Giving Tuesday has become a well-recognized addition to the themed shopping days just after Thanksgiving, and this year it falls on Nov. 30.

If you wish to support causes related to the University of Nebraska and Nebraska Medicine on this day, there are ways to make a difference in our institutions’ efforts to change lives and save lives.

Here are some suggestions for a rewarding giving option:

University of Nebraska at Kearney

Help provide the gift of academic opportunity to deserving UNK students who need financial support through scholarships with a contribution to the UNK Fund for Student Scholarships. These critical scholarships are awarded by the UNK Office of Financial Aid to students who are very grateful for this support. Give now.

University of Nebraska‒Lincoln

Get ready to team up this Giving Tuesday for Huskers Head to Toe as the community unites to impact the lives of students like never before. With a gift of $60 or more to this effort for the UNL Fund for Student Scholarships, you’ll receive a pair of Husker socks designed exclusively for this event. These scholarships are awarded by the UNL Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to students with academic promise and financial need. Give now.

University of Nebraska at Omaha

A gift to the UNO Fund for Student Scholarships helps students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend UNO by supporting those with financial need and academic promise. These vital scholarships are awarded by the UNO Office of Financial Support and Scholarships and are greatly appreciated by Maverick students. Other options for supporting UNO students include a gift to the Maverick Food Pantry or the Student Hardship Fund. Give now.

University of Nebraska Medical Center

A gift to the UNMC Student Scholarship Fund supports students by providing scholarships which recognize students’ academic excellence and their financial need. These critical scholarships are awarded by the UNMC Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and are greatly appreciated by our future generation of health care providers. Give now.

Many off-the-shelf toys are not easy for children with diverse abilities to use, and specialized therapy toys are highly expensive. The UNMC Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) is leading a campaign this Giving Tuesday to secure funds so it can adapt 50 toys for use by its patients during therapy. Give now.

 Nebraska Medicine

Nebraska Medicine is a leading health care network and the clinical partner of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It’s committed to an outstanding patient experience, which includes critical basic needs for patients and their families while they’re guests at the medical center. It also means providing support for technology, education and activities that enhance every patient’s experience. Consider a gift to support the Nebraska Medicine Patient and Family Experience Fund to help ensure the unique needs of patients and their families are met. Give now.

If you’re interested in providing support in a different way during Giving Tuesday, start exploring options.

Barbara Keating could not have imagined being in the position she’s in today: a professor with a Ph.D., a distinguished career in sociology and the ability to create endowed funds that give back to her alma mater and support the next generation of students.

“I come from the working class,” said Barbara, who is a member of the Burnett Society in recognition of her planned giving. “My dad was a road construction worker. My parents always struggled financially. But by virtue of having a higher-than-average quantity and quality of education, I became a university professor.”

As a child growing up in Papillion, Nebraska, Barbara said working-class families considered it a waste of money to send girls to college. But her grandfather thought differently. While he never attended school past eighth grade, he was well-read and valued education. So, he gave each of his grandchildren who wanted to study beyond high school $500 per year to do so. It was a hefty sum at that time and more than covered tuition.

Barbara attended the College of St. Mary in Omaha and received her bachelor’s degree in 1969. After taking some time off to get married and raise a family, she enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and received her master’s degree in sociology in 1979.

“UNO got me started,” she said. “They admitted me to a master’s program and encouraged me to go get a Ph.D.”

She recalls the advice of an influential professor who helped her feel less intimidated at the prospect of pursuing her doctorate: “He said getting a Ph.D. is less a matter of brilliance and more a matter of persistent hard work.”

Barbara received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and said the experience at both institutions was warmly supportive.

“One of the reasons I greatly value the sociology department at UNO and UNL is they were so good to me as a graduate student,” she said. “They gave us every support that they could. They saw our potential.”

After graduation, Barbara went to Minnesota State University, Mankato, where she spent her career as a professor of sociology. When she retired, she decided to return the gift of support she had received at Mankato and the two universities where she got her start. Barbara established estate gifts at all three campuses to support sociology students attending professional and academic conferences. The fund she set up at Mankato has already helped more than 80 students, and she hopes to have the same impact at UNO and UNL.

“This fund is in gratitude for the support I got for my professional development at Omaha and Lincoln,” she said. “I owe them … the encouragement that I got made a huge difference in my life. I am where I am now because of them.”

