By Robyn Murray
A lot has changed at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in the last 60 years.
For one, the name. Kearney State College was a small school of about 2,000 students in the 1960s where teaching was the focus and the cost to attend was typically less than $100 a semester.
Today, UNK is a sprawling campus of three colleges and nearly 7,000 students, 120 undergraduate majors and 27 graduate programs. It’s also an economic engine in Kearney and the surrounding communities. Tuition has gone up a bit, too.
For Burnett Society members Jack and Judy Crowley, who graduated from Kearney State in 1960 and now reside in Hastings, watching the campus grow and change has been inspiring.
“Compared to when we were there to today, there’s no comparison,” said Judy. “It’s beautiful. They’ve done a great job. There’s been a lot of new buildings. It’s a wonderful university. I’m glad we’ve got it so close.”
For the Crowleys, UNK is more than a university. It’s a family tradition.
They both studied education at Kearney State. Jack’s sisters, Pat and Peggy, and his brothers, Jim and Ed, all attended the university.
All told, nine Crowley siblings and spouses attended Kearney State.
“We feel we have our own alumni association,” Jack said.
The Crowleys are longtime supporters of UNK. In 2011, they gave a $100,000 gift to establish the Crowley Family Endowed Scholarship, which aims to support Central Community College students who want to earn a four-year degree. They have also set up a planned gift, through a charitable gift annuity, to provide scholarship support for UNK students.
It’s a fitting tribute to the many family members, now deceased, who loved and benefited from the university.
“It’s been in our family,” said Judy. “That’s why it was important to us.”
While they didn’t receive scholarships as students, Jack says they know how important financial support is for students today.
“Scholarships weren’t a big deal back then, but they didn’t need to be,” he said. “It’s different today.”
The Crowleys, who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, regularly receive letters from their scholarship recipients expressing their gratitude and letting them know the impact of their support. But the influence of Jack and Judy’s lives in Kearney and Hastings, where they have resided since 1966, goes far beyond UNK.
After retiring from a career at Sears and owning several clothing stores locally, Jack started the Central Community College Foundation, which provides scholarship support to numerous students and grew to a $7 million foundation under his leadership. He has served on the boards of several banks and economic development corporations, the Kearney State and Kearney Public Schools foundations, the YMCA and Hastings Area foundations as well as the Madonna Foundation and Catholic Social Services. He has been recognized with several service awards and was named to the Central Community College Hall of Fame.
“He’s given all his life, one way or another,” Judy said.
Not that he would enjoy listing his accomplishments. In fact, the Crowleys would rather not talk about their generosity.
“This is our own little thing,” Judy said. “Just a quiet thing we do on the side.”
But if hearing their story motivates others to give, it’s worth the discomfort of being in the spotlight, Jack said, adding that people often don’t realize the impact they can have or their true capacity to give.
“I think you gain so much by what you give,” he said. “I think it really helps your life.”
“You get it back, no matter what you give,” Judy said. “Your reward comes back to you some way or other.”
Even if the reward is simply getting to be with other people who give.
“People that give are happy people,” Jack said, “and they’re fun to visit with.”
Burnett Society member Dwayne Zobell, D.D.S., was born in Montana and graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center after attending predental school at Brigham Young University and spending time as a missionary in Argentina.
As a student at UNMC, Dwayne cared for Cuban refugees brought to Lincoln. His experience sparked a lifelong passion for providing free dental care to impoverished communities around the world, which resulted in 28 trips to countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, China and the Philippines.
After graduating from UNMC with his doctoral degree, Dwayne practiced dentistry in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and married classmate Donna Taute-Zobell, D.D.S., in 2003. Together, accompanied by their combined family of five children, Dwayne and Donna have continued to travel the world on medical missions.
The Zobells are supporting the UNMC College of Dentistry and Lied Transplant Center through their estate plans.
The following Q&A was conducted with Dwayne.
What was the first job you ever had?
The first one I can remember is picking green beans in our family garden in Lewistown, Montana. My mother gave me a brown paper grocery bag and paid me a nickel.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Life is like a workshop of hard knocks; you mold according to what you are made of. Keep lots of grit, and you will mold true to form.
Who is someone from history you would want to invite to a dinner party if you could, and why?
Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps the greatest of all composers.
What is the first question you would ask that guest from history?
How difficult was it to be creative and still fulfill your weekly assignment to compose something new and innovative, especially when you lost your eyesight?
What is the one song you would be sure to play to set the mood at the dinner party?
I think he would enjoy “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland.
