$20 million gift creates scholarships for UNMC pharmacy students

The Only in Nebraska campaign is about investing in University of Nebraska students.

It’s also about the giving spirit of people like Joe and Millie Williams.

Alumnus Joe Williams, who died in 2021, left a $20 million estate gift to the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy. Because of this extraordinary gift, pharmacy students will begin receiving Williams Scholarships next fall, in amounts ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.

The Williams Scholarships will allow students to lessen their debt and will allow UNMC to compete for some of the nation’s top students. “We want to give at least some dollars to just about every student that applies,” said Keith Olsen, Pharm.D., Joseph D. Williams Endowed Dean of the College of Pharmacy.

Joseph “Joe” D. Williams worked in his grandfather’s Pawnee City, Nebraska, pharmacy as a kid. He served in the Navy during World War II and graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 1950. As chair and CEO of Warner-Lambert, he helped to drive and deliver new drug therapies and products from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Williams was one of the UNMC College of Pharmacy’s greatest success stories, and, with his wife, Millie, one of its most steadfast supporters.

His estate gift allows the College of Pharmacy to endow its deanship; to endow a student scholarship fund and funds for faculty support which include available matching dollars to spur even more giving from the college’s supporters; to further develop the UNMC Center for Drug Discovery; and to provide unrestricted dollars for the college to use to bring to life its strategic initiatives.

“It allows the college to truly change its trajectory,” Olsen said when the gift was announced in December.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., called Williams’ life “a great American story and a true ‘Only in Nebraska’ story,” a reference to the University of Nebraska Foundation’s historic campaign, Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future. The campaign’s goal is to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska.

“We are eternally grateful to Joe and Millie for their friendship and their incredible support over the years. For all his success, Joe never forgot where it all began,” Gold said. “I am excited to see what further great American stories our College of Pharmacy will be able to write in the years to come, thanks to the enduring investment in the future made by Joe and his family.”