Burnett Society members give back to inspire passion for adventure

Patti and Joel Meier have logged thousands of miles around the world. They’ve motorcycled through the Kalahari Desert in Africa, kayaked in the frigid waters of Siberia and hiked the breathtaking vistas of the Grand Canyon. They’ve salt-water kayaked in the Everglades, the San Juan Islands, Malaysia and Alaska. Actually, they’ve made 34 trips to Alaska.

This is not a comprehensive list.

“We rode BMW motorcycles through the Kalahari Desert,” Patti recalled, “and we’d have to be really careful when we got off our motorcycles to have lunch, as we didn’t know what animals were waiting there.”

Animals in Africa were not their only brushes with wildlife. Patti and Joel have had too many close encounters with brown bears and grizzly bears to count. They’ve watched an orca jump over Patti’s kayak in Alaska and been close enough to humpback whales that their breath fogged Joel’s glasses.

Joel and Patti Meier on their motorcycle

“We’ve had great adventures,” Joel said.

“We’ve lived a life of experiences — not stuff,” Patti added.

Patti and Joel have been able to live such large, extraordinary lives partly due to their decision to live small. They’ve lived in one-bedroom apartments for most of their 55-year marriage, keeping their expenses low and turning the world into their playground.

It also helped that Patti took an investment course at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with the professor who taught the world’s most famous investor, Warren Buffett. She learned how to be conservative as an investor. And when she and Joel decided to live on one income and invest the rest, they watched their investments compound.

“That’s where we’re so fortunate,” Patti said. “It meant we could start to give back to programs and institutions that have had major positive impacts on us.”

Patti and Joel, who are both Burnett Society members in recognition of planned gifts to their UNL alma mater, support what they love most. They hope to inspire similar passions in others for the excitement they’ve spent their lives chasing.

“It’s not stuff that brings you happiness,” Patti said. “It’s what you can share with others, what you can give back … I think the least footprint you leave is the best. But what you can leave behind is very important.”

The couple has set up an endowment to support UNL’s Campus Recreation Outdoor Adventures Program, which offers opportunities for students to kayak, ski and bike across Nebraska.

“It’s a beautiful facility … it married my interest with the outdoors and Nebraska,” said Joel, who grew up in Minden and whose first job was as intramural sports director at UNL before he went on to receive his doctorate at Indiana University and become associate dean of forestry and conservation at the University of Montana.

“Being from Nebraska, those roots were planted early,” he said.

Patti and Joel have also made gifts to support one of Patti’s passions: the arts. Patti, who grew up in Lincoln and spent her career as a dental hygienist consulting with the Indian Health Service, took an art course at UNL and has fond memories of the Sheldon Museum of Art.

“I was just in awe of it all,” she said. “From there on, I developed this passion for art.”

The two have established an endowed gift to support a curator of academic programs at Sheldon. The purpose: “So that faculty, students and children in the whole Lincoln area and around can be exposed to art like I was at Nebraska,” said Patti.

Patti and Joel’s gifts reflect the twin passions of their lives. They also reflect their marriage, which is based on an agreement made early on: Whatever one person was interested in, the other would try. They didn’t have to like it, but they had to give it a shot.

“I got him into things, like opera and symphonies,” Patti said. “He got me into these other things — riskier things.”

Yes, many of those remarkable trips were Joel’s idea.

“I’ve been lucky to have a wife who’s tolerated my wild adventures,” Joel said with a laugh. “She got dragged into so many things. I’ve scared the heck out of her too many times in our 55 years.”

Like the time he bought a plane and asked the sellers to throw in flying lessons for Patti. Or the time he bought a mountain chalet near a ski resort in Montana and encouraged her to hit the slopes.

“But then I would click in,” Patti said. Prompted by Joel, Patti jumped headfirst to meet the challenges. The flying lessons turned into getting a commercial pilot’s license, and trying it out on the slopes turned into 50 years as a professional ski instructor.

It goes back to a belief they share and what brought them together, when they met all those years ago on campus at UNL.

“He was different from anyone I’d met, because of this philosophy,” Patti recalled. “Your worth is not based on what you have. That’s why I fell in love with him. That’s who he was, and we’ve really lived that life.”