What is the question that you like to be asked the most?
Who has influenced your life for the good, and what have you done to help others lately?
Why do you plan to leave a gift to the University of Nebraska in your estate?
I owe so much to the University of Nebraska, not only for my professional education that has given me and my family the means to volunteer and bless countless lives in many countries, but also for literally saving my life when I was a patient at UNMC for coronary bypass surgery after an unexpected stroke, for referring me to a heart transplant center when I had a most difficult diagnosis, and now for providing the post-transplant care to allow for continued life.
About the Burnett Society
The Burnett Society recognizes those who support the university through a planned gift, usually from their will or trust. The group takes its name from Edgar A. Burnett, a chancellor at the university of Nebraska during the Great Depression, who recognized the university would not succeed on state funding alone. Burnett called on 30 business and civic leaders, and together they created the University of Nebraska Foundation to raise private funds for the university. The foundation received its first bequest in 1937 from a former faculty member; the second came in 1938 from an alumnus and 40-year employee of the library. More information.
The University of Nebraska‒Lincoln invites its worldwide community to Glow All In for the 2021 Glow Big Red ― 24 Hours of Husker Giving. The annual event is Feb. 17–18, 2021, with information, kickoff video and giving options at glowbigred.unl.edu.
This year’s Glow Big Red will again harness the power of Nebraska’s students, alumni, friends, faculty and staff. It will show how this powerful network comes together to support UNL students, improve the educational experience and keep quality education accessible to all.
Here are the top three ways to get involved:
First, give. Make a gift of $5 or more during this 24-hour period and help the university reach its goal of 2,500 gifts.
Second, light it up. Light your room, apartment, home or business red to let your pride shine.
And third, share your story. Using social media, share your Nebraska story and why you’re celebrating. Share with #GlowBigRed.
Those who contribute $60 or more will receive a Nebraska scarf as a thank you. Scarfs will be mailed three to five weeks after the event.
Participants can make a gift toward Glow Big Red starting Jan. 19 through noon on Feb. 18.
Last year was a Glowing success
This is the third year for Glow Big Red, which has become another honored Husker tradition. Last year’s Glow Big Red event encouraged alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends to come together and contribute more than $175,000 from 2,338 gifts. Gifts came from 49 U.S. states and three continents.
Glow All In on social media
Join Husker Nation from noon Feb. 17 to noon Feb. 18 for the annual Glow Big Red ― 24 Hours of Husker Giving at glowbigred.unl.edu. Help continue the excitement online by using #GlowBigRed. Follow along at these channels:
Glow Big Red FAQs
What is Glow Big Red ― 24 Hours of Husker Giving?
This special 24-hour event Feb. 17 and 18 marks the growing tradition of celebrating the University of Nebraska–Lincoln by encouraging those near and far, to:
First, give. Make a gift of $5 or more during this 24-hour period and help us reach our goal of 2,500 gifts.
Second, light it up. Light your room, apartment, home or business red to let your pride shine.
And third, share your story. Think of those who glowed so brightly to reveal the road ahead for you. Share your story of those who made a difference in your life using #GlowBigRed.
It’s Nebraska’s annual day of giving, fueled by Husker passion, social media and you. Take this opportunity to come together in support of our university with a gift to a university area that pulls at your heartstrings.
Is there a minimum gift amount?
Yes. The smallest gift amount is $5. We have credit card processing fees and administrative costs to cover, but we’ve kept it as low as we can so everyone can take part. Gifts of any amount make a difference and will be counted toward the 24 Hours of Husker Giving total.
Is my gift tax deductible?
Yes, all gifts to the University of Nebraska made through GiveGab and the University of Nebraska Foundation are tax deductible. Consult a tax professional and IRS laws for specific information about your tax situation.
Will my gift help students?
Your gift will most definitely help students — the how is up to you. You can choose to support student scholarships, the college you graduated from or one of the other areas we’ve highlighted as choices for 24 Hours of Husker Giving. It’s your call. All contributions will expand opportunities for students and create an even better Husker student experience.
Can I take part even though I didn’t graduate from UNL?
Yes, you may, and please do. Parents, community members, friends and fans are all encouraged to support Nebraska during 24 Hours of Husker Giving. The gifts from many will be combined to advance the Nebraska experience for every student on campus and the university’s impact across the state and world.
What if I’ve already made a gift to UNL this year?
Thank you for your gift! Another gift will help us reach the goal for 24 Hours of Giving, and we encourage you to take part in Glow Big Red in other ways, too. Share your story online using #GlowBigRed.
