for the Blind. In that position he has earned a nationwide reputation as one of the most dynamic and innovative administrators in the field of work with the blind. Schroeder has completed course work for a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of New Mexico. He is currently writing his dissertation on teacher evaluation.
Schroeder has served his community and state in a number of positions. He was a member of the Braille Authority of North America from 1982 to 1986 and served as Vice Chairman during part of that time. He served on the governing board of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf in New Mexico beginning in 1984. Schroeder represented the Braille Authority of North America and the National Federation of the Blind at the International Conference on English Literary Braille in London, England, in 1988. Since 1987 he has served on the New Mexico Governor's Committee on Concerns of the Handicapped.
In 1980 Schroeder was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico and in 1982 became the president of the organization, a position he held until 1986. In 1984 Schroeder was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. From 1983 to 1989 he served as president of the National Association of Blind Educators.
"In 1978 I was getting a master's degree in the education of blind children, a field in which there was a nationwide shortage. After thirty-five or forty interviews, I didn't have a single job offer. I had to deal first-hand with the very real fact of discrimination against the blind. It is hard to keep an experience like that from eroding your self-confidence. It makes you question whether as a blind person you can compete in society, whether you can get past people's expectations and prejudices to show them what you can really do. The National Federation of the Blind makes the difference. It provides a way for blind people to give each other moral support, encouragement and meaningful information. It helps people who are coming along to have advantages we didn't--and in the very act of encouraging and supporting others, we sustain and nurture our own morale and self-belief."
Read the 2007 update to this article.
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