An expanded search for a college to attend would lead New Yorker Conrad “Connie” Rennemann Jr. to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. With colleges and universities in the eastern section of the country quickly filling up after WWII, he boarded a train and headed west.

His experience at Nebraska was meaningful – from playing in the Cornhusker Marching Band to the support he received from faculty members who cared about his education and career.

Now hailing from Dayton, Ohio, Connie has made annual gifts to the UNL College of Arts and Sciences Department of Mathematics since 1957, starting just six years after completing his studies. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Nebraska, majoring in chemistry and math and math and physics respectively.

Connie met his wife, Annette (Luebbers) Rennemann, a dietetics major, at the university. She came to the university from Iowa but was born in Osmond, Nebraska. They married in 1952 and had a son, Ed, and a daughter, Ann. Annette died in 2011; the Rennemanns were married for 59 years.

In 1999, the couple established the Rennemann/Luebbers Scholarship in Mathematics at the University of Nebraska Foundation to provide annual tuition aid to students who live outside of Nebraska who wish to study mathematics at UNL. We asked Connie Rennemann about his time at Nebraska, his career and giving back.

You must have felt that the University of Nebraska was a good fit as you have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from UNL. Why did you decide to attend Nebraska?

Well, it was a consequence of World War II. I was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, and graduated from high school in 1946. I thought I was going into the army, but they stopped drafting about the time I graduated, and I had not applied for college. So, all the eastern schools were flooded with GIs coming back from the war. I started applying further away, and Nebraska was one of the schools I was accepted at. And frankly, I liked their catalog better than any other school. So, I climbed on a train and headed to Nebraska.

You have supported the Department of Mathematics since 1957. This has helped provide it stable support over the years. What interested you in giving, and why have you kept it up?

Annette and I visited Lincoln in 1999 and met with the math department chairman to discuss the needs of the department. It turned out he was interested in attracting out-of-state students, and we agreed to set up a scholarship for out-of-state students. I just felt that I gained an awful lot from the school and the math department, and I should give something back.

What are some of your favorite memories of your time at Nebraska?

I was a baritone horn player in high school and earlier for a lot of years, so I went to talk to Don Lentz who was the director of bands. I gave him a little demonstration of playing, and he said, “You’re in.” So, I started playing in the Cornhusker Marching Band and the concert band for five years. I was the first-chair baritone horn player, and that was a very pleasant experience I enjoyed very much.

And what memories do you have of your time studying in the Department of Mathematics?
I started out studying chemical engineering, but after roughly the first year I decided that an engineer wasn’t me, and I switched to chemistry and math as a double major. The first important memory was when I was a first semester sophomore. Professor Dr. Edwin Halfar asked if I would like to grade papers, and I said, sure. So, that was the start of a relationship with the math department through the years. I worked for a number of professors. Eventually, I was working for Dr. Miguel Basoco, the chairman of the department. I appreciated the opportunities and the treatment that I received. The reason I wanted to fund a scholarship was because I appreciated what this department had done for me and what the people had done in helping me.

What are some highlights of your career after completing your studies at Nebraska?

When I graduated, I went to work for what is now NASA. They hired me as an aeronautical research scientist, and I worked on theoretical aerodynamics. I was with a small group, and it was a good foundation and learning experience.

Then, in 1955 I started looking for another position. I accepted one with the Republic Aviation Corporation in Long Island, New York, where I worked for about 23 years. Mostly, in the early days there, I was still in aerodynamics. I then started an operations research sister organization, which I ran. In 1961 the company sent me to Harvard Business School for 16 weeks, and eventually I was head of new business for the company, then assistant to the president, then vice president, director of administration and so forth.

In 1978 I accepted a position in Tennessee with an engineering company that was a principal contractor for the government at a government test facility. I was vice president of the company, and we had about 3,000 employees. I became deputy general manager and, ultimately, was chief operating officer and executive vice president when I retired in 1991.

When you graduated you probably didn’t imagine you’d be a business executive and lead companies? 

No, no. I was always a one-step-at-a-time type of person. Do your job, try to do it as well as you can, and things will fall in place for you.

Would you say the university prepared you for success in your career?

