New endowed scholarship honors Jim Schueller ’03

February 22, 2024 — Two-sport student-athlete, musician, adventurer, friend, brother, and son. James “Jim” Schueller ’03 had a multitude of talents and touched many during and after his time at Grinnell.

After Schueller passed away in February 2022, his friends honored his legacy by raising funds for the James “Jim” Schueller ’03 Endowed Scholarship Fund.

“Jim loved Grinnell and it was so much a part of his identity. It’s what brought us all together to know him,” says Abby Copeman Petig ’01, who along with Brad Ruhoff ’01, Shawn Sigler ’03, and several others spearheaded the creation of the scholarship. 

A December drone photo of Renfrow Hall from the south shows the construction progress.
Jim Schueller ’03 was part of a small group that met in Colorado in 2013 to compete in a Tough Mudder obstacle course. The group sported Mile 182 shirts for the occasion.

At a meeting with Jim’s parents, brother, and Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) staff, “we talked about who Jim was and the type of student who embodied his spirit,” explains Copeman Petig. The group came up with what Sigler calls “a brilliant and spot-on description of Jim.”

“James ‘Jim’ Schueller '03 was a genuine, kind-hearted human whose presence made every room brighter. He believed in human connection, in helping not only family and friends, but neighbors and anyone he came across. He is remembered for his independent spirit, his curiosity, his restlessness. This scholarship is intended to benefit students exhibiting similar qualities: curiosity, independence, gutsiness, truth-seeking, an adventurous spirit, and a benevolent intent toward their fellow humans. Preference will be given to first-year students; students involved in volunteerism, civic engagement, or campus engagement; and demonstrate financial need.”

An endowed scholarship awards funds in perpetuity and must have at least $50,000. Word spread among coaches and classmates and by December 2022, the group reached their mark. In all 52 donors contributed to the scholarship, raising about $58,000. 

“The person, the man, what I saw as a teammate, that was the reason I wanted to be involved in this,” says Ruhoff, who played football and baseball for two years with Schueller. “I was a linebacker; he was defensive back, so we shared numerous meetings and a lot of road trips together. He was quiet and intense, and you could tell he was someone you wanted as a teammate, someone you wanted to go into the trenches with.” 

Jim made 178 tackles and recorded 10 interceptions during his four years with the Pioneers. (Abby’s husband, Evan Petig ’98, was one of Schueller’s football coaches during Jim’s senior season.)

“To be a student-athlete at Grinnell takes a certain amount of dedication and focus and Jim had that,” Ruhoff adds. “You worry about getting overwhelmed that first semester playing two sports, but early on I knew Jim would be one of those excellent student-athletes.” 

Jim Schueller ’03, uniform number 13, is pictured with his Grinnell College football teammates.
Schueller, uniform number 13, is pictured with his Grinnell College football teammates. Some of the players also pictured are #31 Trevor Cassel ’03, #77 Zach Fletcher ‘03, #6 Adam Wallace ’04, and #15 Shawn Sigler ’03.

Schueller hailed from Primghar, Iowa. He studied history at Grinnell but also had a passion for music, says Sigler, and together their band played gigs around campus. “It gave me a totally different perspective of him than on the football or baseball field,” says Sigler, who played both sports with Schueller. 

Schueller was never too busy for friends or potential friends. “He was one of those guys who never felt uncomfortable with anybody, no matter their personality,” says Sigler. “He never knew a stranger.” 

And he was always up for an adventure. When Abby was in graduate school and needed someone to accompany her to her younger brother’s wedding back home in Grinnell, she called Schueller, who was happy to show up. “He was up for anything, and always up for helping out,” she says. “He was funny and silly and kind and generous. He truly cared about people and wanted to know how you were doing. He wanted to understand and connect with people and that made him such a good friend and a great teammate.” 

Jim Schueller ’03, right, stands with Pioneers Coach Tim Hollibaugh, left, Jim Bombulie ’03 and Shawn Sigler ’03.
  Schueller, right, stands with Coach Tim
  Hollibaugh, left, Jim Bombulie ’03 and
  Shawn Sigler ’03

After graduation, Schueller lived in Arizona and tried his hand at playing pro baseball, and later moved to California where he was a certified strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer. He also did some acting in LA, says Abby. “He was talented and creative,” she says. He was close to his family and visited Iowa regularly, always stopping in Grinnell to see friends who’d settled down there. 

“We hope that students who benefit from it do something special,” Abby says of the scholarship. “It’s a way to keep Jim’s memory and legacy alive through other students and generations at the school.”

The scholarship was awarded for the first time this fall. John Robinson ’25, a physics and sociology major from Nashville, is the first recipient.

Robinson, who plays on Grinnell’s golf team, says the support from this scholarship means a lot to him. When asked what he’s most proud of so far in life, Robinson says: “I’m proud of having the strength to be me. It’s something I’m still figuring out, but the journey has been fulfilling.” It’s a quote that typifies Schueller’s spirit, say his friends. 

“Jim followed his passions and was true to himself,” Abby says. “We want the scholarship to help students who are genuine, take risks, and impact people positively. Whether that’s finding a cure for cancer or being kind to people and treating them with respect and dignity, that’s the most important piece.” 

— by Anne Stein ’84

For your information

The class of 2003 is celebrating its 20th reunion this year as a cluster with the classes of 2004 and 2005. The James “Jim” Schueller ’03 Endowed Scholarship is one of class of 2003’s fundraising priorities, though anyone can contribute to the scholarship through the online giving form.

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