Kenneth Cowan and Nancy Keegan receive University of Nebraska Foundation tributes

Kenneth Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, and Nancy Keegan, businesswoman and longtime University of Nebraska volunteer, are the 2015 recipients of the University of Nebraska Foundation’s annual awards for contributions made to university development and volunteer service.

Cowan receives Harlan J. Noddle Award

Cowan has been awarded the Harlan J. Noddle Award for Distinguished Development Service.

The award honors longtime University of Nebraska supporter, Harlan Noddle of Omaha, who served as chair of the NU Foundation board of directors, among many other volunteer roles. He died in 2005, and the award was created in his memory by his family and the university to annually recognize a university or foundation employee who exemplifies his initiative, honesty, integrity, compassion, commitment, foresight, tolerance and diligence.

“Over the years, my dad and Ken strategized and dreamed about what the med center and, specifically, what the cancer center could be and had great plans to work together,” said Jay Noddle, Harlan Noddle’s son and president and CEO of Noddle Companies. “Unfortunately, dad got sick, and Ken was intimately involved in his treatment protocols and delivered a daily dose of compassion and encouragement.”

About Cowan receiving the award, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D, said, “Ken has been a visionary leader of the cancer center. He came here…directly from a national cancer center where he had a very successful career and has continued to grow the research, education and the clinical programs at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.”

Cowan joined UNMC in 1999 as director of the former Eppley Cancer Center. Before joining UNMC, he spent 21 years at the National Cancer Institute and is widely known as an expert in breast cancer research and as a clinician who is loved by his patients.

UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, are about 18 months away from opening the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha. Cowan’s vision and leadership have been instrumental in the success of the new cancer center, and he’s helped to plan an innovative environment where science and patient care are integrated and where research and clinical experts work side-by-side to improve patient outcomes.

Cowan has effectively shared the university’s vision with philanthropic supporters, which has helped attract the private funds necessary to create the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

“He’s one of those people who I think we are so fortunate to have in Omaha,” Susie Buffett, chair of The Sherwood Foundation, said about Cowan being honored. “He’s just one of the best people I know. He’s just a wonderful, caring, super smart person.”

View the tribute video to Ken Cowan.

Keegan receives Perry W. Branch Award

Keegan has been awarded the Perry W. Branch Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service.

The award is named for Perry W. Branch, the first director of the foundation, and serves to commemorate the importance of volunteers to the organization. The foundation was founded in 1936 during the Great Depression and was an all-volunteer organization for the first several years of its operation.

Keegan, a native Nebraskan who lives in Los Angeles, has given of her time to the university and the foundation in many ways over the years. She served on the foundation’s board of directors, including as its chair from 2009 to 2011, and has served on its investment, audit and executive committee, as well as other leadership subcommittees.

Keegan’s service directly affected the University of Nebraska Foundation’s most recent comprehensive campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, which concluded in 2014 and received gifts of $1.8 billion for broad support of the university’s students, faculty and facilities.

“Nancy was one of the key leaders during the Campaign for Nebraska,” said Tonn Ostergard, past chair of the NU Foundation board and president and CEO of Crete Carrier. “The job she did in setting the tone for the campaign really helped propel us to these all-time record [fundraising] results.”

Keegan was a founding member and champion of Women Investing in Nebraska, an organization started in 2011 by the NU Foundation to address critical community needs and make a local impact with philanthropy.

“She was a huge supporter of our organization,” said Lisa Smith, chair of Women Investing in Nebraska and Smith Hayes investment consultant. “She joined WIN, came to the meetings and promoted it with all her heart.”

In addition to her service to the NU Foundation, Keegan has shared her talents with UNMC and Nebraska Medicine as part of their board of directors and advisory board.

Keegan’s grandfather, Dr. J. Jay Keegan, served as dean of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine during the mid-1920s and was among the top neurosurgeons in the nation. To honor him and the Keegan family’s connection to UNMC, Keegan and her husband, Don Voelte, made a major gift to establish a permanently endowed chair in neurosurgery.

“I’ve read a great deal about him [Keegan’s grandfather] and his work ethic, his focus on quality care, his focus on education and science, and I think he’d be very proud,” said Chancellor Gold about Keegan’s receipt of the Branch award.

“From the Lincoln campus standpoint, Nancy has walked the walk,” said UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman. “She and her husband, Don, made a very significant contribution to the Voelte-Keegan Nanoscience Research Center, and that’s had an extraordinary contribution.”

Harley Bergmeyer, former chair of the NU Foundation board of directors, a longtime Nebraska banker and NU champion, who recently died on Sept. 26, had an opportunity to express the university’s appreciation to Keegan through a video tribute to her.

“Thank you so much for your friendship and for your contributions, not only to the foundation, but to the university and to the state of Nebraska,” he said.

View the tribute video to Nancy Keegan.

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