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Article - When you give you get

When you give, you get

When you give, you get

The Yanneys are the principal donors to the new Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Center for Public Health building.

Posted: Thu, May 5, 2011

The University of Nebraska is among the favorite causes of Omaha philanthropists Gail Walling Yanney, M.D., and her husband, Mike Yanney.

Gail says she and Mike learned to be givers through the examples of important people in their lives.

From a conversation with Gail:

Mike, the youngest of eight, was just a boy when his dad died. His mother had no money, but somehow she took care of all of them in Kearney. She raised and sold vegetables.

That was Mike's first job – selling vegetables to local grocery stores. He detasseled corn. He shined shoes. He walked along the railroad tracks, hunting for coal that had fallen from the trains so his mother could make a fire. He even worked as a disc jockey, though he says he was terrible at it. His siblings worked hard, too, that's also how they made it through those post-Depression years.

That's why Mike takes care of the kids now. He remembers what it was like.

After his mother died, he and his sister planted a weeping elm tree in her honor in a Kearney park. But he didn't feel a weeping tree represented her at all, because his mother was full of love and spirit and happiness. So to honor his parents a few years back, we helped with land and money for a new Kearney park: The E.K. and Mary Yanney Heritage Park.

Mike remembers happiness during those years. He knows money doesn't buy it.

You're going to be very successful in life, his mother told him. But true success will be measured not by what you make in money, she said, but by what you give of yourself to your community and to your country.

We both like to give back to Omaha, where we live now. We like to give back to the University of Nebraska, where we both graduated – Mike from Kearney and I from Lincoln and the College of Medicine in Omaha. The University of Nebraska Medical Center is one of our favorite causes.

I was an anesthesiologist for years. I'm not sure how I became philanthropic. I remember a conversation with one of my medical school professors decades ago. My mother had wanted me to join the Junior League. But I didn't know if I should try to fit it in with my medical studies. I asked the head of the department of surgery what he thought.

A physician needs to be a part of the community, he told me, and then listed all the boards and charities that he found the time for in his busy life.

I credit Mike, too. Philanthropy just seems part of his DNA. In the years we've been married, it's become part of mine, too. My main interests are the status of women, the arts and the environment.

Over the years, I've come to this conclusion: All you get out of life is what you give away. If you are constantly sending out doves and songbirds, you get doves and songbirds back.

Gail and Mike Yanney are among the principal donors to the new Harold M. and Beverly Maurer Center for Public Health building, which will have its grand opening May 18 at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The building is a top campaign priority for the College of Public Health.

The goal of the College of Public Health is to increase the odds that everyone everywhere can, and will, make healthy choices through prevention and health promotion. Priority projects for the College include: healthy women and children, solutions for obesity and health, global health and development, rural health services and tobacco control to prevent the use of tobacco, promote cessation and eliminate exposure to second hand smoke.

To support the College of Public Health or learn more, contact Karen Levin 402-502-4921.

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