Schoeff brings his past experience to serve in new national role as Grand Tiler of the Elks

Donald Schoeff Sr. takes the oath of office to become Grand Tiler for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Donald Schoeff Sr. takes the oath of office to become Grand Tiler for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Photo provided.

Kindness, compassion, commitment. Huntington resident Donald Schoeff Sr. embodies all three in his past work in law enforcement and public service as Huntington County’s assessor and auditor.

However, his lifelong commitment and implementation of the ideals of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) have impacted all in his sphere.

On July 8, Schoeff was installed as the Grand Tiler of the Grand Lodge. This national honor is a culmination of 56 years of dedication. Schoeff’s sponsor for the position was Jim Nichelson, past grand exalted ruler.

“It’s quite an honor as only four people from Indiana have had a Grand Lodge position in the past 20 years,” Schoeff says.

As a Grand Tiler, Schoeff’s responsibility ensures only voting members are allowed in during national voting sessions.

To reach this honor, Schoeff became a member of Huntington BPOE Lodge 805 in the mid-1960s. As he became acclimated to the organization, he was impressed with the rituals and initiation ceremonies.

“Everyone knew their parts by heart,” he says.

He also found friendships with like-minded community members and leaders that wanted the best for Huntington.

Schoeff quickly became a local leader. He began as the Inner Guard, an early step in the progression toward Exalted Ruler of the local lodge, a position he called, “the CEO of the organization.”

To understand Schoeff’s extensive involvement with the BPOE, it’s necessary to look at a simplified version of the structure of the organization. Each local group has its own charter that aligns with the state and national charters. Local lodges work with state Elks leaders to ensure compliance with state goals and by-laws. The state officers then collaborate with the national officers.

Locally, Schoeff has been Exalted Ruler for Huntington Lodges 805 and 2803 and Bluffton Lodge 796; however, his state level work is extensive and impressive.

He has worked through the chairs, stations, to serve as state president in 2008-09. The work doesn’t stop when a term is over. He is wrapping up his presidency on the Past President’s Advisory Board after serving three years each as secretary/treasurer and vice chair. For 10 years, Schoeff has served as the co-chair of the Indiana Elks Charities.

Each state chooses the initiatives for the lodges to support. The Indiana Elks Association touches many aspects of Hoosier lives. Students participate in drug awareness programs, but probably enjoy the Hoops Shoot and Soccer Shoot more.

Students are also the beneficiaries of Elks’ sponsored scholarships. These scholarships are for post-secondary education, including the trades, and they help sponsor scholarships awarded to Miss Indiana candidates. Veterans are served through programs that include Elks spending time with these heroes playing games and providing personal supplies. Most impressive, however, is the contributions to cancer research.

Over time, the Indiana Elks has contributed $10 million to Indiana University and Purdue University for cancer research. Schoeff noted that the schools may battle over bragging rights on the basketball court and on the football field, but they collaborate for a cancer cure. For the past nine years, Schoeff has served on the board of directors for the Advisory Committee for Cancer Research at Purdue and is now on IU’s advisory board.

Schoeff’s commitment has set a powerful example for his children.

His son is a Past Exalted Ruler and Past District Deputy, and his three daughters and son-in-law are Past Exalted Rulers. In a true moment of joy, the family members initiated Schoeff’s grandson Justin into membership at the Bluffton Lodge earlier this year.

Schoeff treasures his memories representing the BPOE. One of his favorites goes back to his appreciation of the initiation ritual. The Bluffton lodge had won the state convention and was to represent Indiana at the National Convention. Before the convention, the Exalted Ruler was called to active military duty, so Schoeff had to fill in. He had less than a month to memorize his part, but it was worth it to represent Bluffton and Indiana.

Summarizing the Elks, Schoeff often says the BPOE stands for the “Best People on Earth.” He knows anywhere he and his wife, Ruth, go, they can visit a lodge and be welcomed as friends.