Memory of alumna Jessica Lutton Bedient lives on through study abroad

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Oct. 22, 2013 — Jessica Lutton Bedient was passionate about experiencing other cultures and serving others. To honor her life, which tragically ended three years ago, a study abroad scholarship was established in her memory at her alma mater, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Sophie Loveless of Kearney was awarded the first Jessica Lutton Bedient Study Abroad Scholarship to study and serve others in Africa this year.

Jessica, a 26 year-old newlywed, died on Oct. 13, 2010, four days after she and her husband, Tony Bedient, were in a traffic accident in Omaha.

To honor their daughter and allow others to pursue their educational dreams, Jessica’s parents, David and Susan Lutton of Ashland, established the study abroad scholarship with the help of many memorial gifts from family members and friends. The permanently endowed fund of more than $55,000 at the University of Nebraska Foundation now provides annual scholarships for students in the Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs program at UNL.

The fund was established to help cover travel and related expenses of students pursuing a minor in human rights and humanitarian affairs who, as part of their capstone experience within the minor, may choose to complete a service learning project abroad in the field of human rights or humanitarian affairs.

This scholarship enabled Sophie Loveless, a junior political science, global studies and history major, to expand her understanding of the world by studying abroad.

This summer, the scholarship enabled her to spend two months in Rwanda and Uganda as she learned about conflict in the area and how peace may be restored. Following her studies in Uganda, she returned to Rwanda to work with MIDIMAR, the refugee management department of the Rwandan government. She also taught English with a group dedicated to helping impoverished widows and mothers gain skills and personal income.

Sophie went to Africa to better understand the conflicts in Rwanda and Uganda; however, what she learned in her time abroad was even more meaningful to her.

“I did fall short in my search for understanding,” she said. “But I am not disappointed by this. I don’t think that anyone can ever actually understand the evil in the world. But to know how to help—that is the thing that will make the most difference. I learned what humanitarian work really means and how to establish a career I can be proud of and help the most people I can in the best way possible.”

Ari Kohen, director of the Forsythe Family Program on Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, is excited for students in the program to have more scholarship opportunities through the Jessica Lutton Bedient Fund.

“I think the scholarship is a real game-changer,” he said. “To have a human rights program of study, a human rights minor, and to be able to offer students a $2,500 scholarship to help them study abroad and to participate in a service learning capstone experience for their minor while they’re overseas—I just don’t think there’s anything like it.”

Kohen believes the purpose behind the scholarship mirrors several things Jessica valued in life.

“I learned from spending time talking with Jessica’s parents that she had this real focus, this real interest and passion for travel and learning about other cultures, and this idea of a service learning opportunity was one that they told me fit her personality,” he said. “It’s nice that we’re able to help honor her memory in a way that is really meaningful: sending a new generation of students to go do the sort of thing that she found so important and so valuable.”

Jessica joined the University of Nebraska Foundation in 2008 as a development officer for the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 2010, she worked from the foundation’s Omaha office as director of development for the College of Public Affairs and Community Service and the College of Information Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Jessica graduated from the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2006 and was pursuing a master of business administration degree from the university.

While Jessica continues to be missed, her positive influence on students at UNL has a lasting impact.

“This trip changed my life,” Loveless said. “I see things differently and am so much more grateful for the people around me and for the things that I never have to want for in my life. I am honored to have received this gift and to be able to honor Jessica’s memory in such a meaningful way.”

To learn more about the Jessica Lutton Bedient Study Abroad fund or to make a contribution, contact Josh Egley at the University of Nebraska Foundation at 402-458-1202 or

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 77 years. In 2013, donors provided the university with $236.7 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty support and facilities. The foundation’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.5 billion for the university and concludes Dec. 31, 2014. For more information, visit

Media contact:

Robb Crouch, University of Nebraska Foundation, 402-458-1142,

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