How do the challenges work during the giving day?
We think a little competition makes things more fun. You might have your gift matched or even earn bonus money for your area of interest. Keep an eye on the Leaderboards page at glowbigred.unl.edu for a complete list of challenges, rules and winners.
Can I make a gift by mail?
Yes. We encourage you to support the University of Nebraska–Lincoln by mail at any time, but the gift must be received by Feb. 5 if it’s for the 24 Hours of Husker Giving. Please let us know what fund it’s for and how you want it to help the university.
What is GiveGab?
GiveGab is the online giving platform that we’re using to facilitate the giving day. It helps nonprofits raise gifts and engage contributors, allowing organizations to function in a more streamlined manner. The University of Nebraska Foundation has chosen GiveGab to facilitate Glow Big Red and its 24 Hours of Husker Giving.
Is it safe to make a gift online?
Yes. Online gifts made through GiveGab are safe and secure. GiveGab will not receive your credit card information, and your information will never be shared or sold to a third party.
Whom do I contact if I have a question?
We’re here to help! Please start with Kristen Rock at email@example.com or 402-730-0152.
University of Nebraska programs and Nebraska nonprofit organizations may now give funding ideas to Women Investing in Nebraska for grant awards in 2021.
Grant seekers must submit an online letter of inquiry form by Feb. 16, 2021. The form is available at womeninvestinginnebraska.org.
Based on submissions, WIN will invite 12 to 16 grant seekers to provide formal grant proposals. Grant seekers must be a part of the University of Nebraska system or be a Nebraska nonprofit 501(c)(3) public charity.
“WIN seeks out groups with innovative and bold solutions to the important issues Nebraskans face,” said Vanessa Denney of Omaha, chair of the WIN grants committee. “There are many creative and committed organizations and people in Nebraska working to improve their communities.”
The grant amounts will be based on the total amount of gifts received this year from the WIN members. WIN will announce its grants this fall.
WIN Chair Susan Fritz of Crete said the grants enable the university and nonprofits to address new ideas and programs.
“WIN intends to offer a significant grant amount as a catalyst for innovative and bold ideas,” Fritz said. “Our collective giving approach allows our members to make a more meaningful impact on these issues.”
Grant seekers may contact Lori Shriner at 402-458-1209 or 800-432-3216 for more information.
Last year WIN awarded two grants of $84,000 each. A grant was awarded to the University of Nebraska ITS Accessible and Open Educational Resources Program for an online program that reduces the cost of textbooks and other resources for undergraduate students. The University of Nebraska matched the grant with added funding. Another grant was awarded to the Legal Aid of Nebraska for its Help, Education, and Law Project which now offers legal help to veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System in Omaha.
WIN operates in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation and the UNF Charitable Gift Fund to support women philanthropists. The UNF Charitable Gift Fund is an affiliate of the University of Nebraska Foundation, which offers varied philanthropic options to support the University of Nebraska statewide system and the Nebraska Medicine health care network. For information on becoming a WIN member, contact Ellie Clinch at 402-570-2510 or 800-432-3216, or visit womeninvestinginnebraska.org.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business announces the establishment of six new faculty chairs that are permanently endowed funds of $1 million each.
The endowed funds were made possible with private gifts to the University of Nebraska Foundation in support of the college’s strategic goal to create six new endowed faculty chairs.
“It is exciting to be able to announce these gifts in the midst of the season of giving,” said Kathy Farrell, dean of the College of Business. “In a year when so many have struggled, we are very grateful for the support of generous donors who have enabled the College of Business to continue moving forward, meeting our strategic goals and helping us to give Nebraska students the competitive edge in the workforce.”
The annual income generated from each fund will provide the college with faculty stipends to support competitive salaries and research. It will help the college retain current faculty members and recruit new faculty to the university.
VIDEO: College of Business contributors share why they helped established new endowed chairs
When university benefactors Jim and Georgia Thompson of Minnetonka, Minnesota, learned about the college’s goal to increase endowed support for faculty members, they offered a challenge gift of $2.5 million to help encourage other contributors to participate. Their goal was to help see five new endowed faculty chairs created.
“We knew a matching gift creates more excitement for giving, as people want to meet that match and have an opportunity to give,” said Georgia Thompson, ’72. It moves along at a much faster pace.”
Jim Thompson said: “We knew a gift would be important from us in a direct sense, but building a school is about a community. We’ve created a community of givers who are able to watch this school benefit from the gift and be part of it.”
