UNMC researchers have discovered a potential new therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer, detailed in a paper in a recent issue of the journal Gastroenterology.

The team established a new way to target pancreatic cancer cells by developing inhibitors that, when combined with existing chemotherapies, can diminish pancreatic cancer in mouse models. The discovery was a culmination of about seven years of work with collaborators from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Germany, India, China, Italy and Switzerland.

The research was funded primarily by a $2.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and an Italian cancer research grant. Private support through gifts made to the University of Nebraska Foundation for pancreatic research has also attributed to the research team’s success.

Pancreatic cancer is a lethal malignancy with a five-year survival rate of less than 10%. Pancreatic cancer cells tend to reprogram how they feed themselves and are able to survive and grow under harsh conditions, said Pankaj Singh, PhD, professor in the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer at UNMC. Dr. Singh is the senior author of the paper.

“Our lab found that deleting the enzyme SIRT5 in pancreatic cancer cells accelerates tumor growth and correlates with poor survival in both pancreatic cancer patients and genetically engineered mouse models,” said Dr. Singh, who also is co-leader of the Cancer Biology Program at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “The study provides the first evidence in support of activating SIRT5 as a therapeutic strategy.

“The ability to ‘turn on’ SIRT5 in pancreatic cancer cells inhibits tumor growth. Developing drugs that do this is the next step and will help diminish tumors in patients with low SIRT5 expression in the tumors,” Dr. Singh said.

The team used a public database to identify the role of SIRT5 in pancreatic cancer and generated new animal models to study its role in the disease. It also developed various cell line models and tissue-like structures, and it conducted various molecular and biochemical studies. The studies also used human tumor specimens.

Dr. Singh said SIRT5 deletion enhanced the formation of early tumor lesions in mice in response to inflammation and in response to mutations in the KRAS and p53 genes. KRAS belongs to a class of genes known as oncogenes and when mutated have the potential to cause normal cells to become cancerous. The p53 gene stops the formation of tumors.

“While mutations in the KRAS oncogene are the main driver for the disease, how KRAS drives healthy cells to become cancer cells is not fully understood,” he said. “Also, new therapies are very much in need to target the oncogenesis induced by KRAS.”

The study also identified the basis of how pancreatic cancer cells reroute the metabolic dependencies under conditions of nutrient deprivation in the tumors.

Dr. Singh said studies need to be conducted in human patients to evaluate the effectiveness of SIRT5 against pancreatic cancer.

UNMC collaborators included Fang Yu, PhD, Audrey Lazenby, MD, and Kamiya Mehla, PhD.

Gifts of any amount help support pancreatic cancer research and may be made online to the Pancreatic Cancer Center of Excellence Fund.

For more information about supporting cancer research, please contact cancer support specialists Ashley Christensen or Tom Thompson at 402-502-0300 or 800-432-3216.

The Richard P. Kimmel and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation has made a $1 million leadership gift to support a new state-of-the-art Nebraska Equine Sports Complex at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

An artist’s rendering of the northwest view of the planned Equine Sports Complex, with the equine barn facility in the foreground. (Courtesy image/Settje Agri-Services and Engineering)

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and its Department of Animal Science estimate that 180,000 horses in Nebraska are used for leisure, competition and agricultural work. To better serve this industry and the people who care for these animals while enhancing the educational experience for students, the college has embarked on a $4.5 million initiative for a new equine complex on East Campus.

Tiffany Heng-Moss, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, said now is the time to develop the facilities needed for equine education and training because of an increase in student participation in equine programs and the expansion of 4-H youth equine programs in the state.

“The Nebraska Equine Sports Complex will position Nebraska to be the destination for students across the state and beyond who are interested in equine sports, expand our experiential learning programming, provide a one-of-a-kind teaching and learning facility, and connect youth and extension education activities on campus for the benefit of all Nebraska,” she said. “We are thrilled to have support from the Kimmel Foundation to help start off this exciting effort.”

Clint Krehbiel, head of the animal science department, said, “The equestrian program is a growing strength of Nebraska Animal Science. This facility will greatly enhance our ability to deliver high-quality teaching and learning for both youth and adults and allow students from all backgrounds and cultures to gain hands-on experience connecting with horses. We are also excited for the impact this facility will have on our competitiveness in equine sports and student recruitment.”

The complex will provide student-athletes with a practice space for the University of Nebraska Rodeo Association and the UNL Equestrian Team, a place to board their horses, and experiential learning areas for undergraduate and K-12 students across the state. It will also serve to conduct extension education programming and clinics.

The facility will provide the college with an area to teach classes, such as colt training and equine reproduction. Students participating in classes through both the Department of Animal Science and the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences will also benefit.

