First professorship of orthodontics created at UNMC College of Dentistry

“It’s always been Nebraska …”

Widow of former Husker basketball player Henry Cech, a longtime Lincoln orthodontist and a dental school alumnus, knows her gift would have pleased her husband.

Henry and Anne Cech liked to be part of something larger than themselves.

Henry was a member of the Huskers’ back-to-back Big Seven champion basketball teams, in 1949 and ’50. Anne had a passion for team sports, too. Her dad coached high school football in Hastings and Holdrege. She caught balls and carried water and helped in any way she could. At the University of Nebraska, she studied physical education. She was part of a sorority, Kappa Delta.

They had a lab class together while undergrads but didn’t have their first date until after they both had graduated and Henry was in dental school. He’d drive by her on his way to dental school, while she was walking to work, and he’d wave. He did this several times before finally asking her out.

They married in 1956 and formed a team of their own. They raised two daughters. Their lives revolved around the people and organizations they loved.

“I made up my mind a long time ago that I would never marry someone who wasn’t interested in sports or wasn’t in it,” Anne said, “because I figured they knew teamwork.”

That’s one reason Anne started the Dr. Henry & Anne Cech Professorship – an endowment to support faculty in orthodontics – to help a place and programs they love grow even stronger.

Henry, who died in 2011, received his dental degree from the UNMC College of Dentistry in 1956 and his orthodontic degree in 1958. His Class of ’56 had stayed close over the years.

“I think he would be pleased,” Anne said. “He was proud of the dental school and the orthodontic department.”

The endowed professorship is the very first one for the orthodontics program at the UNMC College of Dentistry. It fulfills a standing priority need at the university – endowed faculty positions.

“It will help us recruit talented, world-renowned professors to our school,” said Dr. Sundaralingam Premaraj, associate professor and orthodontic program director at the UNMC College of Dentistry.

A professor of orthodontics typically has an income that is less than half of what an orthodontist working in private practice makes, Premaraj said. The Cech Professorship will help to close that gap and will give professors more time to conduct research, teach and serve people in other ways.

Henry loved orthodontics, Anne said. He seemed to know each patient by name – and what he’d done for their teeth – even years later when they ran into his patients around Lincoln.

“That always amazed me.”

Henry practiced orthodontics for years in a one-story mid-century modern building at the corner of 13th and A Streets in Lincoln.

Over the years, Anne and Henry generously supported the College of Dentistry. In 2006, they also helped fund a seminar room and library in the College of Dentistry building, which is located in Lincoln on UNL’s East Campus.

They also supported Husker athletics.

Anne had her own seat in the Bob Devaney Sports Center for basketball games. She was the first and the last person to sit in that seat. She also served as community representative on Bob Devaney’s 1973 Title IX Committee. She had a season pass to UNL football and basketball games for 50 years, and she still keeps in contact with college classmates.

“The university is just sort of in the family,” Anne said. “It’s just been in the family forever; my folks and both of my parents’ families all were graduates of Nebraska.”

Henry, who was president of the Alumni “N” Club, was proud to be a Husker.

He was proud of the College of Dentistry. He served as president of the College of Dentistry Alumni Association in 1968, and received the CODAA’s Alumni Achievement Award in 2008.

He was proud of his Czech heritage. He even acted as grand marshal of the Wilber Czech Days Parade one year.

He also was president of the Country Club of Lincoln.

Even though the two were a team, Anne says, they also had their own interests.

Anne was co-founder of the Nebraska Special Olympics and went on to become a member of the planning committee for the national games held in Nebraska in 2010. She just retired after serving 38 years as a track official and received a lifetime pass for any UNL track meet. She received the Nebraska Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2008.

Anne says she owes a lot to the College of Dentistry, and to the University of Nebraska as a whole.

“It’s always been Nebraska,” she said. “No place else for us.”

If you, like Anne Cech, also would like to help the University of Nebraska, please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

This story was written by foundation intern Madison Wurtele, who is studying journalism, English and political science at UNL.

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