Walter and Maria Schroeder both grew up in Winnipeg, among close-knit Mennonite families. After completing their education, they moved to central Canada. While driving to Montreal for a family vacation in 1976, Walter sketched out an idea for a new Canadian based bond rating agency he called the Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS). Starting with just $1000 in working capital, Walter Schroeder built the company into one of the world’s premier bond rating agencies, with offices in New York, Chicago and London, and employees all over the world.
The Schroeder family sold the company in 2014, but instead of retiring, Walter and Maria decided to devote their time to philanthropy. Walter Schroeder was very hands-on in all his business affairs, and he has always believed in community action and helping others.
The Walter & Maria Schroeder Foundation has devoted huge resources to improving health services for all Canadians. In recent years they have also invested heavily in the arts in Newfoundland & Labrador, creating a theatre company to build a new musical celebrating the arts and culture of the province’s people. Some of their most personal efforts, however, have been in their hometown of Winnipeg, where they have created scholarships and other programs that support students in some of the city’s most deprived and struggling high schools.
As teenagers growing up in working-class Winnipeg families, they themselves benefited from the generosity of others, and they have tried to extend that same generosity wherever possible, working to help students one by one. Of particular interest to the Foundation is working with struggling indigenous youth in Winnipeg’s North End, helping them to stabilize their home lives and stay in school.