Gift to help take opera to ‘all corners of the state’

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ABOUT THIS PHOTO: Students and faculty at UNL gathered to thank Rhonda and Jim Seacrest for the couple’s most recent and generous support of the opera program. Front row, from left: John Richmond, Rhonda and Jim Seacrest, Lucy Buntain Comine and Dean Charles O’Connor stand in front of vocal students and faculty at the Opening Day Recital.

The UNL opera program and its students and faculty are once again the focus of generous support from James and Rhonda Seacrest of Lincoln.

The Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts announced a major gift from the Seacrests during a freshman student recital at the Glenn Korff School of Music on Aug. 24.

The Seacrests have made a contribution to the University of Nebraska Foundation to establish the James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Tour Nebraska Opera Fund. The expendable fund will be used to support the production, promotion, travel and other expenses for outreach opera events, both artistic and educational, across Nebraska, especially in rural venues.

“Nebraskans across the state rarely have the opportunity to experience live opera other than in Lincoln or Omaha,” the Seacrests said in a statement. “We are delighted to join with the Glenn Korff School of Music to share the enrichment of opera performance with greater Nebraska.”

Hixson-Lied Endowed Dean Charles O’Connor, said, “We are extremely grateful for the leadership and continued generosity of Jim and Rhonda Seacrest to the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, especially for our opera program. This fund will help us take our exceptional opera program to all corners of the state of Nebraska through a variety of outreach activities, which is an important mission of our land-grant university.”

Korff School Director John W. Richmond said planning was already under way for this new initiative.

“This gift will permit us to take our UNL Opera across Nebraska to share opera with the entire state and with special attention to our rural communities,” Richmond said. “Hixson-Lied Professor and Director of Opera William Shomos and I have begun the planning for the launch of this remarkable initiative that will mean so much to so many. Whether in historic opera venues in our state, such as the historic opera houses in Red Cloud or Minden, or in church basements and middle-school cafetoriums, UNL Opera will serve Nebraska audiences that have been beyond our reach.”

Previous donations from the Seacrests for the Korff School funded two trips to Ireland for the UNL Opera program to compete in the Waterford Light Opera Festivals in 2002 and 2007, where it won best opera in 2007.

Their gifts have also helped support a chamber/opera orchestra and the creation of the Ariel Bybee Professorship, among many others.

They also created the James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Program Excellence Fund in 2011 for the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts while serving as co-chairs of the college’s last campaign committee.

“Jim and Rhonda Seacrest are what I like to call proactive, pre-emptive philanthropists,” Richmond said. “They see a need or a wonderful opportunity and then come to us with an offer to help. They are true standard bearers among our many supporters, and we could not be more grateful for this gift.”

James Seacrest graduated from UNL in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. The Seacrest family owned and published newspapers in Lincoln, Scottsbluff and North Platte. Since leaving the newspaper business, the Seacrests have given their time, talent and financial support to many UNL projects. Their support has touched many areas at the university, including the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, the College of Business Administration, Sheldon Museum of Art, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications and the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

In 2008, James Seacrest received the Nebraska Builder’s Award, the highest honor given annually to individuals who have been “builders” of UNL through their philanthropy.
To learn about opportunities to support the students and programs within the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, please visit or contact Connie Pejsar at the University of Nebraska Foundation at 402-458-1190 or at

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