Plant Science Alumni Profile - Gary Schroeder

Posted: October 22, 2014

Gary Schroeder has two degrees from Penn State, '78 Plant Science and '80 M.S. Plant Pathology, as well as strong family ties to the University. His father, Dr. Morris Schroeder, was a long time professor in Ag & Bio Engineering who embraced the meaning of extension and can be seen at a dedication in his honor at the Pasto Agricultural Museum.
Gary Schroeder in one of his mushroom houses

Gary Schroeder in one of his mushroom houses

Gary received a B.S. in Plant Science and a M.S. in Plant Pathology and went on to pursue a goal of being an entrepreneur. He founded Oakshire Specialty Mushrooms and produces Dole Mushrooms. Here is what he had to say about Penn State, entrepreneurship, and his experiences in life!

How have you benefited from your College of Ag Sciences degree?

I am very grateful for the connections I made at Penn State and continue to maintain. I have friends from my major and brothers from my fraternity that I still communicate with today. This has allowed me to stay up-to-date within my field but also other fields of agriculture. 

What has been the most rewarding part of your career? 

Being an entrepreneur was an important goal. Building a substantial company from just a dream is very rewarding. Every day provides an opportunity to find new challenges and make an impact on the world. Owning my own company has allowed me the freedoms to be involved with many activities such as Boy Scouts of America, traveling and even sitting on the advisory committee for the entrepreneurship minor in the College of Agricultural Sciences!

What advice would you give to current students?

When asked this question I wanted to be very clear that every student needed a breadth of experiences. Academia can be funneling but it is very important to keep asking yourself, “Where do I want to be in 10 years?” I call this envisioning “just over the horizon”. This question can create clarity in the vision of your future so you can choose and pursue opportunities to reach that goal. It will never be a straight path but it is important to work toward that goal with every experience you have.

What is your favorite creamery flavor?

Peanut Butter Swirl! It once was named Variegated Peanut Butter but it is still my favorite. I routinely manage to find my way to the Penn State Berkey Creamery to get an ice cream cone. 

What did you learn at Penn State that has been the most beneficial to your career? 

Learning the fundamentals of biology and how to work with these in practice was important. Then as a graduate student being taught how to conduct research and create new technology by the incredibly gifted mushroom research faculty team led by Dr. Schisler was invaluable.    

How has your involvement with the Boy Scouts of America connected with your education from the College of Agricultural Science at Penn State?

In my case, Penn State was not the only character molding experience I had, but in fact the Boy Scouts of America is where I attribute my leadership skills and abilities. I developed my leadership skill set through the programs offered by the Boy Scouts. When I got to Penn State this development of leadership had naturally guided me into many leadership positions. I was proudly the president of Alpha Gamma Rho. It was a place for me to put my skills into action.

What is one theme or idea that is both true to a Penn Stater and a Boy Scout?

Excel at what you do and be a leader.