Oh, definitely. It helped not so much with the detailed knowledge as it did with the training to think and to analyze problems and so forth. That was key. In the early years, I was heavily using mathematics, so the training in math helped a lot. The future required less technical knowledge, put it that way.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I learned to play bridge at Nebraska, and it’s been a side passion my whole life. I played bridge competitively over the years. When I retired, my wife played with me as partners, and I’m probably currently ranked in about the top 10% of bridge players in the country. It’s a challenging game but is something I’ve enjoyed.

Contributors who give to the University of Nebraska at every level once again helped to make the university a favorite charity.

The University of Nebraska has been named to America’s Favorite Charities for 2021. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication that focuses on the U.S. nonprofit sector, released the top-100 ranking.

The University of Nebraska came in at No. 85 in the ranking of the nonprofits that raised the most in cash and stock contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations during 2020. It rose in the list from its previous spot at No. 87.

Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, said it’s coincidental that the University of Nebraska would make No. 85 because this year also marks the 85th anniversary of philanthropic giving to the university. In 1936, a group of business and community leaders founded the University of Nebraska Foundation to serve as the university’s designated private charity.

“Of most meaning as we celebrate 85 years of philanthropic giving is that donors at all levels are instrumental in helping to keep education accessible and affordable for students, to recruit and retain high-quality faculty and to provide life-changing research and medical care,” Hastings said. “We’re extremely grateful for their commitment to the university’s more than 50,000 students who ultimately benefit from their generosity.”

The University of Nebraska Foundation manages more than 11,200 funds that benefit the University of Nebraska System and its health care clinical partner Nebraska Medicine. Contributors direct more than 99% of gifts to specific areas and causes.

Universities and colleges account for 41 of the organizations that made the favorite charities list, including 22 public institutions.

For higher education institutions, the Chronicle used data from the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey conducted by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. It also used data from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The Chronicle’s announcement about America’s Favorite Charities, including the top 100 list, is available at

The new Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center further distinguishes the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Business Administration (CBA) by enhancing the delivery of knowledge to its students and expanding the vibrant relationships between the college, the community and the region’s businesses.

“We are a public institution with a public mission, and a big part of that is to connect with the community,” says CBA Dean and Professor of Economics Michelle W. Trawick, Ph.D. “This new space will enable us to do that in a much more meaningful way.”

Recently dedicated, the Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center is a 44,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art addition to Mammel Hall that houses programs and resources that focus on building the relationships that grow business and fuel the economy.

It features an Entrepreneurship Lab that will support UNO’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising; along with the newly-formed School of Accounting; the CBA Scholars Academy; a new business activity center dedicated to public events; and the home for the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology and Education (NCITE) Center of Excellence.

The addition was made possible through a privately funded initiative, with lead gifts from the Mammel Foundation, Rod Rhoden Foundation, Union Pacific Foundation, Jack and Stephanie Koraleski, and Robert Stedman.

It is named for Rod Rhoden, a 1967 business graduate of UNO who has been a leader in entrepreneurship and business for nearly 50 years. Since returning to Omaha in 1971, he has been a major investor in auto dealerships and real estate ventures in the area. He has interest in four auto dealerships in Omaha and Lincoln employing more than 300 people.

In recognition of the Union Pacific’s contribution, the college’s outdoor gathering space is named the Union Pacific Plaza.

Community-engaged research and service will be enhanced through the newly designed and expanded Jack and Stephanie Koraleski Commerce and Applied Behavioral Lab (CABLAB), and the addition of a 184-person business activity center.

Faculty and graduate students in the Department of Homeland Security’s NCITE center will conduct groundbreaking research and create relevant workforce expansion programming that will directly impact many sectors of the metropolitan community.

The new space raises the bar for the School of Accounting, which was changed from the Department of Accounting in 2019. Accounting students will have state-of-the-art classrooms, student support services, and study areas in the newly designed wing.

Entrepreneurship students will have space to work with Omahans on high-tech startup strategies in their Maverick Ventures Bullpen, and the college’s award-winning Scholars Academy program will enjoy dedicated space to advance the education of high-achieving business students.

Endowed funding through the naming of two classrooms, with contributions from Deloitte and BKD, the naming of the mezzanine, with contributions from the Sommer Family, and a study space will provide long-term financial support for accounting students, faculty and programs.

