Scholarship encourages Fairbury High grads to study math, sciences at UNL

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W. Kim and Jean Austen have established the Austen Family Scholarship Fund.

Two Nebraska natives who support the values instilled in young people who grow up in small Midwestern communities have established a permanently endowed scholarship fund for students graduating from Fairbury High School.

W. Kim and Jean Austen of Des Moines, Iowa, have established the Austen Family Scholarship Fund with a $100,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The scholarship will provide annual scholarship awards to encourage Fairbury grads to pursue studies in math, science or engineering at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Kim Austen said he’s especially grateful for the Nebraska schools that educated several members of his family and for the community that provided many fond memories.

“Education has always been important to us, and Fairbury High School and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln both provided me with an excellent foundation for lifelong success,” Kim Austen said. “I believe more teens need to consider careers in the sciences and mathematics if we want to keep our country in the forefront of today’s global thinking.”

Austen said he believes increasing the number of students majoring in math, science or engineering will be valuable to the country in the coming years. “These careers have always played an important part of improving our lives, and with technology advancing faster than ever today, they will be critical in the future,” he said.

Scholarships will be awarded annually by the UNL Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. Eligible recipients must be graduates of Fairbury High School, and preference will be given to college freshmen pursuing majors related to math, science or engineering who have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above.

The gift of this scholarship also supports the University of Nebraska’s current fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities. One of the campaign’s priorities is to increase support for student scholarships on the UNL campus.

Kim Austen was born in Fairbury, where his father worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. He graduated from Fairbury High School in 1973 and graduated from UNL in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics. He is president and chief operating officer of Allied Insurance Company in Des Moines and holds the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation. Allied is a leading provider of property and casualty insurance products throughout the United States and is a division of Nationwide Insurance, a Fortune 125 insurance and financial services company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

Jean Austen grew up in Lincoln, where her father was president of Cushman Motors, and attended Western Illinois University. After graduating, she returned to Lincoln where she met Kim, and they have been married for 32 years. She serves on the board of the Ankeny Community School District Foundation in Iowa.

Kim Austen serves as a board member of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. He is an advisory board member of the Emmett J. Vaughan Institute of Risk Management and Insurance affiliated with the University of Iowa’s College of Business and is a member of the Iowa Business Council. He sits on the leadership cabinet of the American Red Cross, Central Iowa Chapter; serves as a member of the Chair’s Circle of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and serves on the board of the United Way of Central Iowa. He’s also a board member of the Ankeny Community School District Foundation.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that has connected the dreams and passions of donors to the mission of the university for the past 75 years. In 2010, donors designated more than $136 million in gifts to scholarships, academic programs, medical research and other priorities at the university. The foundation’s current $1.2 billion fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, concludes in 2014. For more information, visit

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