The gift from the Thompsons provided a $500,000 match to combine with other gifts of $500,000 to create a $1 million endowed fund for each of the five new chairs. The Thompsons also wanted those who stepped up to the challenge to name the endowed chair they helped create.
The donors who provided gifts toward the challenge are Steve and Jennifer David, both ’70, of Denver; Alice Dittman, ’52, of Lincoln; J.E. Van Horne Jr., ’75, of Omaha; and former College of Business Dean Cynthia Hardin Milligan of Omaha.
“We’re extremely grateful for the generosity of Jim and Georgia Thompson and for that of our contributors who established these chairs that will now forever benefit the teaching, research and outreach of our college,” Farrell said. “They’ve helped us take the next important leap in leading the future of business.”
The endowed chairs are now known as the Steve and Jennifer David Family Chair in Business, Alice M. Dittman Chair of Banking and Finance, Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair of Business, Amy and J.E. Van Horne Jr. Endowed Chair and Van Horne Family Endowed Chair.
The sixth faculty chair announced by the College of Business was established with an estate gift from A. Leicester and Flora Hyde, who lived in Lincoln. Leicester Hyde was a 1925 Nebraska graduate. The $1 million permanently endowed fund is named the N.Z. Snell Life Insurance Chair in memory of Flora Hyde’s father, N.Z. Snell, who graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1882 and served as an insurance executive, attorney and civic leader in Lincoln.
“The college cannot express enough its appreciation for each of these contributors who have made a permanent investment in business education in Nebraska,” Farrell said. “Because of these newly established endowed funds, the college met its strategic goal for six new chairs in less than two years.”
ABC television affiliate KETV 7 of Omaha is encouraging the community to support Omaha-area health care heroes during its Giving Wednesday on Dec. 16.
Giving Wednesday is a periodic event KETV holds to bring attention to the needs of various local nonprofits. This time the station is encouraging support for health care workers at Nebraska Medicine, CHI Health and Methodist Health.
All contributions will be divided equally to support health care workers at these organizations – many of whom are experiencing unique challenges as they fight on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.
VIDEO: Giving Wednesday dedicated to Health Care Heroes
To make giving convenient, KETV 7 encourages individuals to make a gift online at omahagives.org/givingwednesday.
The portion of support that Nebraska Medicine receives will help enable the medical center to directly address the needs of its employees who may face a personal crisis or emergency now and in the future. Unfortunately, the tolls of the coronavirus pandemic have caused unprecedented challenges to frontline health care workers and others throughout the health care system.
It was Christmastime in Kansas City.
Phil Perry’s dad was a Boy Scouts leader who took Phil along to help give out food and toys to other families. Some of the families lived in homes with no indoor plumbing and dirt floors.
Phil Perry remembers that the children’s eyes lit up with excitement at each home they visited.
The Perry family didn’t have much to give but giving what they could was important to them. This experience had a profound effect on the trajectory of Phil Perry’s life.
VIDEO: Phil Perry shares why giving back remains meaningful to him
While at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Perry studied art and worked as an assistant at the Sheldon Museum of Art under Norman Geske, the first director of the museum. Perry’s knowledge and interest in the arts deepened, but he ultimately found it difficult to turn his studies into a career after college.
That was when Perry decided to step into the business world where he found success. He is now CEO of Perry-Reid Properties, a multifamily development and management entity he incorporated in 2000. PRP is actively involved with 70 apartment complexes in 10 states.
“I read someplace recently that life is art and art is life, and I’m beginning to believe that more and more every day ― that everything you do is a work of art,” Perry said.
While progressing in his business career, Perry continued working on his art — drawing, painting and making pottery.
He also began supporting the arts more intentionally.
He began with support for the Sheldon Museum of Art and then created a permanent endowment for the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts where he has been working to provide more student scholarships and graduate assistantships.
More recently, Perry partnered with the College of Journalism and Mass Communications to create a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity, a two-day event called the Phillip Perry Photo Challenge where students competed for the chance to win a $10,000 scholarship.
“I really like the concept of a challenge because people ask, ‘How do you succeed in life? How is it that you started with nothing and now you have something?’ And the concept of hard work is in there,” Perry said. ‘If you are not willing to work hard, if you are not willing to pay your dues with long hours and the willingness to make change happen, then the path in making your way upward in life becomes exponentially more difficult.”
The first Perry Photo Challenge was held last school year, giving each of the 20 participants only hours to use their cameras to compose a photo essay with 12 images. The essays were judged by five professional photojournalists. Five students were announced as finalists.
