Burnett Society Spotlight: Nicholas Claps

Get to know the Clapses.

Burnett Society member Nicholas Claps graduated from Hiram Scott College, a private liberal arts college in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He obtained his permanent teaching license in Nebraska but was called home to Syracuse, New York, by the U.S. Army to be drafted in the Vietnam War. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, but the war ended before his class was called for duty. Nick then began his teaching career in New York, where he met his wife, Mary Beth. Mary Beth graduated from D’Youville College, a private university in Buffalo, New York, with a double major in psychology and education. Nick spent many years as a science teacher and also held positions in insurance and as a financial planner. Mary Beth taught for 35 years in various positions from preschool to high school.

The Clapses retired early to enjoy family, friends and traveling the world. They have toured most of Europe, the U.S. and the Polynesia area. They wrote an educational book together, and in 1999, they established a scholarship to help students in central New York attend the University of Nebraska. They call it the “New York — Nebraska Connection.”

What inspired you to become teachers?

Mary Beth: In the ’60s, a woman did not have many choices. I enjoyed working with children and babysat when I was a teenager. Also, I had several siblings to care for. Since I enjoyed working with children, this led me to teach.

Nick: When I was in middle school, I had a friend who had a chemistry set, and we enjoyed many hours experimenting. In high school, I had an outstanding chemistry teacher. That science teacher inspired me to teach.

We both highly value education. Since we did not have children, we decided to help students by setting up our scholarship at the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Teaching was my passion of all my fields of work. When anyone asks what I did before retirement, I always answer, “teacher.” We both feel teaching is a high calling in life because those who teach help others in many ways, giving them a gift for life.

We understand you wrote a book together. What can you tell us about it?

Mary Beth: The idea came more from Nick than me.

Nick: That is not 100% true. Our book, “Lessons and Suggestions for Building Your Wealth,” was written to help our 19 nieces and nephews, which, by the way, has grown to 50-plus nieces and nephews. Mary Beth helped immensely (i.e., wrote entire sections of the book, such as “Improve Your Status”) and was instrumental in every aspect of creating the book. She loves letting me do most of the talking.

The book explains a lot of what we learned in life. We start the introduction with: “These are things we wish someone had told us early in life.” Saving money is a big part of having a better life. We wanted children as young as 10 to gain the information, as well as adults. Choices in life are also important. For example, we discuss the impact when choosing between a want and a need when making a decision. The book references many practical resources.

What do you think the future holds for the next generation?

Mary Beth: Keeping oneself informed will be a key to making correct decisions for yourself and your family. You need to read and listen to a variety of sources. We have a lot of smart people, and I can see we are solving a lot of problems as we move forward. There are many new fields and many recent advancements being made. The future looks bright.

Nick: Fortunately, we are doing more to clean up our environment. We are exploring the widespread use of electric vehicles, increasing recycling, decreasing carbon emissions, finding alternate forms of energy, exploring the depths of the oceans, etc.

It is also encouraging to see new technology with 3D printing for housing, medicine and other fields. I think we can all agree that the next 10 years will be much different, but in a better way.

Scholarships ‘shaped the trajectory of my life’

Story by Robyn Murray | Video by Lance Schwartz

Teresa Lostroh is doing what she’s doing today thanks to one thing: scholarships. She received a generous award to attend the University of Nebraska–Lincoln — and not just one. Lostroh received several scholarships, and their impact was life-changing. 

Lostroh grew up on a farm near Malcolm, Nebraska, about 13 miles northwest of Lincoln. She knew she wanted to attend college, but as one of six kids in her family, finding financial assistance was her biggest hurdle.

“My parents absolutely wanted to help me out and would have … to whatever extent possible,” Lostroh said, “but with multiple kids in college at the same time, I wouldn’t have been able to live on campus or study abroad or anything beyond whatever they could have contributed to tuition.”

Lostroh received a Regent’s Scholarship that fully paid for her tuition. She also received two private scholarships through the University of Nebraska Foundation that covered her living costs so she could live on campus all four years of her academic career. Not only that, Lostroh received two study-abroad scholarships that allowed her to study in Spain for a summer and spend a semester in Costa Rica. 

“Scholarship support made those experiences possible for me and ultimately shaped the trajectory of my life,” Lostroh said. “I’m very lucky.”

Lostroh majored in Spanish and journalism at UNL and then went on to get her master’s degree in higher education administration. She began working in New Student Enrollment at UNL as a graduate student and is now associate director of the office. She is one of the first people new students see on campus, and she helps them navigate their academic journeys. She said she tries to instill excitement, confidence and joy in the students she meets, because she knows how transformative it can be to come to the University of Nebraska. 

“My life has come full circle, and that can be directly tied back to the scholarships I got and the opportunities I had as a result of those,” Lostroh said. “So, I hope that other students who receive those scholarships get to have the same transformative experiences that I did as a result of receiving foundation support.”

Teresa Lostroh visiting the famous Lennon Wall in Prague. Lostroh received two study-abroad scholarships while attending UNL.

My life has come full circle, and that can be directly tied back to the scholarships I got and the opportunities I had as a result.