2001 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"I don’t measure success in financial terms. It’s how you lead your life and what you give back to the community."
Stephen Schott was born in Santa Clara, California, in 1939. He father was a part-time professor at the nearby University of California at Santa Clara. The Schott family moved several times in his youth, finally settling into an older home surrounded by acres of prune trees. By then, Schott's father worked as an engineer in the public works department for the city of Santa Clara. Schott was required to work in the local fruit orchards, which he says did not pay much, but kept him busy-something his parents always made a priority. He harvested and sold prunes from the trees on his father's property and picked pears and walnuts in neighboring orchards throughout the summer. When he was 16, he began working on road survey crews.
Schott's parents wanted him to attend a Catholic high school, but he was responsible for paying the tuition. The surveying job did that, and he also was able to put aside extra money for college. Schott did not excel in school academically, but he was a gifted athlete. His skills in baseball were good enough to earn him a partial scholarship to the University of Santa Clara. He was tempted to quit school on several occasions when professional teams enthusiastically scouted him and tempted him to sign professionally. His parents, however, were adamant that he finish school. In the end, he was glad he took their advice. An injury to his shoulder ended his career as a pitcher and any thought of being a professional player.
Schott graduated from college in 1961 with a degree in business and management. He joined the Army, still uncertain about what he would do for a career. When he was discharged from the service, he took an accounting job with Ford Motor Company in Milpitas. Schott soon realized that to get ahead with Ford he would have to move to Detroit, which held no interest for him. He stayed a year and then decided to take his older brother's advice to work for a land developer/home builder.
Schott worked as a junior and senior executive for several home building companies and became an enthusiastic learner. He worked in the office during the week and did sales on the weekends to make extra money. On weekend nights, he and his wife sold hotdogs from a concession stand at a local racetrack. From 1967 to 1974, Schott worked his way up to vice president for two separate public land development/home building companies. In 1975, his big break came. The company for which he had been working for the past five years invited him to become a partner. The following year, Schott and his partner, Wayne Valley, formed Citation Homes. In 1986, Schott became the sole owner of Citation Homes following the death of his partner. Today, his wholly owned family company is one of the most successful home building companies in northern California. In 1995, Schott and his partner Ken Hofmann bought the Oakland Athletics baseball team.
When asked about his success, Schott says, "I always thought the meaning of success was to be financially successful. Now I think it's how you lead your life-how you set an example for other people and what you give back." He and his wife have formed a program called Role Models, which brings successful people from all walks of life to address students about the importance of staying in school. The program includes mentors who work one-on-one with students who aren't doing well in school. Another program they formed is called Read to Exceed, which rewards students and their teachers if they read a prescribed number of books. One reward is a free ticket to an Oakland A's baseball game. The program opened with 500 participants and is now up to 15,000.
When Schott addresses young audiences he says, "Never give up. Persevere. Everyone has tough hurdles to get over, but you should never give up. As long as you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you'll get there if you keep pushing yourself."
Honored by his Horatio Alger Award, Schott says, "I am a strong partner in the scholarship program sponsored by the Association. Education is the best way for young people to pursue their dreams. It opens the doors to many opportunities that would not be there otherwise. I am happy to be a part of making that possible for so many deserving young people."