Sabrina Sommer, a UNL graphic design and advertising and public relations major from Houston, Texas, won the competition with her photo essay titled “Identity.” Her grand prize: the $10,000 scholarship worth 30 credit hours of in-state tuition and fees for the next academic year.
Because of the current coronavirus pandemic, plans for the next Perry Photo Challenge have not yet been set. Perry said he would like to see it continue, because he finds it rewarding to provide students with a token of encouragement in their lives.
“At the university level, I give back because of the education I received and the opportunities I was given as a student,” Perry said. “I feel a deep gratitude toward the university, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
When asked what the most rewarding part of his life has been, Perry explained that there have been high points, and a common thread has been a desire to find ways to provide help to others. Perry encourages students to go out and achieve their goals because no one else is going to do it for them.
“You can always come up with reasons why you don’t do something, but it’s hard to come up with reasons why you stick with it,” Perry said. “The primary reason is right inside of you. It’s what you have inside; it’s not the outside influences.”
This article and the accompanying video were created by College of Journalism and Mass Communications alumna Jessica Moore. She aspires to do much more storytelling and currently resides in Dallas, Texas.
Giving Tuesday is an annual, global day of giving when you have the power to give back to organizations and communities that are meaningful to you.
Founded in 2012, #GivingTuesday inspires us to come together on a day to support the causes in which we believe.
This year, Giving Tuesday falls on Dec. 1, 2020, directly following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, days on which many begin their holiday shopping.
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 with any gift. Here are suggestions for a rewarding giving option:
University of Nebraska at Kearney
The college-going experience isn’t always easy, especially for students who experience a family crisis or some other personal setback — due to the coronavirus pandemic or other issues. The Student Crisis Scholarship Fund enables UNK to assist students during their difficult times. Give now.
University of Nebraska‒Lincoln
The Husker Pantry can use your support this season, as nearly one in three students worry about not having enough food to eat. The coronavirus pandemic has only increased the need for the pantry. Give now.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Food insecurity is evident on college campuses, and UNO is not an exception. The Maverick Food Pantry contributes to UNO’s culture of caring by providing resources to students in need and connecting them to long-term support. Its help is available to students attending UNO or the University of Nebraska Medical Center. With the added stress of the pandemic, students need this help more than ever. Give now.
University of Nebraska Medical Center
The UNMC Disaster and Relief Fund supports students and employees at the University of Nebraska Medical Center facing a sudden financial hardship. This, of course, now includes stressful conditions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Give now.
The Nebraska Medicine Employee Emergency Assistance Fund enables the state’s top medical center to help current employees who face financial hardships resulting from an emergency or crisis. Again, because of the pandemic, the need for this available help is greater than ever. Give now.
If you’re interested in providing support in a different way, start exploring options.
“We decided at a young age in our marriage that we wanted to give back. That was going to be very important to us.”
Joel and Patti Meier have let their passions and interests guide them in much of their 55 years together. This approach is also helping the Nebraska natives and University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni determine the legacies they wish to leave through their giving.
Encouraging others — especially young people — to relish a lifelong interest in outdoor activities and the arts is the focus of a more than $2 million planned gift the Colorado couple has made to the university.
Through planned gifts outlined in their will to the University of Nebraska Foundation, they established two permanently endowed funds of $1 million each. One fund will provide annual support for UNL’s Campus Recreation Outdoor Adventures Program, and another fund will provide annual support for a curator of academic engagement at the Sheldon Museum of Art.
A visit back to Nebraska
On a return visit to Nebraska, the Meiers took the opportunity to tour the UNL Campus Recreation facilities and learn more about its various programs.
“The new outdoor recreational facility on campus really blew us away,” Joel Meier said. “You can understand a facility such as that at the University of Colorado or the University of Montana, but there it was at the University of Nebraska: this beautiful building housing the Outdoor Adventures Program.
“We learned more about the programs there which are really dear to my heart because those are the types of things I was teaching as a professor. And so that really lit our fire, and we decided to set up an endowment.”
The Meiers also committed an outright gift of $50,000 to provide permanent support for an outdoor adventures speakers series that will benefit students and the university community.
About this gift, Joel Meier said, “We knew that having visiting lecturers invited to campus to talk on a range of topics related to the fields of outdoor recreation could be so beneficial. We really liked the idea of the university being able to bring in some outstanding speakers and experts.”