Dean Trawick says the center weaves together every aspect of education, research and engagement necessary to enable the college to continue to advance Nebraska’s economic growth and workforce development.

“Ultimately, we are educators and we are grounded in collaborative relationships with our students, our business partners and the community we support and serve,” Trawick says. “The Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center is a platform for excellence today, and for generations of students to follow.”

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has announced a $1.6 million estate gift from alumnus and retired insurance executive Bruce E. Mackey of Tampa, Florida, to support students through scholarships and academic programs. His gift will especially help first-generation students, students from low-income families and others with barriers to a college education.

Mackey, a 1955 graduate of the College of Business, said that when he learned about opportunities to help future generations of students that it aligned with how he and his late wife, Loyce Mackey, had decided they wanted to help others.

Loyce and Bruce Mackey

Mackey’s gift creates four permanently endowed funds at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Three funds will support students enrolled in the UNL College of Business, and another endowment will support UNL students who complete the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy. The funds will be named for Bruce and Loyce Mackey in recognition of their philanthropic legacy.

Students who complete the DreamBig Academy, a College of Business program for high school juniors that introduces them to college and business-related careers, will benefit from scholarship assistance to attend UNL. The academy is designed for first-generation college students, students who are part of underrepresented identities or those who meet federal guidelines for low-income status.

Two other funds will support student scholarships and the programs within the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Center for Sales Excellence at the College of Business.

“The generous planned gift from Bruce and Loyce Mackey will have a significant impact on our students for generations,” said Kathy Farrell, the James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of the College of Business. “With tuition assistance and the support for our programs, students will have opportunities to co-create their learning experiences and set themselves apart in their careers. We are humbled and honored to help the Mackeys create a legacy that will empower Nebraska Business students to lead the future of business.”

The Mackey fund for the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy will provide financial aid to students who complete the program and go on to college at UNL. The academy is a college access program that prepares academically talented, first-generation, low-income students for college and a career. Students take part in programs during high school and have access to the support of a community of peers, academic support and personal development opportunities throughout their studies at UNL.

“We’re extremely grateful to Bruce and Loyce Mackey because tuition scholarships are critical for Nebraska College Preparatory Academy’s first-generation scholars at Nebraska,” said Moi Padilla, director of the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy. “It’s imperative to the academy’s mission that finances should never impede a student’s dream of earning a college degree. By providing our scholars with tuition scholarships, they’ll have the freedom to enter their professional careers with a strong community of support and without the added burden of debt.”

Bruce Mackey said he’s grateful to his hardworking relatives who carved out their lives and livelihoods in Frontier County, Nebraska, in the 1800s. Their strong work ethic was passed down through the generations. Mackey said he’s lived the American dream and wants his gifts to help provide the same opportunities for students.

Mackey said, “I just hope that students can look back when they’re older and say, ‘I’ve lived the dream. I had the opportunity. I stood up to it and made it work. But I had some very important support along the way.’”

Bruce Mackey was born near Eutis, Nebraska, and grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his aunt and uncle after losing his parents at an early age. A graduate of Lincoln High School, he attended UNL and graduated in 1955 before serving in the U.S. Army. He spent his career in the insurance industry, retiring as a senior vice president of a Fortune 200 company.

Mackey and his wife, Loyce Mackey, met on a blind date and were married for 55 years. After twice battling breast cancer for a total of more than 20 years, Loyce Mackey suffered injuries from a fall that ultimately took her life in 2012. Before her death, she urged her husband to enjoy the remainder of his life through helping others.

Following her advice, Bruce Mackey moved to Tampa, Florida, to be closer to Moffitt Cancer Center where his wife received medical care. He serves as chairman of the Moffitt Foundation Legacy of Life Society and has devoted hundreds of volunteer hours at the center helping patients and their families.

Women Investing in Nebraska (WIN) awarded grants totaling $172,750 to two programs at its annual awards ceremony Oct. 26. A grant was awarded to the University of Nebraska at Kearney College of Education for a project furthering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Head Start programs, and a grant was awarded to Magdalene Omaha for its New Beginnings Campus and expanded programs for survivors of sex trafficking.

This year, 190 WIN members contributed to make the grants possible, and committee members reviewed proposals in a four-step process culminating in a membership vote for the two recipients. WIN’s membership is comprised of women in and outside Nebraska who share an interest in addressing issues that matter to Nebraskans through collective giving.

