Learning and development of young children is focus of Whitmer Scholarship at UNL

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Learning and development of young children is focus of Whitmer Scholarship at UNL

Scholarship honors alumnus while forever supporting UNL students preparing to help Nebraska’s youngest learners.

Helping to prepare future generations of educators who are especially needed to guide the learning and development of Nebraska’s youngest learners is the focus of a new student scholarship in memory of University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumnus Bill Whitmer.

Mae Whitmer of Lincoln was inspired to create the scholarship because of Prosper Lincoln and its efforts to enhance what the community has to offer in the areas of early childhood, employment skills and innovation.

“We need more teachers who are trained and qualified to meet the special needs of early childhood education, and I wanted to do something that aligned with Prosper Lincoln and its admirable efforts in this very important area,” she said.

She established the Bill and Mae Whitmer Early Childhood Education Scholarship Fund as a permanently endowed fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation to support early childhood education students in the UNL College of Education and Human Sciences. The scholarship commemorates the life of her husband, Bill, who died in 2012.

Scholarships such as the Whitmers’ are helping to build a skilled, informed and diverse early childhood workforce in Nebraska, said Dr. Richard Bischoff, the Gwendolyn A. Newkirk Professor and chair of the Child, Youth and Family Studies Department.

“We’re deeply grateful to Mae Whitmer and her family for this generous gift,” Bischoff said. “It is timely and relevant. The impact of the gift will expand beyond dollars for tuition to inspire teaching excellence, which makes a difference for young children, their families and teachers.”

The College of Education and Human Sciences has awarded Whitmer Early Childhood Education Scholarships of $2,500 each to six inaugural recipients for the 2016-2017 school year:

—Amber Collins, a senior from Plymouth.

—Elizabeth Dunavin, a senior from Eagle.

—Amanda Francis, a senior from Lincoln.

—Kristine Lamb, a senior from Omaha.

—Margaret Owens, a junior from Omaha.

—Alyssa Rhoadarmer, a senior from Longmont, Colorado.

Bischoff said the Whitmer Scholarship helps to address important education workforce needs by helping the university attract and retain exceptional students to its Inclusive Early Childhood Education program.

“Nebraska, like most states, must bolster the early childhood education workforce through training and professional development, as well as by encouraging exceptional students to choose and pursue careers as early childhood educators,” he said. “That’s what the Whitmer Scholarship helps to do.”

The gift of the Whitmer Scholarship also provides support for Our Students, Our Future, the University of Nebraska’s current initiative seeking support for students.

Bill Whitmer studied electrical engineering at Nebraska and graduated in 1959. He and Mae were married the following year and raised two children, Dr. Lori W. Wennstedt, a child psychologist, and John Whitmer, a construction management graduate of the UNL College of Engineering.

Bill Whitmer was third-generation owner of ABC Electric of Lincoln, where he started working at age 14 at the company started by his grandparents in 1932. The full-service electrical contractor company is now led by his son and fourth-generation owner, John Whitmer.

In addition to being long-time supporters of the University of Nebraska, the Whitmers have also been active in the Lincoln community. They have enjoyed supporting the Clinton Neighborhood Organization, Malone Center, Child Guidance Center, Lincoln Public Schools Foundation, Lincoln Community Foundation and Saint Paul United Methodist Church.

Recipients of the Bill and Mae Whitmer Early Childhood Education Scholarship are examples of how the Our Students, Our Future initiative at the University of Nebraska 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 also like to help promising students, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216 or send us a message.

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