Quirky professor taught them about biology, life and Lord of the Rings

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She didn’t want to take freshman biology from that professor.

It would be too weird.

But that’s the way it worked out and Lisa Boohar found herself sitting in that UNL professor’s class one day in the fall of 1987. Luckily, it was a class with hundreds of kids. She felt somewhat anonymous.

He was quirky. He had an off-beat sense of humor.

And it was weird. But fun, too.

“He was such a great teacher,” Lisa recalls by phone from her California home.

Over the semester, she marveled at how that professor could explain things in a way that forced her and all the other students to really learn biology, not just memorize it.

Lisa graduated summa cum laude from the Honors Program at UNL in 1993 and cum laude from medical school at UNMC in 1998, completing her residency at Stanford hospital in 2003. She now is Lisa Boohar M.D., chairman of the Radiation Oncology Department at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, Calif.

She misses that professor – her father, Richard Boohar, Ph.D.

He taught her much about science. And even more about life.

He died four years ago after a long fight with cancer.

“I look back now and I think, ‘I would give my left arm to be able to sit in his classroom again.'”

In his memory, the Boohar family created a scholarship fund in his name at UNL.

“We believe, like he did, that it’s vitally important to give back.”

The fund is part of Nebraska Legends, a program that offers scholarships to the best and brightest students across the state and the country as an extra incentive for them to choose UNL.

Eighty percent of the money raised for Nebraska Legends goes to scholarships while 20 percent goes to student recruitment, an important part of luring these top students (think of it like Husker athletic recruitment).

As an added bonus to people who donate to the Nebraska Legends fund – UNL will match gifts of a certain level with another $1,000.

“The Legends program is a wonderful recruiting tool for UNL,” says Lisa, who serves on the Legends Campaign committee. “I like what the program stands for – attracting smart, motivated students to our university.”

Her dad was passionate about UNL, she says, and he was a passionate advocate for his students.

He served as chief adviser in the School of Biological Sciences for many years, earning the Student Foundation Award for Outstanding Advising in 1988.

He taught her and her siblings, through his actions, not just his words, that it’s important to give back:

He donated more than 14 gallons of blood. (“I remember him donating ever since I was little,” Lisa says. “But I didn’t know how much 14 gallons was until I was older.”)

He read “The Lord of the Rings” more than 70 times. On the side, he led students in an informal discussion group about it.

His favorite course was Honors Ethics, which he created and continued to teach even after his health forced him to retire early.

“When he died we had a hard time deciding where to donate for his memorial, because there were so many organizations that he donated to on a regular basis. He didn’t have a lot of expendable income, but what he did have, he gave in support of causes he believed in.”

He was only 72 when he died. Lisa says her family received many letters from former students telling them what a great man and mentor he was, how much he helped them succeed.

A legend in their lives.

“Those letters and stories about my dad really made us know that his spirit is alive,” Lisa says, “through the teaching he passed on to his students.”

She knows he’d be proud of the family for helping students through the Nebraska Legends Fund.

“I love that something created in his name is going to be helping people for years down the road.”

Student support is one of the top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you, like Lisa and her family, also would like to make a gift to the Nebraska Legends Scholarship and Recruitment Fund to help UNL compete for the best and brightest students in the nation, please give online or contact the foundation’s Ben Zitek at 402-458-1241.

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