Schwab grew up on a family farm in southern Minnesota and was an active participant in 4-H. The lessons he learned in 4-H continue to guide him today. When he left the farm, he graduated from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, with an accounting degree. He later received a Masters of Business Administration degree from the University of Minnesota. He currently lives in rural Solon with his wife, Katherine Burford.

During a post-college career in business, Dick worked as an accountant for Medtronics where he met Katherine. He spent seven years there in increasingly responsible positions. He moved to Iowa in 1984 to take a job as a controller for NCS. When he retired 17 years later, he was Vice President, Information Technology. Among his achievements with NCS was participating on the transition team during the successful acquisition of Westinghouse Learning Systems.  The division he led had a strong team-based culture which focused on four complementary goals, delighting customers; making the company a great place to work; earning a reasonable return on investment for shareholders; and continuously improving the business.

After a career in large companies, Dick repurposed his life around being a small businessman, entrepreneur and builder. He owns several small businesses: a telescope manufacturing company, a collision repair shop and an e-business company. He lives on an acreage that is part of a local, sustainable food operation. He is an experienced woodworker and is known for building round stone barns.

Schwab has a long commitment to improving education in Iowa. He has been elected and re-elected to the Solon Community School District School Board since 1999, where he presently serves.

He is a founding member of the Community Foundation of Johnson County. Schwab has served on the boards of a number of civic and business organizations, including being past chair and board member of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, Scholarship America, Solon Dollars for Scholars, Johnson County Heritage Trust, Mercy Hospital, and Goodwill of the Heartland. He currently serves on the board of directors for MidWestOne Bank.