Stan Campbell, director of Campus Recreation, said the timing of the Meiers’ gifts couldn’t be better, as Campus Recreation celebrates its 100th year as a university department.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity, trust and commitment to the UNL Division of Campus Recreation shown by Joel and Patti Meier,” Campbell said. “Their generosity will allow us to further enrich the lives of our students by enhancing their experiential learning opportunities through the engagement of individuals and groups in outdoor adventure experiences. We are truly honored to receive their generous gifts.”
Campbell said what makes the gifts especially gratifying is that Joel Meier is a former director of Campus Recreation when it was known as Intramural Sports and served as a graduate assistant there.
The Campus Recreation fund will be named the Joel Meier Assistant Director for Outdoor Adventures. It will provide annual support for the position of assistant director of outdoor adventures, who will oversee program coordination and administration of the Outdoor Adventures Center and work to further experiential education and outdoor engagement of students and the university community.
Connecting the Sheldon Museum of Art to the entire university
The Meiers’ gift to the Sheldon Museum of Art will establish the Patricia Meier Curator of Academic Programs Fund and provide annual support for a curator of academic programs.
This position will oversee the museum’s education and engagement efforts and serve as a liaison between the museum and the university community to develop and implement academic initiatives that connect faculty and students to the museum and its resources.
“Our thinking for the endowed position at the Sheldon Museum of Art was about the importance of docents and others working in certain parts of the museum who can go out to the community and throughout the state to provide art education to young children, parents and teachers,” said Patti Meier.
Patti Meier also sees the endowed fund as being a resource to the museum in helping various units on campus send classes of students to the museum, where trained docents can provide tours related to almost any topic and relate it to art.
“Hopefully, it helps inspire people on campus to go to the art museum and expand their view and knowledge of the world and art, so when they graduate they do not just have a view of their own field but they also have more of a worldview about many other things. To us, this is what a real university education is all about.”
Wally Mason, director and chief curator of the Sheldon Museum of Art certainly agrees.
“Patti and Joel Meier’s gift establishing the Patricia Meier Curator of Academic Programs Fund is central to the success of our mission to provide object-based teaching methodologies and engagement to faculty, staff and students,” Mason said. “Patti Meier’s knowledge of and contributions to art education make their support particularly meaningful.”
“These are things that are dear to our hearts”
The Meiers began thinking about the legacy they wanted to leave behind at UNL after years of making smaller annual gifts to help their alma mater.
“These are things that are dear to our hearts and is how our relationship with the University of Nebraska came to fruition,” said Patti Meier about supporting outdoor recreation and art education.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to us,” said Joel Meier. “We’re in a position to give back to entities that have meant a lot to us. When we think back about all the different ways our instructors, mentors and others helped us and had faith in us, giving back becomes a very rewarding experience.”
The early years, meeting in Lincoln
Joel Meier, who grew up in Minden, Nebraska, followed in his parents’ footsteps in attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
His father, William Meier, studied political science and graduated from UNL in 1926 and then received a law degree there in 1930. His mother, Amelia Utter Meier, studied English and graduated in 1928 and later earned a master’s degree in English at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, then known as the Nebraska State Teachers College.
Joel Meier has other relatives who went to Nebraska, including uncles who played football for the Cornhuskers. Having played football in high school, Meier hoped to also make the Cornhusker cut but said he “flunked” the physical exam.
“So, that left me out in the streets at the university, and I struggled as to what the heck I wanted to do in my life,” he said. “And I decided if I couldn’t play football, I wanted to be a football coach.”
He studied health and physical education while working as a student manager for the swimming and football teams and received an undergraduate degree in 1962.
He then began working on a master’s degree in education before pausing to go serve in the early days of the U.S. Peace Corps as an Outward Bound instructor.
“Back then, they believed that all Peace Corps volunteers ought to go through training to build up their physical stamina and be prepared for outdoor experiences,” Joel Meier said. “I was in Puerto Rico up in a tropical rain forest jungle and doing all kinds of adventures and climbing and rappelling off cliffs and teaching survival skills.”
After almost a year with the Peace Corps, he received a call from the University of Nebraska asking if he would return to Lincoln to serve as the graduate assistant for Intramural Sports under its Director Ed Higginbotham, who was also the head tennis coach and professor in the Department of Physical Education.
Joel Meier took the grad assistant position and received his master’s degree in 1965, which happens to be the same year he married Patricia “Patti” Schmadeke Meier.
Patti Meier grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and is a graduate of Southeast High. She completed several of her science college courses from UNL while in high school, something to this day she believes was progressive of the university to offer in the 1960s.
“I don’t know how they did it at that time,” Patti said about the physics and chemistry she got out of the way before college. “That was pretty amazing back then and very forward-thinking of the University of Nebraska.”
