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Article - Mrs Elaine Spire Thank You

‘Mrs. Elaine Spire … Thank You’

UNO senior wants donor to know that he will try to live up to the standard set by her late husband, the great Robert Spire.

Posted: Fri, Feb 19, 2016

Public health is his passion.

That’s why, as UNO was trying to see if the campus could go smoke-free last year, student Joe McGuire was studying the process.

Many different types of people were involved: the chancellor; faculty and staff; students. What went well? What didn’t? Any lessons learned?

Joe knew UNO’s experience could help other campuses down the road. So this past spring, he and a partner, grad student Corey Kinnan, wrote up an abstract of their findings and submitted it to the American Public Health Association for consideration at its annual conference – one of the most prestigious public health conferences in the world.

The conference draws thousands of people from around the world. It’s so selective that few undergrads ever are asked to present their work. Joe knew it was a long shot.

But their project was picked.

And he was the only undergraduate on the list of presenters!

Very quickly, Joe realized he couldn’t go, without help. He was “freaking out,” he says, about how he’d be able to afford it.

That’s when someone in the College of Public Affairs and Community Service told him about a special grant for students like him. 

One created by a special woman.

Mrs. Elaine Spire …

I write to you today with much gratitude for the funding provided to me by the grant you’ve established in your husband’s name. Without this assistance, I would be unable to accept the invitation …

Public health is Joe’s passion because he hasn’t always had great health.

He’s fine now, but he’s had two kidney transplants. He took a few years off after high school to recover and to think about where he wanted to go in his life.

While dealing with his medical issues, he realized he was fortunate to have access to good healthcare. He saw others who didn’t. He decided he wanted to help improve the health of all people. That’s why he chose a career in public health.

… I take great pride not only in my accomplishments as a student, but the opportunity to be, in some small way, linked to Robert’s legacy of public service. …

When applying for the Spire grant this past spring, Joe studied the history of the man. He learned that Robert Spire was a prominent Omaha attorney, one known for his honesty and integrity and commitment to social justice. Joe learned that Spire, who eventually became the state’s attorney general and then chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, also gave back to Nebraska. 

And to UNO.

He learned that Spire actually helped develop the framework for what became the College of Public Affairs and Community Service. 

This past August, after learning that he’d receive the Spire grant, Joe typed a note to Mrs. Elaine Spire.

…With so many of my peers planning on leaving the state, I intend to do just the opposite. We need more people to follow in Robert’s footsteps; to stand up, and be counted on as agents of change and to fight for those who may not always have the loudest of voices. …

After he graduates from UNO in May, Joe wants to go to UNMC to earn a master’s in public health. He wants to help create and implement pubic health policies that will improve the health of all Nebraskans. 

He wants to give back to Nebraska, just like Robert M. Spire. 

And he wants Mrs. Elaine Spire to know how much her late husband will inspire him for the rest of his life.

 … I plan to do all I can to live up to the standard Robert set, and continue with his mission of service.

With much appreciation,

Joseph McGuire  

“Our Students, Our Future,” the University of Nebraska’s $200 million fundraising initiative that runs through 2017, will provide direct support for university students through scholarships that will make their college education more affordable; support for programs that improve student outcomes, particularly among traditionally underrepresented students; improvements to facilities that will enhance the learning experience; and other student-focused priorities.

If you would like to help students like Joe, please considering giving to the Robert M. Spire Student Development Fund or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.
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