Boy with limited vision sees no limits in his future
Will Jensen, 6, is the inspiration behind his grandparents' gift to UNMC.
Posted: Thu, May 29, 2014
Will Jensen is 6. He knows he wants to be a police officer someday. Or a priest.
A teacher. Or a garbage man.
He wants to fly Apache helicopters like his dad, who just returned from a place called Afghanistan.
He wants to be a doctor like his grandpa.
Will is curious about his world. One day he asked his grandpa if he knew how many cells were in the human body. (Dr. William Nash, an orthopedic surgeon and retired Army colonel, laughs as he recalls that one. "All these years out of medical school, I could only give him a ballpark number.")
A couple of months ago, Will asked his grandmother if she knew what "identity theft" was. Then he explained it to her in detail.
He likes to read the warning labels on objects. He knows how to read them in both English and Spanish. He must bring the labels up close to his eyes, just an inch or so away. He wears special glasses that make the words larger. Sometimes he uses a magnifying glass, too.
He knows he can't see as well as most people, that he has something called albinism that affects his eyesight. He knows that his grandpa and grandma did something big in his honor because of that – something that made Will's mom speechless when she heard.
But there is one thing Will doesn't know.
Says his mom, Brooke Jensen: "One of the defining characteristics of Will is that he knows no limits."
Dr. Nash went to medical school at UNMC. He graduated in 1976. This past December, he and his wife, Marilou, who are Brooke's parents, decided to create a gift to his alma mater in honor of their grandson:
The William Brian Jensen Charitable Remainder Unitrust.
The money will help support the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation at UNMC.
Says Brooke: "I did tell Will in general terms that there is a special center out in Nebraska that's at a college that Grandpa and Grandma have donated to, in his name. I told him that the center is special because it serves people who are blind like him, and that it's a center that trains people, whether kids or adults, in all the skills and in using different tools like the tools he is using."
Dr. Nash feels it's important to his give back to both of his alma maters – the University of Missouri, where he went as an undergraduate, and UNMC – but not just because they gave him a chance to succeed.
Says Marilou: "It's also because he feels that universities probably are the best at leveraging money, making every dollar work well. They don't waste, and that money helps someone with education."
The Nashes know how good it makes them feel to give back.
"I've always felt the deep love and gratitude to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for what they gave me," Dr. Nash says, "and I always vowed to support them in ways that would make a difference."
Will and his parents and his baby sister live in New York. His dad is stationed at Fort Drum. The Nashes live in Elizabethtown, Ky.
A few years back, Dr. Nash and his wife returned to Omaha for a visit. They toured the UNMC campus and the Weigel Williamson Center. They couldn't believe their eyes. They had expected to see that UNMC had grown since their days in Omaha. But it didn't just grow.
"It was so different from when I was there," Dr. Nash says. "Everything is better. It's at the forefront of research, the forefront of education, the forefront of medical care."
Says Marilou: "There is something really wonderful happening on the campus. Something just clicked with us."
And they realized a perfect gift they could give to UNMC was to honor a boy who knows no limits.
Says Brooke, Will's mom: "Someday, he'll not only understand the value of the Low-Vision Center as he gets older, but also he'll understand the value of the donation and he'll just be eternally grateful to what it symbolizes – that with the right support and education and tools anybody can be successful, even without vision."
Creating a fund is a great way to honor a loved one while helping the University of Nebraska grow stronger. If you, like the Nashes, would like to create such a fund, please contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.
The Campaign for Nebraska, which ends Dec. 31, has raised $1.7 billion for the University of Nebraska so far, including more than $557 million for UNMC.