New foundation CEO proud to be in Nebraska

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“I am humbled to be here,”

The egg, thrown from a passing car, landed near his wife’s feet.


All over her legs.

“We were walking around downtown Lincoln,” says Ohio native Brian Hastings, the new president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation who moved here just over a month ago from The Ohio State University.

“We were on an advance trip to do some house hunting and meet the staff. We were walking back to our hotel – the Cornhusker – and literally having a conversation about just how nice everybody in Nebraska was.

“Then here comes the egg.”

He laughs.

“My wife took the brunt of it. It did not hit me.”

After a month on the job, Hastings still is sure Nebraskans are as nice as they come, and that one bad egg was an exception. He’s met the most amazing people at all of the University of Nebraska campuses and everywhere he’s gone so far in the state.

People with a can-do attitude. People with pride in their state and their university.

His state and his university now.

“I am humbled to be here,” he told a group of University of Nebraska supporters in September, when he was introduced to them officially at a Campaign for Nebraska rally in Omaha.

“Not only because I am joining a team and a campaign that’s winning, but because I am joining a foundation, a university and a state that has a tradition of success.

“I’m a Midwestern guy. I was born and raised in Ohio. I graduated from a land-grant university and I’m a first-generation college graduate. I believe in the role of higher education. So when I heard and saw the incredible sense of pride that people have in this state and in the University of Nebraska, I knew I had found something special.”

That pride is rubbing off on him as he’s immersed himself in the mission of the foundation and in the culture of the state.

He felt that pride as he took in the Sandhills while standing on a hill of the university’s 12,000-acre Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory, which is located in Grant, Hooker and Cherry counties.

He got out his iPad and took a panoramic video.

“It’s so beautiful,” he says, “So breathtaking.”

He felt that pride as he talked with university scientists in North Platte who are doing important research on pesticide application. He saw their wind tunnel, which has a capacity to make wind blow at more than 200 mph.

He smiles.

“I didn’t get in it.”

He felt that pride as he toured the campus in Curtis and learned what the people there are doing for agriculture. He felt it as he visited a site near Gothenburg where the university is partnering with Monsanto to create drought-tolerant corn. He felt it on all the University of Nebraska campuses, where “very exciting things are happening.”

“What I love about large, complex universities,” he says, “is that you have these gems that you find, each and every day in your work.”

He’s experienced some quirky gems, too.

He’s had a burger and fries at Ole’s Big Game bar in Paxton. He’s enjoyed his first Runza. He’s had his picture taken with a stuffed polar bear at Cabela’s in Sidney.

He’s visited Carhenge.

When the Huskers played at Ohio State on Oct. 6, Hastings proudly walked into Ohio Stadium wearing a pair of red Husker slacks with the letter “N” polka-dotted all over them (a gift from someone on the foundation’s board).

He posted a photo on Facebook.

Wrote an Ohio State friend:

If you are willing to wear those, I might just donate to your campaign!

Hastings responded by posting the link to the Campaign for Nebraska site:

Ohio and Nebraska are alike in a lot of ways, he says. People in both places have high expectations.

“I think the theme for this campaign – “Unlimited Possibilities” – is a lot like that Nebraska spirit. There is a sense here of ‘We can’ and ‘We will.’

“When people here commit to doing something, they get it done. Like the huge cancer project at UNMC and how we need to raise $200 million in private and other support in a very short window of time. But in talking to members of the community about it, you get the sense of, ‘Look, we’re going to get it done.’

“I think if you look at this University of Nebraska team, and what it’s been able to accomplish over the course of time in a state with such a small population, it’s really pretty impressive.”

Hastings says he and his wife, Sharon, had been thinking about making a move out of Ohio State.

But where?

Finding a new job, he says, is a lot like house hunting. You’re waiting to walk into someplace and have it feel just right.

“This job had that feeling.”

They have two kids. Joe is 4. Anne will be 2 in January. They have two Irish setters, Grady and Birdie. They found a house they like.

A few nights after moving in, as they ate Valentino’s pizza in their new home, little Joe said something that showed he was already feeling that Nebraska pride, too.

He was wearing his new “NEBRASKA” sweatshirt, which is red with a big white “N.”

“Mom,” he said, “we are no longer for Ohio State. We’re for Nebraska now.”

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