Non-traditional student appreciates the opportunity

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Scholarships like the John E. McCue Memorial Scholarship, Dan says, can take some pressure off of non-traditional students like him.

For UNL student Dan Wiek, earning the John E. McCue Memorial Scholarship meant he could go back to school and get a construction-management degree.

But enrolling in college can be difficult at age 36.

Tack on the pressures of a family and finances, and the strain from college is even greater. His responsibilities at home in Omaha are some that most regular college students don’t have. He is married to his wife, Julie, and helps raise his stepdaughter.

Scholarships like the John E. McCue Memorial Scholarship, Dan says, take some pressure off of non-traditional students like him.

“When I think back about school for the rest of my career, I will always remember the John E. McCue Scholarship,” he says. “John was an engineer with Kiewit. If things work out in the future, I may also be an employee of Kiewit.”

He will be 39 when he graduates.

In an e-mail to the foundation, Dan – who’s the first recipient of the scholarship – expressed his gratitude to the McCue family.

It can open doors that otherwise might not be available.

He said he is grateful for the financial support because of the opportunity it allows him to have.

Going back to school and getting a construction-management degree is something he’s always wanted to do. And now that he has the opportunity, he is going to make it count.

“I am not here to get B’s. I am here to get A’s,” he says. “Anything less and I should have tried harder. This scholarship enforces that line of reasoning even more. I don’t know what Mr. McCue was like, but I bet he was like that to a certain degree.”

John McCue was a non-traditional student himself. He was familiar with challenges older students face when returning to the college classroom. After graduating in 1982 with a construction-engineering major, he built a 22-year career with Kiewit Construction as an engineer and area manager.

He died at home in Algonquin, Ill., in March of 2009. He was just 54.

In honor of John McCue’s life, his family and friends established the John E. McCue Memorial Scholarship with gifts of nearly $60,000 to the University of Nebraska Foundation. Now permanently endowed, the fund enables the UNL College of Engineering to award annual scholarships to support non-traditional students with financial need.

In his e-mail, Dan wrote about how the scholarship helps motivate him to succeed in school.

It shows how people who value education can really make a difference.

He is glad the scholarship will continue for years to come, so that others will be able to benefit from the generosity of the McCue family, just as he has.

“It means a lot to me that families like the McCues will set some of their money aside and share that with other people so they can benefit from it,” he says. “Saying thank you alone does not seem right, but that is about all I can say.”

Thank you.

“I am honored that I was chosen for this scholarship and maybe one day can do the same for someone else.”

Student support is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you’d also like to support engineering students like Dan Wiek, please consider giving online or contact the foundation’s Nick Shada at 402-458-1203 or Karen Moellering at 402-458-1179.

Jessica Sorensen, a public relations intern at the University of Nebraska Foundation, wrote this story. Sorensen is a senior in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. She has studied four years of Spanish and volunteers at the Animal Humane Society.

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