Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation makes $23 million investment in UNO, UNMC Scott Scholars

Suzanne and Walter Scott, Jr.

Walter Scott, Jr. believed the most important thing a society could do was to invest in the next generation. He also was deeply committed to his hometown of Omaha. To carry on his legacy, the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation has committed more than $23 million to the Walter Scott, Jr. Scholarship Program (Scott Scholars).

The generous gift will sustain and grow the prestigious program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where it was first established by the late Omaha philanthropist in 1997. The gift also will support the expansion of the Scott Scholars Program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where an inaugural class of 12 Scott Scholars began their first year of medical school in the fall of 2023.

At UNO, a $20 million pledge will allow more students to enroll in the highly competitive Scott Scholars Program, expanding capacity from a total of 128 students to 168 students. A $3 million pledge will support the program’s expansion at UNMC.

“We are pleased to expand our investment in students through the Scott Scholars Program,” said Calvin Sisson, president and CEO of the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation. “The enhanced program aligns perfectly with our mission to support Mr. Scott’s vision and interests by investing in education, developing leaders and advancing communities. Walter cared deeply about investing in Nebraska’s best and brightest students, not because they deserve it, but because they have the greatest potential to give back.”

The gifts from the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation were made through the University of Nebraska Foundation as part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future. The campaign is a historic effort to engage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support University of Nebraska students, faculty, academic and clinical programs and research to address the needs of the state. Scholarships are a top priority of the campaign with a particular focus on critical areas of need including health care, engineering and information technology.

UNO, Scott Scholars

Walter Scott’s vision in establishing the Scott Scholars Program was to challenge high-achieving STEM students from Nebraska to develop their technical skills. Initially limited to engineering and information technology, the Scott Scholars Program was broadened in 2017 to include all the STEM disciplines and add a new focus on leadership development.

UNO Scott Scholars reside together in a living-learning community in the Scott Residence Hall and neighboring Scott Village.

Accepted students, who must be Nebraska residents and have a high school GPA of 3.5 or greater and an ACT score of 30 or greater, receive the Regents Scholarship through UNO to cover tuition. The Scott Scholars Program covers all other costs, including books, a laptop, room and board and funding for professional development opportunities.

The $20 million pledge from the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation will support the Scott Scholars Program for the next five years, through the 2028-29 academic year. The gift also expands the program from a class size of 32 students to 42 students a year.

Since it began, an estimated 600 Scott Scholars have graduated, with more than 80% choosing to stay in Nebraska after graduation to pursue their careers. The average annual salary for 2023 graduating Scott Scholars was $78,000.

Harnoor Dhaliwal, Ph.D., associate executive director of the Scott Scholars Program, said the connections students build in the community are key to retaining them in Nebraska after graduation. Scholars not only participate in internships at local companies, professional development conferences and research opportunities; they also partner with local organizations to solve technical problems.

Selected students can choose from among numerous STEM-based academic programs, including engineering, computer science, IT innovation, math and economics, as well as multiple pre-health degrees. Half the students in the most recent class expressed an interest in health sciences, which was an impetus for the expansion of the Scott Scholars Program to UNMC.

UNMC College of Medicine, Scott Scholars

The Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation established the Scott Scholars Program in the UNMC College of Medicine to prepare high-achieving students to serve as health care professionals. The program is designed to leverage students’ growing health sciences expertise to solve health-related challenges in the community and in clinical settings, as well as in critically important life sciences research.

In the fall of 2023, an inaugural class of students enrolled in the Scott Scholars Program in the UNMC College of Medicine after the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation made a pledge of more than $1.7 million to launch the pilot program. The foundation subsequently increased its commitment to more than $3 million, supporting a second 12-member cohort for the fall of 2024. Foundation leaders have expressed an interest in expanding the UNMC program to other health sciences academic colleges in the future.

UNMC provides in-state tuition, and the Scott Scholars Program covers room and board and a stipend to fund professional and research opportunities for four years for UNMC medical students. Scholars live together in a living-learning community within an apartment complex near the UNMC campus. Students participate in unique experiential learning opportunities at UNMC and across the nation.

The UNMC Scott Scholars Program is open to students from around the country. Three medical students currently in the UNMC inaugural class graduated from the UNO Scott Scholars Program. It’s also anticipated that students graduating with pre-health bachelor’s degrees from the four other Scott Scholars Programs across the country will become future UNMC Scott Scholars.

Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation

The Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation was founded in 1990 by Walter Scott, Jr. and his wife, Suzanne. The couple were passionate champions for numerous causes and projects that improved the quality of life in Walter’s birthplace of Omaha.

Walter, who died in 2021, was chair emeritus and former CEO of Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc. and former chair of the board of Level 3 Communications Inc. Suzanne, who died in 2013, served as a director of the Omaha Zoological Society, Joslyn Art Museum and the Salvation Army, and she was a board chair for United Way of the Midlands.

What others are saying

“Walter Scott’s visionary generosity established the Scott Scholars Program, a gold standard in nurturing exceptional talents with intention and care. A dynamic community is propelling top achieving students toward shaping Nebraska’s future. Beyond academics, it fosters camaraderie, a sense of belonging and uncompromised service to the community. UNO extends heartfelt gratitude to the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation, Calvin Sisson, Laura Miller and their team for their steadfast support and continued investment in the best and the brightest within our student body. — Joanne Li, Ph.D., CFA, chancellor, University of Nebraska at Omaha

“It has been an amazing opportunity to work directly with Mr. Scott and his colleagues to plan and now implement the UNMC health professions program for the Scott Scholars. The potential for this program is best exemplified by the success of the students who completed the undergraduate program and now are enrolled at UNMC. This program will continue to have a tremendous impact on the amazing careers of caring that future generations of leaders will pursue.” — Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., chancellor, University of Nebraska Medical Center

“This is an extraordinary investment in our young people. All of us at the University of Nebraska are grateful to the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation for their continued generosity. This gift aligns perfectly with the University of Nebraska’s vision to compete for our best and brightest and give them every opportunity to chase their dreams right here in Nebraska. Students and our state will benefit for generations to come.” — Chris Kabourek, interim president, University of Nebraska

“This transformational investment will sustain and grow the Scott Scholars Program at UNO and expand this exceptional program to UNMC. The Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation’s generosity ensures the continuation of Suzanne and Walter’s vision of preparing high-achieving students to develop their skills and leadership potential to make a difference for Nebraska.” — Brian F. Hastings, president and CEO, University of Nebraska Foundation

“The gift that the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation has given to the community is quite remarkable. This one-of-a-kind program focuses on developing the whole person. We simply haven’t found anything else like it.” — Wayne Watkins, executive director, Scott Scholars Program

About the University of Nebraska at Omaha

Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.

About the University of Nebraska Medical Center

As Nebraska’s only public academic health science center, the University of Nebraska Medical Center enrolls more than 4,500 students across six colleges, two institutes and a graduate studies program. Its mission is to create a healthier future for Nebraskans through premier education, research and clinical care, but its impact — rooted in a culture of collaboration, big ideas and public-private partnerships — goes far beyond, in areas that include infectious diseases, rural health, cancer research and treatments, global health security, and simulation and experiential learning technologies.

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. During the most recent fiscal year, 58,072 donors supported the University of Nebraska, and a record $354.5 million in new funds was committed to aid UNK, UNL, UNO, NCTA and UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine. The foundation raises more than $7 for every $1 spent. Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future is its current campaign with a goal to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at

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