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Article - Married best friends feel its good to give

Married best friends feel it's good to give

On graduation day, they kissed in caps and gowns in front of Love Library.

Posted: Fri, Jan 25, 2013

They fell in love at UNL.

On graduation day, they kissed in caps and gowns in front of Love Library.

His gown still had the wrinkles from the box. Her gown was neatly pressed. (She was a home-ec major.) Fifty some years later, she still wishes she had taken an iron to his.

"What was I thinking?"

That was June of '61.

Roy and Sharon Smith smile as they look down at an old photo someone took of them kissing that day. The photo rests in their big red scrapbook with a white "N" on the front.

They'd been classmates while growing up in Plattsmouth, Neb. They'd been friends for years. But it wasn't until the car rides home from college together that they finally fell in love.

"It's good to marry your best friend," Roy says. "It really is."

Both were farm kids who came from families that couldn't afford college. Sharon received scholarships. She lived at Love Memorial Hall on East Campus, which helped a lot because she worked there to defray her living expenses. She also worked at a restaurant during the summers, cooking, waiting tables, baking pies at sunrise.

Roy, an ag-education major, didn't get scholarships at first. He enrolled at the university on a prayer that scholarship money would open up. And it did. Then he earned more scholarships because of good grades. An ROTC stipend helped, too.

He and Sharon eventually returned to Plattsmouth to farm and teach and raise their two girls, Laura and Kristine. Sharon worked as a home-economics teacher for years in Plattsmouth, then as director of an alternative school in Plattsmouth. Hundreds of kids graduated from that school during her time there – many who wouldn't have otherwise.

She laughs.

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"Roy would say, ‘Have a boring day,' and it never was."

Roy farmed, taught and used his knowledge from college and his master's degree to become one of the first electronic media marketing specialists in the nation, teaming up with Successful Farming magazine.

Though they're mostly retired now, she still works as a substitute teacher. He does marketing strategy research for the University of Nebraska Department of Ag Economics, helping farmers market their crops. He writes for Agriculture Online.

The university was the key to their successful, happy lives as well as to the lives of their grown daughters, who also are UNL grads. If people hadn't helped them long ago, the Smiths say, there's no way they'd have college degrees.

That's why they love giving back to the university.

Each year since their graduation, they've given a little. Recently, they've created scholarships for students at UNL in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and in the College of Education and Human Sciences. The students must be Nebraska residents. Priority will go to students from Cass County, where they grew up.

"People still have the same problems they had back then – back then as is now, college wasn't cheap," Roy says. "So we just decided when we got to the point where we could afford to do it, that would be a place that we'd like to invest some of our capital."

They decided to give while they're alive so they can actually meet their scholarship recipients – young people like the two they knew in that photo, kissing on graduation day.

Student support is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you, like the Smiths, also would like to support University of Nebraska students through scholarships, please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

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