‘Mr. Dick Hanzel …Thank you’

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

INDIANAPOLIS – This envelope comes as a surprise.

“Oh, wow.”

He tears it open and reads the handwritten note out loud:

Mr. Dick Hanzel,

As a recipient of this year’s Hanzel Scholarship, I would like to offer you this sincere thank you for your donation. Your generosity has created this scholarship that will ease the cost of attending school. …

Mr. Dick Hanzel smiles.

A ’59 graduate of UNL’s College of Business Administration, Hanzel didn’t know he’d be reading a note like this so soon. It’s from a young man named Jared Maguire of Norfolk, Neb., who’s the first of many recipients of the Hanzel Scholarship – a full-ride scholarship for finance and accounting majors at UNL.

This is the first of many such notes that will come to the Hanzel home in Indianapolis.

… The recognition of both my academic and co-curricular work through this scholarship is a blessing. …

His home on the north side of this city is not too far from the national headquarters of Top Value Fabrics, the company Hanzel co-founded in 1974 when he was still a young man and then made into one of the nation’s leading wholesale supplier of fabrics for industrial, marine and active outwear uses.

Hanzel sits in a favorite leather chair near a front window.

He likes this city and this state. It’s where he made his fortune. But to him, Nebraska will always be home, too. Nebraska gave him values that helped him make it in the business world. Nebraska gave him an education. Nebraska is where his blessings began. Nebraska, he says, imprinted on him for life.

His wife teases because he still waves at strangers, still does that Nebraska farmer’s wave.

And it’s good to hear from a Nebraskan again.

… I have always seen college as an investment into my future. …

Hanzel was born the youngest of seven to a farm family who lived just outside of Dodge, Neb. The land had been homesteaded by his grandfather, who’d immigrated from Czechoslovakia. Hanzel’s grandfather must have been a man who cared about education, because he donated an acre to create District 41 and the country schoolhouse. It’s where Hanzel first went to school.

Hanzel was shy. He attended five different schools in the first five years. Kids bullied him because he always was the new kid. He didn’t fit in.

But that ended up being the best training for what he would become. An entrepreneur. A millionaire. In the business world, he says, you don’t want to fit in. You don’t want to follow the crowd.

You want to stay hungry.

… Having more than my own personal investment put into my education gives me all the more motivation to succeed. …

Over the years, Hanzel, 76, has mentored young people in the business world. Some went on to become millionaires, too. The ones who’ve succeeded, he’s noticed, had a lot in common with him. They were willing not to fit in, they were willing to risk their own money upfront, and they stayed hungry.

Hanzel’s family wasn’t poor. He was never truly hungry. But he always felt his family’s lack of money. His parents ended up owning the movie theater in Beemer, Neb. Hanzel saw how his dad kept a log of every penny he made and spent. That’s when Hanzel first saw the importance of having accounting skills.

His first job at the theater was as the cleaning boy. He worked his way up to the popcorn machine and then to the projection booth. He saved every penny he could and that money, along with the ROTC money he made, helped pay his way through UNL.

He made certain conditions for the Hanzel Scholarships:

He wants them to go to students majoring in finance and accounting, because those fields, he feels, lay the groundwork for business success.

He wants them to go to students from rural Nebraska – hard-working students who really could use the help. The students can’t be in a fraternity or sorority. He wants the kids who want to change their status in life.

He wants the underdogs.

He and his wife, Judy, didn’t have children, so he sees this Hanzel Scholarship as an opportunity to help young people succeed.

That’s the nature of Nebraska, he says: Parents forego their own comfort to make sure the next generation succeeds.

… The added opportunities this scholarship will present me are going to help me grow and reach my educational goals. …

As a kid in the projection booth of his parents’ theater, Hanzel loved watching the war movies. He imagined himself as the hero running up the hill with a machine gun, blasting everybody off the hilltop.

His time in Vietnam changed that.

It took maybe 10 years to get over the stress of losing people and the stress of knowing that the pretty leaves on the paths through the jungle could be camouflaging traps – holes with sharp, feces-covered bamboo poles sticking up, waiting for him to fall.

He didn’t.

When you first get to a combat zone, he says, you start out hypersensitive. Then you become overconfident. Then you become humble, and you hope that the humble sets in before somebody shoots you.

… Among other activities, I will now be able to participate in a study abroad program which was previously out of my financial reach. …

Hanzel had a mentor in the business world when he was a young man. The mentor’s name was Victor. Hanzel worked for Victor for almost seven years here in Indianapolis after returning from Vietnam and earning his MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

“Pull the cotton out of your ears, and put it in your mouth,” Victor would say. “Let other people speak. Then you’ll know what you know, and you’ll also know what they know.”

Victor was a great man who wanted to help God do His work on Earth. But his sons, Hanzel says, weren’t as great. And they didn’t like Hanzel.

One day, Victor fell. He broke a hip. One of the sons took advantage of that and fired Hanzel on the spot. That happened on a Thursday, and Hanzel opened Top Value Fabrics on the following Monday.

He started at the bottom with just two chairs, a card table and a phone.

… I greatly appreciate your contribution to these opportunities and to my college career as a whole. …

Decades ago, during his own college career in Lincoln, Hanzel used his grades as the “scorecard” to measure success. Later, the scorecard became the money he made with Top Value Fabrics.

But money itself, he says, is not an ideal goal. You also have to give back. You have to give back to the people and places that helped you along the path. That’s why he’s giving so much now to UNL’s College of Business Administration and to the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

You can give back by being a mentor, and you can give back by helping a young person like the one you used to be.

Like the one whose story arrived this day in an envelope.

… Thank you for your generosity.


Jared Maguire

Mr. Dick Hanzel looks up from the note.

“This is fantastic,” he says, still smiling. “Can you imagine how good that makes me feel?”

Student Support is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska, the university’s current fundraising initiative, which ends Dec. 31. More than $268 million has been raised for University of Nebraska students since the campaign began in 2005, and more than 1,858 scholarship funds have been created.

If you, like Dick Hanzel, would like to contribute to UNL’s College of Business Administration, please consider giving online or contact the foundation at 800-432-3216.

Share this story:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Looking for more stories?