WIN Chair Susan Fritz of Crete, Nebraska, said the group was created to provide a way for women to make significant impacts with their giving.

“WIN members review and vet proposals to identify worthy and meaningful projects that will make a difference in their communities, whether those communities are small regions or the entire state,” Fritz said. “We see some amazing problem-solving, caring and effort put forth by so many people at the University of Nebraska and in the nonprofit organizations to help their Nebraska neighbors.”

WIN Grants Committee Chair Vanessa Denney of Omaha, Nebraska, said this year marks the organization’s 10th annual grant awards program.

“It’s exciting for us to celebrate that our collective giving and grant-making group has now awarded 20 grants since its founding, exceeding $1.5 million in support of Nebraska nonprofits and the University of Nebraska.”

UNK program collaborates with Head Start educators

 The UNK College of Education teacher education department was awarded a grant of $86,375 to support a program in collaboration with Nebraska Head Start. The program focuses on early STEM concept development by providing preschool teachers the opportunity to advance their teaching practices.

The Head Start early childhood education program reinforces efforts to prepare Nebraska​’s youngest children for future school and career success. The program could impact hundreds of children and their families. Giving children a strong foundation in STEM subjects is a long-term investment intended to bolster the number of Nebraska high school graduates who meet national STEM benchmarks, which is now around 27%, as well as to meet the demand for a growing segment of STEM-related jobs in the state.

“The UNK Head Start on STEM project is designed to increase Head Start educators’ knowledge, skills and dispositions for planning and implementing developmentally appropriate STEM activities for preschool age children,” said the program’s leader, Paula Thompson, Ed.D., assistant professor of teacher education at UNK. “The funding will support up to 20 Head Start educators with four, tuition-free graduate level courses along with individually designed support for increased participant retention and success.”

Representatives with Magdalene Omaha receive a $86,375 grant from Women Investing in Nebraska on Oct. 26, 2021, to expand its non-residential programming for survivors of sex trafficking at its New Beginnings Campus in Omaha.

Magdalene campus expands access to services

Magdalene Omaha will use its $86,375 grant to expand its non-residential programming for survivors of sex trafficking at its New Beginnings Campus in Omaha.

Since opening its residential program in 2017, Magdalene Omaha has worked to serve more survivors than the residential program can currently accommodate. The needs of survivors range from food security to substance abuse assistance and job training. The WIN grant will assist Magdalene Omaha with its physical space as well as staffing and development of online and in-person options for its curriculum to reach survivors throughout the state.

Founder and CEO Teresa Houser said Magdalene Omaha has become a place that survivors trust and turn to for help.

“Despite the challenges of 2020, Magdalene Omaha supported 158 survivors last year, mostly through our non-residential programs,” Houser said.

The organization delivers hope with peer-led healing, Houser said. Survivors are attracted to a safe community for learning, creating and building a network of support at all points in their healing journeys.

About Women Investing in Nebraska

 WIN engages, educates and empowers philanthropists by collectively awarding annual grants to bold University of Nebraska and nonprofit initiatives addressing important issues in Nebraska. It operates in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation and the UNF Charitable Gift Fund to support women philanthropists. Each year, members’ gifts are pooled and divided equally between a Nebraska nonprofit organization and a University of Nebraska program or organization. To learn more visit

A $5 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation, announced Oct. 22 by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, will provide tuition assistance to even more students at the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

The gift was announced on the eve of what would have been the late entertainment icon Johnny Carson’s 96th birthday. It augments the Johnny Carson Foundation Opportunity Scholarship Fund, created in 2010 at the University of Nebraska Foundation with a $1 million gift in honor of Carson, a Nebraska alumnus who died in 2005.

Johnny Carson

The permanently endowed fund enables the university to award annual scholarships to students enrolled in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film and the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts. The university may award both need-based and merit-based scholarships from the fund.

With the increased funding, the scholarship fund is expected to provide scholarships to 50 to 60 students annually, totaling about $300,000 in aid. The scholarship currently helps 15 to 25 students annually, totaling about $100,000.

