90 Years Young

Burnett Society Member Honors His Wife’s Memory by Giving Back

By Robyn Murray

Bruce Mackey is 90 years old, but you’d never guess it.

A student of ayurvedic wellness, which he hopes will give him at least five more very active years, Bruce walks 3.5 miles nearly every day. He spends his weekdays volunteering and has put in more than 2,500 volunteer hours at the Moffitt Cancer Center near his home in Tampa, Florida.

“I still run around like a 65-year-old,” said Bruce, a Burnett Society member. “My menu’s pretty full. And I think that has a huge, huge influence on how I feel and my energy level.”

Bruce’s volunteer schedule is largely due to his late wife, Loyce, whom he was married to for 55 years. She encouraged him to spend his days volunteering after she was gone. Bruce said she was always on the go. A successful tennis player, she was fun-loving and lighthearted — the life of the party.

“She drew people like bees to honey, and everyone loved her back,” Bruce said.

A two-time cancer survivor, Loyce passed away in 2012 after suffering injuries from a fall that were complicated by earlier radiation treatment.

Her death was not the first time Bruce had experienced an untimely loss. As an only child, he lost both parents over a span of 10 years. These tragedies, Bruce said, brought not only grief to his life but also strength.

“[They] made me a lot tougher,” he said. “I realized you can deal with all these things.”

Bruce Mackey and his late wife, Loyce.

Some of that spirit may come from Bruce’s pioneering ancestors. They were homesteaders from Scotland who staked out land in Eustis, Nebraska, in the mid-1800s. Through hot summers and frigid winters, they survived in tents and sod houses while they slowly built up their ranching operations. Bruce said that strong work ethic passed down through the generations.

“You’ve got to work; you’ve got to earn your way,” he said. “That’s in us.”

The American Dream

After his mother died, Bruce was taken in by his aunt and uncle in Lincoln and attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business. He graduated in 1955 and went on to a successful career in the insurance industry, retiring as senior vice president of a Fortune 200 company.

Bruce said Loyce came from similarly humble beginnings and found success. She grew up on a farm in Minnesota and never went to college, even though she was top in her class. But she made the most of what she had and became a successful banker and real estate agent.

“We lived the American dream,” Bruce said. “I can’t overemphasize that.”

Before Loyce passed, she encouraged Bruce to move to Tampa and spend his days volunteering at Moffitt Cancer Center, where she had received treatment. He did as she asked and ended up serving as chair of the Moffitt Foundation’s Legacy of Life Society. In 2020, he began thinking of another way he could give back. He thought of his alma mater and the success his education had helped him achieve, and he decided to help others who faced barriers to attending the university.

With the help of the gift planning team at the University of Nebraska Foundation, Bruce created four permanently endowed funds supporting students at UNL. The funds will contribute to the fundraising goals of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future. Two will support student scholarships and programs in the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Sales Excellence in the College of Business. One will support the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy, which prepares first-generation, low-income students for college and careers. The fourth fund will support students who complete the DreamBig Academy, a college-readiness program for underrepresented and first-generation high school juniors interested in pursuing business careers.

“I don’t think their personal challenges will be any harder than mine were,” Bruce said. “But I’m offering them an opportunity to live the American dream — because both Loyce and I lived the American dream. We couldn’t have asked for it to come out any better.”

Despite the challenges he has faced, Bruce looks back on his life with gratitude. In addition to what he describes as a “consummate love story” with Loyce, he’s also thankful that his generation prospered. Now he wants to help the next generation do the same.

“I think we have to give back,” he said. “I say this over and over again, be thankful for the great lives that so many of us have had.”