Focused on becoming a dental hygienist, she attended UNL for two years to complete prerequisite courses before transferring to the University of Missouri–Kansas City. She graduated there in 1965 and returned to Lincoln to start her health care career.
Joel and Patti Meier’s joint returns to Lincoln would rekindle their relationship.
“When she came back to Lincoln, that’s when we reacquainted ourselves,” Joel said. “I knew who she was when she was at Nebraska, but she didn’t know who I was. She was kind of the campus beauty queen and Miss Cornhusker Magazine and runner up for Miss Lincoln.
“So, anyway, everybody knew who she was. But we got to know each other when she came back and ended up getting married, and we’ve been married for 55 years.”
After their wedding and believing their education was complete, Joel served five years as director of UNL’s Intramural Sports program, and Patti Meier practiced dental hygiene.
Now well into his higher education career and starting to feel some pressure to complete a doctorate, the Meiers decided to take a temporary break from UNL so Joel could work on a doctorate at Indiana University Bloomington.
“I had every intention of coming back to Nebraska afterward and starting an outdoor recreation management major,” Joel said. “I was actually pursuing a doctorate degree with an emphasis in recreation park and tourism studies with a focus on outdoor recreation and leadership.”
To the Rocky Mountains and back to the Midwest
With a doctorate in hand, Joel heard about an opening at the University of Montana that “had my name written all over it,” he said.
The position entailed starting an outdoor recreation degree program – exactly what he wanted to do – so he applied, received the position and the Meiers headed to the mountains in 1970.
While at UM, Joel’s career blossomed, and Patti discovered what would be her passion and mission as well.
On the faculty at UM, Joel moved up to a full professor and was in the College of Forestry and Conservation before being promoted to the associate dean of the college.
After 25 years at UM, Joel was asked to return to Indiana University – the “other alma mater” he teasingly reminds you – to serve as chair of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies. He would serve in that role for six years before stepping down and serving on the faculty, completing a total of 18 years before retiring.
Joel has held the title of Professor Emeritus at IU since his retirement in 2007.
In all, Patti Meier practiced dental hygiene for 20 years. But it was during the couple’s time in Montana between 1970 and 1994 that she became especially interested in education and health care for Native Americans and other underrepresented people in need.
She worked with Indian Health Services, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for providing medical and public health services to the Native American Tribes and Alaska Native people. She served as a government consultant and helped begin Head Start programs on Native American reservations to provide early childhood education, health, nutrition and parental involvement services to low-income children and families.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Patti about these experiences she enjoyed for 40 years. “It is a big part of my life. I spent a lot of time on reservations and would go and stay for weeks. It was marvelous.”
It was also during this period of their lives in Montana and Indiana that Patti manifested her love and appreciation for art. This admiration led her to serve as docents at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture in Missoula and at the Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington.
“I have always loved the arts,” said Patti. “I always say art is my world – that along with skiing.”
Patti is also a professional ski instructor and is now in her 49th year of teaching others the enjoyment of downhill mountain skiing, including at ski areas in Montana, Colorado and New Zealand. Since living in Colorado, she’s racked up 25 seasons of ski instruction with Vail Resorts.
“Everything we do is centered on helping children and young people”
After Joel retired from teaching at IU, the couple ended up in Colorado, which now serves as the home base for their adventures, which includes traveling to all seven continents either by foot, kayak or motorcycle.
Even in the busyness of their retirement life, Joel and Patti appreciate the legacies they created through their service, volunteerism and philanthropy at the universities that have been a major part of their lives. In addition to their generosity to the University of Nebraska, they have supported IU and UM, creating endowed funds at each that also supports their passion and interest in the arts and outdoor recreation.
Joel and Patti, who describe themselves as lifelong minimalists, say they decided early on as a couple they would help others through education and giving back what they could.
“Everything we do is centered on helping children and young people,” said Patti. “We decided at a young age in our marriage that we wanted to give back.
“That was going to be very important to us.”
The new 44,000-square-foot addition under construction at Mammel Hall, home to the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Business Administration (CBA), now has a name: the Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center.
The naming of the new privately-funded addition was recently approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, and when completed in the spring of 2021 will benefit generations of business professionals, leaders, and entrepreneurs.
The Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center is made possible through a privately funded initiative with lead gifts from the Mammel Foundation, Rod Rhoden Foundation, and Union Pacific Foundation. The new addition will help serve as a central hub for applied learning, community engagement and cutting-edge research that reimagines business education.
