After graduating from Northwest Lutheran Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, Phil’s dad took a call to a Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, an LCA mission congregation in Northridge, California. “I was born, and six weeks later we moved to Los Angeles,” Phil explained.
Ten years later, the family moved to San Mateo, in Northern California, where Don was pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, in San Mateo, CA. With strong support from his wife, Shirley, both their family of three sons and Don’s ministry thrived. Other congregations followed in California, and later on, Phoenix. For 51 years, Don’s work as a pastor had a consistent purpose — “planting and growing churches.” He retired in 2007.
“My whole life growing up was [about] being around the church,” Phil said, adding, “I have so much admiration for what [my Dad’s] done, for the joy he’s brought people, for his ability to build churches and make them grow.” He noted that his dad not only had a gift for preaching and ministry, but understood how to manage the financial complexities of building churches, as well. Phil said that Don’s success as a pastor is due to his many wonderful attributes — being a strong and dedicated leader with a servant heart, his care for marginalized people, his ecumenical sensibility, and being a “fearless fund-raiser.”
Phil met Shauna — also Lutheran — at UC Davis, where he studied biochemistry and she studied medical science. They married in 1982, and after graduate school, the couple moved to San Diego, where they raised their three children, Erin, Sarah and Matthew. Shauna practiced dermatology for 25 years and Phil pursued a career in finance, focusing on the pharmaceutical industry.
From 1986 – 2003, Phil served as CFO and Senior Vice President at a biotech company that invented the drug Rituxan, which he says today is the top-selling cancer drug in the world used to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemias, rheumatoid arthritis and other illnesses. Phil explained, “I was part of the team that helped bring [it] to market and we were rewarded.”
Now semi-retired, Phil and Shauna wanted to share their financial blessings in a personally meaningful way. “…[W]e wanted to tithe and to give back,” Phil explained. “We feel it’s important to give back to our community. We feel the Lord’s hand on what we’re trying to do, so we set up a foundation to help do that.”
The original inspiration for a scholarship fund in honor of his dad came up a few years ago when Phil and Shauna were having a conversation with Don and Shirley.
"My father had become acquainted with ELCA’s Fund for Leaders," Phil said. “He was telling me how he [was starting] to donate to that. So Shauna and I talked about establishing a fund to establish Don’s legacy. And five years ago, that’s exactly what they did when they set up the Rev. Donald P. Schneider Seminary Scholarship Fund.
"This is something we feel committed to as a couple," added Shauna. "It's a joy to be able to honor Phil’s dad in this way [while] at the same time supporting something that we have a deep heart for – young pastors. We feel really [good] about it, particularly that it honors a pastor who spent his entire career growing churches." What's also very special to the family, Shauna said, is that Don, now 84, married all three of his sons (all in 1982), baptized all seven of their grandchildren, married their daughter Erin last year, and just married a granddaughter, Allison, in July this year.
So how does a dad feel when you set up a fund in his honor? “He was obviously very humbled,” Phil recalled. Phil said that most important to his dad is “[That] there are scholarships now available to pastors going into the ministry. He’s fascinated with the whole scholarship program and all the good it’s doing.”
Don said he is concerned that young people going into ministry today end up with a lot of debt coming out of seminary. He explained, “When I went to seminary, there wasn’t any tuition, just room and board, and so I feel grateful to the Church for my education, which now seminarians have to pay for. So that’s why my son started this fund.”
A few years ago, Donald and Shirley, who’ve been married 60 years and live near Phoenix, attended one of the scholarship award celebrations and enjoyed meeting some of the recipients. The family also received letters and phone calls from scholarship recipients, which was also very meaningful to them.
“We’re proud of what [Dad] has accomplished and what he’s done, and it’s a great way to honor future leaders,” said Phil. “Hopefully, there will be some other Donald Schneider’s in the group that can help the Church.”
“Being Lutheran has given me, my family and my wife a great foundation in faith, in our marriage and in our relationship with our parents and children,” Phil explained. “It’s been just a great foundation for our thinking about our lives and philanthropy.”