It was a Perfect Day

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It was a Perfect Day

In the exact hour of the dedication of UNO’s Scott Campus, two young pilots lifted by Scott’s generosity take to the sky above campus.

Calm winds. Stable air. Blue sky.

It was a perfect day to fly. So a little before 3 p.m. this past Oct. 5, young pilots Brandon Perkins and Madchen Petry, students in the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Aviation Institute, took off from the Council Bluffs Municipal Airport in a Cessna 172.

They climbed high and headed west.

It was a perfect day for Brandon to teach Madchen how to handle this model of plane. She hadn’t used a few of its more advanced components yet, like the autopilot and the Garmin G1000, an integrated flight instrument. Before joining UNO’s flight program two years ago, she knew almost nothing about flight. She lacked even a basic knowledge of aircraft. Now she’s a private pilot pursuing her instrument license, and she’ll tell you she’s learning something new at UNO every day.

Every flight.

And this day, it was a special flight.

A little after 3 p.m., the two young pilots reached the middle of Omaha and the edge of UNO’s Pacific Campus. It was right around the time, they knew, when people would be gathered for a ceremony down below to officially name that campus “Scott Campus” in honor of philanthropist Walter Scott Jr., a man who’s done so much for Omaha.

And for them.

It was a perfect day for Brandon and Madchen, who both want to become professional pilots someday, to think about the man who’s been a longtime force behind so many people and projects at UNO, including their own Aviation Institute.

“I think it’s wonderful that we have supporters like him,” Madchen said, “because I know the struggle that many of us students feel, having the added responsibility of flight training on top of our schoolwork.

“And I know that any support for us goes a long way.”

They flew three loops high above the campus. They flew above the ceremony, near 67th and Pacific streets and just outside of the Peter Kiewit Institute. PKI, home of UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology (IS&T), has been one of the main areas at UNO to receive support from Scott, who is chairman emeritus of Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc.

They flew above Patrick Davlin, UNO’s student regent, who spoke at the ceremony about how he and other students already knew about Scott’s generosity. Anyone can see Scott’s impact, he said, just by driving along 67th Street through the campus, a stretch now named “Scott Drive.”

“You’ll see Scott Hall, Scott Conference Center, Scott Court, Scott Village, the Scott Technology Center,” he told the crowd, “and down the street, Scott Crossing is being built to house more students.”

They flew above all of those gifts from Scott. Each year, his foundation funds 100 to 150 scholarships for students in the College of Engineering and College of IS&T. Those students are “Scott Scholars.”

They flew above many Scott Scholars who’d come to the ceremony. People like Eric Gitt (’03), a former Scott Scholar who’d driven from the Old Market and the job he loves with G4S, a security and telecommunications company.

Eric would tell you that one major benefit of the Scott Scholarship was getting to meet Scott and learn about him and his philosophy of giving back, which inspired Eric and others in the Scott Scholar Alumni Association to create their own scholarship.

He probably slapped a “Scott Campus” sticker onto his suit. (Later that day, he brought another sticker home to his 2-year-old, Celia, who slapped it onto her pink Tinkerbell pajamas. “She wanted to be like dad,” Eric said.)

They flew above the new Baxter Arena on the south edge of campus. Inside, the Maverick hockey team was practicing on its new state-of-the-art home ice for its first match of the season, against Minnesota State, and Alfred Ohlinger, a Scott Scholar, was practicing his trombone with the UNO Marching Band. They were, at that hour, doing a final run-through for a performance that would be that night at a dinner held in honor of Scott, a driving force behind Baxter Arena.

Alfred would tell you that the Scott Scholarship made it so he had time to be in the band because he didn’t have to work. And he’ll graduate debt-free.

They flew above a drone that hovered much closer to Earth that day, helping to pull a cloth away to unveil a new monument:

Scott Campus

Honoring Walter Scott Jr.

And its white word cut into the metal.

They flew above Scott Scholar Rob Truman, who actually helped create that monument. Rob, a senior majoring in construction engineering, wasn’t as the ceremony. He instead was in Room 167 of PKI in a class called Reinforced Concrete Design.

As an intern last summer with the Kiewit Building Group, Rob helped put together the original estimate for the new monument. He helped line up subcontractors and manufacturers for the monument and helped write the final contract.

“Being a Scott Scholar and a Kiewit employee, his legacy is all around me,” Rob said. “From providing me with a world-class education to making the company I work for what it is today. Walter has truly shaped the life I live in. But if his many contributions to this city don’t convince you of his character, sharing a meal with him will. He’s one of the most down-to-earth and humble men I’ve ever been around.

“He never forgot the days he spent driving stakes for surveying crews, and it’s evident in his character to this day.”

It was a perfect day for many young people, on Earth and in that blue sky.

Few people knew Brandon and Madchen were flying above “Scott Campus” in its very first hour, and few people knew the two had chosen their flight path for that day in honor of Scott.

They just felt it was a perfect way to thank the man who’s a big reason why they can fly so high.

“I’ve never met Walter,” Madchen said later, back down on Earth. “But if I did get a chance to meet him – or even to fly with him – I would let him know what a truly great person he is.”

Student support is one of the priorities of the University of Nebraska’s Our Students, Our Future fundraising initiative, which is helping to make better futures for us all. The two-year, $200 million initiative seeks gifts in support of students and goes through 2017.
If you would like to help promising students make the world a better place, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216 or send us a message.

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