“The Johnny Carson Foundation, just like Johnny once did, understands how student support and endowments can transform the educational experience of our students and, by doing so, lead our graduates toward powerful, meaningful working lives,” said Charles O’Connor, dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. “I appreciate their belief in what we are trying to do here at Nebraska, as well as my friendship with them over many years.”

Christina Kirk, director of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film and executive director of the Nebraska Repertory Theatre, said the university is grateful for this generosity that provides additional tuition support.

“We have been awarding these scholarships for several years, and they have helped us recruit many of the most talented students from right here in Nebraska,” Kirk said. “I am so grateful for this gift, which will allow us to award even more scholarships in the years to come and to extend these opportunities to students from around the country.

“We proudly carry the name of Johnny Carson on our school and on these scholarships. His legacy continues to inspire the next generation of artists.”

Megan Elliott, founding director of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, said the center’s goal is to “find the wizards, pirates and magicians that will be the next creative leaders.”

“The Johnny Carson Foundation Opportunity Scholarships are a critical part of attracting the most talented students to the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts from Nebraska and around the world,” Elliott said. “These scholarships help make the outstanding education our students receive affordable, and with this generous gift we will be able to recruit even more students every year. My deepest thanks to the Johnny Carson Foundation for this extraordinary gift and their ongoing support for our students.”

Allan Alexander, president and a director of the Johnny Carson Foundation, said: “Johnny Carson is quoted as saying, ‘Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready.’ The foundation Johnny created is committed to ensuring that even more future generations of students are ready for success because of an education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the support of the Johnny Carson Foundation Opportunity Scholarship.”

Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, on Oct. 23, 1925, and grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska. He served as an ensign in the Navy in World War II before enrolling at the University of Nebraska in 1947. He received a Bachelor of Arts in radio and speech with a minor in physics in 1949.

Carson hosted “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” from 1962 to 1992. He earned six Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1993.

In 2004, Carson donated $5.3 million to support theatre and film programs in the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. The funding also enabled the renovation and expansion of the Temple Building, at 12th and R streets, home to the theatre program and where Carson studied.

Following Carson’s death, the university received an additional $5 million gift from Carson’s estate for endowed support of programs in theatre, film and broadcasting. In recognition of his generosity, the university renamed its Department of Theatre Arts the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.

Renovation of the Johnny Carson Theater at the Lied Center for Performing Arts was made possible with a gift of $571,500 from the Johnny Carson Foundation announced in 2013.

Plans for the premier Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts were announced by the university in 2015, following a $20 million gift from the Johnny Carson Foundation. Forty-two students were accepted into the program this year, representing the largest cohort for the center since it opened in 2019. The program currently has 98 emerging media arts majors.

AUDIO AND VIDEO: Audio and video clips of Charles O’Connor, dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts; Hannah Shelby, a freshman theatre arts major; and supplemental video of Shelby in performance; and images of the Carson School and the Carson Center are available at

The University of Nebraska Foundation is saddened to learn of the passing of JoAnn Martin of Lincoln, Nebraska, on Oct. 20, 2021. She dedicated countless volunteer hours to the foundation in support of the university and is a former chair of its board of directors.

Throughout her life and career, Martin was actively engaged in many community and industry organizations both locally and nationally.

“JoAnn was a great leader — in business and in the community,” said Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation. “She was a mentor to so many people. Personally, I will forever be grateful for her investment in my own professional and personal development.”

A Nebraska native, Martin attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and graduated from its College of Business in 1975, going on to receive an MBA at Colorado State University.

She joined Ameritas in 1984, served in various leadership roles and was appointed its CEO in 2009. She retired from Ameritas in 2020.

Martin became a trustee of the University of Nebraska Foundation in 2009 and was elected to its board of directors in 2010. She was elected to serve as the board chair-elect in 2015 and was chair of the board from 2017-2019. During her tenure as a trustee of the foundation, she also volunteered her service on 10 board committees, in addition to serving in many volunteer roles at the University of Nebraska.

On Oct. 1, the foundation’s board of directors voted to honor Martin as its 2021 recipient of the Perry W. Branch Award for Distinguished Volunteer Service.

“JoAnn’s legacy is one of civic and servant leadership, and she will be remembered fondly by those whose lives she touched,” Hastings said.

Martin is survived by her husband, Derrel Martin, two daughters and three granddaughters. Funeral services are pending.