Last in a series honoring the Courier’s 2019 8 Over 80 winners.
CEDAR FALLS — Miller Roskamp has helped thousands of children and adults with disabilities live better lives.
The 84-year-old Cedar Falls man has shared his success as a commercial real estate developer and landlord with agencies, such as River Hills School and Exceptional Persons Inc., that serve the Cedar Valley’s special needs community.
“They needed it, and we were capable of doing it,” Roskamp said. “The town’s been good to us. We have been fortunate people.
“We focused on mentally challenged people,” he added. “We hoped for other people to get on board, and some of them have.”
Those who nominated Roskamp for The Courier’s Eight Over 80 award said it was his character and leadership abilities that mustered resources for projects, including the 2004 opening of EPI’s Deery Center and a 2011 renovation of River Hills School.
“Miller is motivated by a strong sense of what is right and wrong,” said attorney John Larsen. “He demonstrates one of the significant qualities of leadership, which is to take a stand even when the position he is taking may be unpopular with many.”
Michael Sheehan called Roskamp “a man of huge moral character and consideration of others.”
“I never met a person that needed to do it the right way as much as Miller,” Rick Stensland added. “Honest is the man.”
Roskamp has a personal interest in helping the area’s special needs community. He and his wife, Sharon, have a mentally challenged son who attended River Hills School while Roskamp worked in advertising sales at KWWL-TV.
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During that time, he used his connections through the station to gather donations and put together Christmas packages for the River Hills kids.
Roskamp left for Chicago in the 1970s where he and his two brothers built nursing homes to house mentally challenged adults. But bureaucratic headaches and the fact his son missed River Hills brought them back to Cedar Falls.
Roskamp built a successful real estate company that developed, owned and leased numerous commercial buildings locally and in Sioux City and Council Bluffs.
He was a pillar in the community, serving on a wide range of boards including EPI Foundation, Comprehensive Systems, North Star Systems, US Bank, Roskamp Manufacturing, Iowa Laser Technology, Central Rivers Area Education Agency, Sartori Hospital Foundation and the Western Home Foundation. He was president of the Cedar Falls Community Foundation for a time.
But Roskamp said his passion was helping the nonprofit agencies, which included developing group homes for EPI and Comprehensive Systems and spearheading a fund-raising effort to renovate the vintage 1967 River Hills School, which serves about 145 students with moderate, severe and profound developmental disabilities.
“We had no money, no budget and decided we were going to repair River Hills school,” he said, recounting how his first call from a potential donor netted $75,000 and got the ball rolling.
“The largest problem that we had was most of the bathrooms were deteriorating,” he said. “We estimated that just replacing them would cost about $100,000.”
Roskamp mentioned the bathroom issue to a potential donor who was touring the school to see the classrooms under renovation. “He turned around to a desk and wrote us a check for $100,000,” he said, his emotions welling up as he recalled the generosity.
Roskamp offered advice to others in the community hoping to make a difference.
“Find a need and fill it,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be as big as we have been fortunate enough to do, but there’s always a need out in the community.”
‘Find a need and fill it. It doesn’t have to be as big as we have been fortunate enough to do, but there’s always a need out in the community.’