Article - A Portrait of Philanthropy Ron and Connie Brasel

A Portrait of Philanthropy: Ron and Connie Brasel

A Portrait of Philanthropy: Ron and Connie Brasel

Omaha couple is hooked on UNO athletics, especially hockey.

Posted: mié, abr 1, 2015

A Portrait of Philanthropy: Ron and Connie Brasel

From a conversation with Ron and Connie

Ron’s dad grew up in Chicago back in the Depression era. He had great stories to tell about Al Capone – it was just like that Eliot Ness movie. He once saw a guy get machine-gunned down. Ron’s dad was maybe 6 at the time. He was playing with two buddies when they heard the squealing of wheels and saw a car speed around the corner. The guy was walking out of a bar, then just dropped.

When Ron was a kid, he just loved to sit with his dad on the front porch at night and hear his stories.

Growing up in Chicago in those times was tough. Ron’s dad never got past junior high. Ron had an uncle who worked in the construction trades and that uncle thought it’d be good for him to use his hands and work hard in a good trade. So he did that and eventually came to Fremont, Neb. He was working there when he met Ron’s mom at a roller rink. She was from a small town in Iowa and was working in Fremont and living in a boarding house. Her mom had passed away when she was 3, so things had been tough for her, too.

Ron’s dad transferred to Omaha, where he worked in the trade for a very long time. Then in 1974 he started Control Services, and it grew. His intuition was unbelievable. He saw the need for a company that was dedicated to service and maintenance of commercial building spaces and the equipment that controlled the environments in those spaces.

He had a lot of common sense and was very smart. But he was embarrassed by his lack of education. He always stressed to his children that they needed to stay in school. After he retired, we thought that we’d help construction management students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in honor of Ron’s parents so we created the Richard E. and Bonnie Brasel Scholarship. We did this because of their strong belief in the construction/service industry and in education.

We share that passion to help UNL’s construction management program. We hire those students as interns. We support the student chapter.

But most of our support goes toward athletics in Omaha and especially toward the UNO hockey team. It started when we got to know Mike Kemp, the first coach. Our grandsons then got into playing hockey, and Mike would let them come down and skate around with the team. We just got hooked. They’re just really good people.

Being inside, though, we learned what a struggle it was for them financially. One season when Mike was having a lot of success, Ron went on a road trip with him and the team. They were in the training room. The players and their sticks were getting wrapped with tape and one of the trainers said, “Ron, look over there at those rolls of tape. That’s all the tape I have left. I don’t know what I’m going to do if we keep winning.”

“You’re joking, right?” Ron said. “I’ll buy you the damn tape. Just keep winning!”

That’s when it hit us what a shoestring budget they were trying to grow a Division I team on. Through Mike, we also got to know the other coaches. We saw that they really cared about their student-athletes. We saw how they stressed that their education was important and that being a student-athlete was the path to their future success. To be around that just uplifted us.

We’ve given money for scholarships to the hockey players so they could stay in school during the summers and not have to work, and we’ve also donated to the new arena that will be built on campus to serve hockey and other sports at UNO. 

Education was always so important to Ron’s dad. He knew that getting trained well is the roadmap to opportunity for young adults. We know he’d be happy to see we’re helping to build that foundation.

If you, like the Brasels, also would like to support hockey or other sports at UNO, please consider giving The ONE Fund. For more information, contact the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Terry Hanna at 800-432-3216.


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