Recipient of the university’s longest-running private scholarship has ‘big plans’ with her degree

Dorothy Thai of Lincoln is a current recipient of the oldest endowed scholarship managed by the University of Nebraska Foundation. The scholarship was established by university alumnus Edward Cornish in 1937 and continues to help students every year.
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Food was always a big part of life in the Thai household. For Dorothy Thai, a senior at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, making food with her family was a way to explore a passion and experiment with new flavors.

“I got into cooking when I was really young,” Thai said. “My parents cook a lot as opposed to going out — it’s cheaper.”

Thai’s family did not have a lot of money when she was growing up, so trying out new restaurants was mostly not an option. Instead, Thai explored new foods by working on recipes at home.

Thai’s parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam, own a small grocery store in Lincoln, so food has long been married to business in Thai’s mind. She imagined starting her own type of food business, although she wasn’t sure what it could be. But she knew she wanted to help people somehow, and she was determined to make it happen.

“I had this dream for a really, really long time,” she said. “I worked super hard at school. I said, ‘I’m going to become a businesswoman someday. Nothing is going to stop me.’”

Thai knew she had more to learn and discover before she could realize her goals, so she applied to the food science and technology program at UNL. Food science majors prepare for careers at food processing firms or government agencies developing new food products, managing food plants or conducting food research and marketing.

Courses can range from biochemistry to cereal technology to microbiology of fermented foods. Thai knew she had the creativity and business mindset she needed to start her own company, and a degree in food science and technology would provide the scientific know-how to edge out her competition.

But Thai’s family could not afford to send her to university. She knew the only way she could get there was with the help of a scholarship, so she worked even harder to make sure she qualified for every form of assistance available to her.

Thai first received a two-year scholarship to attend Southeast Community College, where she completed her prerequisites. She then received four additional scholarships to attend UNL, including the prestigious University of Nebraska Board of Regents scholarship that helps cover tuition.

Thai also received a particularly meaningful scholarship from the oldest scholarship fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation, the Edward J. Cornish Scholarship.

Cornish was a UNL graduate who went on to become the CEO of the National Lead Company, and the fund he established has provided scholarships since 1937. Today its impact continues to be felt in the realized dreams and ambitions of countless students who have received support from the fund over the last 84 years.

“If I could personally thank Edward Cornish, I would tell him, first of all, thank you for putting your time and money toward education for so many future students like me,” Thai told the foundation. “And secondly, thank you for entrusting your funds to a university that has the heart to look past the cultural and ethnic differences that continue to divide this world today. UNL has so much diversity that I am proud to be a part of. I am forever grateful for everyone who has made my education possible and that of so many others.”

For Thai, receiving scholarship support means getting to pursue her goal to create food products that help people — whether it’s through reducing packaging waste to help the environment or giving back a portion of profits to communities around the world.

“I never thought I could do that much,” Thai said. “All I knew how to do was cooking and baking — that was the only thing I was really good at. But now I want to create a whole brand, a whole company. I have a lot of big plans with my degree.”

If you’re interested in starting an endowed scholarship fund that could help students obtain a University of Nebraska education over the next 85 years and longer, contact us today at or 800-432-3216.


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