“When we say that Omaha is our campus, it also means fostering relationships, ideas and innovations that can help our city, state and region grow,” UNO Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., said. “The Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center will promote growth and big ideas that will change the world. We are grateful for the generosity of our donors to make this a reality.”
Announcement of the Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Centercomes almost exactly 10 years after Mammel Hall was dedicated as the new home for CBA on UNO’s Scott Campus in fall 2010. Mammel Hall was primarily funded by Omaha businessman and philanthropist Carl Mammel. His philanthropic leadership a decade ago for the hall, in addition to his robust business student scholarship program established more than 20 years ago, reflects the confidence of the business and philanthropic community in the future of UNO and CBA.
CBA has elevated its role as a national leader in student support, community collaboration, educational opportunity, and engagement. As a result of this success, enrollment increased as well as the need to hire additional faculty. It quickly became apparent an addition to Mammel Hall would be needed sooner than anticipated. Carl Mammel answered the call once again by making a $10 million gift to the project and encouraging others to contribute and offering an opportunity for naming the new addition.
“Any new venture or project ultimately requires a combination of faith, confidence and vision,” Mammel said of the new expansion. “To see how the college has grown and how the community has rallied around the forward-thinking approach that UNO has to business education is the culmination of that initial vision. I wish nothing more than for this new addition to be the thing that provides future students the same faith, confidence and vision that will allow them to achieve greatness themselves.”
UNO alumnus Rod Rhoden stepped up to make a major gift to name the addition in response to this challenge.
Rhoden is a 1967 business graduate of UNO and 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 Greater Omaha area. He currently has interest in four auto dealerships in Omaha and Lincoln employing more than 300. His auto dealerships have long been recognized for employee retention and customer satisfaction. While his home is Long Boat Key, Florida, Rhoden maintains various business and real estate interests in the Omaha and Lincoln area and more than 6000 acres of farmland in Southwest Iowa.
“I had no idea that my attending UNO prompted with a retail scholarship sponsored by Brandeis Department Stores would lead to my business and investment career centered around the Omaha community,” Rhoden said. “It is humbling and special for me to be a part of this effort, which I know will be a game changer for the College of Business Administration, UNO and the Omaha community.”
In the years following his graduation, Rhoden continued to stay connected to UNO as a mentor, supporter, and advocate for the college and university.
He received the UNO Alumni Citation in 1995 and was inducted as a UNO College of Business Administration Distinguished Alumnus in 2011. He previously served on the board of the directors for the UNO Alumni Association and the Development Committee for the University of Nebraska Foundation. He is currently a University of Nebraska Foundation Trustee, a member of the UNO Chancellor’s Club as well as the University of Nebraska President’s Club. His auto dealerships have been active in supporting the athletics programs at both UNO and UNL for over 35 years.
Union Pacific Railroad, headquartered in Omaha, also made a major contribution to the initiative. In recognition of its generosity, the college’s outdoor gathering space will be named the Union Pacific Plaza.
“Union Pacific is proud to continue its longstanding relationship with UNO as we work to prepare students for the workforce of today and tomorrow,” said Scott Moore, Union Pacific senior vice president-corporate relations, chief administrative officer and foundation president. “Providing high-quality facilities and opportunities like those offered at the Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center is a great way to keep Nebraska’s top talent right here in our community.”
UNO CBA Dean Michelle Trawick, Ph.D., said the college is pleased to reveal the name of its Mammel Hall expansion.
“The Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center will provide so many additional learning and community engagement opportunities,” Trawick said. “Accounting students will have state of the art classrooms in the newly designated School of Accounting. Entrepreneurship students will have space to work with Omahans on high-tech startup strategies, and faculty and graduate students in our national counterterrorism program will conduct cutting-edge research that directly impacts many sectors of our metropolitan community.
“We will be doing all of this and more thanks to the generosity of our donors like Carl Mammel, Rod Rhoden and Union Pacific.”
When completed, the Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center will be home to programs and resources that mirror Rhoden’s ingenuity and focus on building relationships to grow new business. It will feature a new Entrepreneurship Lab that will support UNO’s Center for Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Franchising; 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 Center of Excellence.
Gifts and commitments to the initiative have also been made by other individuals and organizations. The University of Nebraska Foundation is continuing its fundraising efforts, and naming opportunities remain available within Mammel Hall and within the Rod Rhoden Business Innovation Center.
Construction on the addition began in August 2019 and is managed by The Weitz Company in partnership with Holland Basham Architects with project completion currently scheduled for April 2021.