“The Kimmel Foundation has been interested in this project for about 20 years, and we’re glad to see it coming to fruition,” said Ernie Weyeneth, president and treasurer of the foundation. “This is about having a facility dedicated to the heritage of equine training and sports here in Nebraska to serve young people from every part of the state. This includes high school programs, such as the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association and the important work of Nebraska 4-H. It’s really all about our young people — the next generation of equine professionals and enthusiasts.”

An artist’s rendering of the southwest view of the planned Equine Sports Complex, with the equine arena building in the foreground. (Courtesy image/Settje Agri-Services and Engineering)

The Nebraska Equine Sports Complex will be built north of the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center. It will include an equine stall barn, large and small arenas, exercise round pen, classrooms, offices, wash bay area, tack lockers and outdoor runs.

Gifts in support of the privately funded equine complex can be made to the University of Nebraska Foundation. Naming opportunities within the complex are also available. For more information, contact Josh Egley or Kristen Houska at 402-458-1100. Gifts of any amount can be made at nufoundation.org/equinecomplex.

A friendship sparked by a scholarship has led to Nebraska’s Angela Pannier being named the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s inaugural Swarts Family Chair in Biological Systems Engineering.

Celebrated July 13, the named chair is an honor decades in the making, taking root in 1997 when a scholarship gift sparked a friendship between Pannier (then an engineering student) and Dr. Carol Swarts, a pioneering Nebraska physician.

That initial connection has grown through the years as the two women have shared similar career paths, opening doors and achieving success in male-dominated fields. The University of Nebraska Medical Center accepted very few women when Swarts attended. And Pannier, now a professor of biological systems engineering, was the first female faculty member to earn tenure in her department.

Swarts was born on a rental farm in western Box Butte County, Nebraska. Throughout her childhood, the family moved to multiple farms in several states as her father farmed. Swarts took note of her parents’ work ethic and values, which inspired her from an early age.

Swarts’ mother, Elenore Gakemeier Swarts, was a first-generation American and a pioneer in many regards. She was the first female school superintendent in Nebraska. Her spunky attitude and determination to model success for herself and her family instilled in the Swarts children a deep respect for education. Her parents’ example fueled Carol’s dream of becoming a doctor.

“Back in the ’30s and ’40s, that was not the goal for a lot of parents for their girls, and neither of them questioned that I was going to be a physician,” Swarts said.

As she had planned, Swarts pioneered a career in medicine. She graduated from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1959. Despite the comments of some saying that women were not to be doctors, Swarts and her female peers supported each other and embarked on successful careers.

After Elenore died at age 99, Carol and her brothers decided to create an undergraduate scholarship fund in her memory.

Pannier was one of the early recipients of the Elenore Gakemeier Swarts Biological Systems Engineering Scholarship, a fund that continues to support students. Each year since the inception of the fund, Swarts makes an effort to meet the scholarship recipients over lunch or dinner. Upon meeting Pannier those many years ago, Swarts saw a remarkable young woman.

“Angie was one of the early recipients, and just watching her through undergrad, she was a representative for the area; she was a rock star,” Swarts said. “She was encouraging other women to get into bioengineering, and then over the years I’ve had the privilege of meeting her and watching her grow.”

Likewise, Pannier was in awe of Swarts’ success, as well as her generosity in meeting with her as a scholarship recipient.

“I was just amazed that someone with all these attributes is spending any time with me, some random student, and is helping fund my education, which was critical for me,” Pannier said.

Passionate about the environment, clean water and medicine, Swarts has continued to support Nebraska’s biological systems engineering program. When Pannier returned to the university as a faculty member, their relationship blossomed into something larger.

Swarts began to ask Pannier what she needed to ensure the department had the support to perform cutting-edge research and continue outstanding educational programs. Pannier’s research focuses on DNA vaccines, tissue engineering of developmental biology, and non-viral gene delivery systems for stem cell and medical device applications. This work — as well as the work of her students — was beginning to attract national and worldwide attention.

Swarts expanded her support for students to include graduate scholar travel awards. She has also supported the creation of a hands-on teaching lab and an annual outstanding graduate student award. When Pannier brought up the idea of funding faculty research, Swarts had a big idea — the Swarts Family Chair in Biological Systems Engineering.

Swarts’ gift will fund the endowed chair, as well as several other endowed faculty positions. The cash stipend that the named chair position provides will be used by Pannier and the students in her lab to pilot innovative projects and explore new areas of research.

“I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Swarts for her unwavering and incredibly generous support of our biological systems engineering department,” said Mike Boehm, NU vice president and Harlan Vice Chancellor for Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Our biological systems engineering program has incredible momentum, and this gift infuses more energy into critical work of its faculty, staff and students.”

Pannier said she is honored by the continuous support Swarts has provided her, her students and her department to fulfill their mission.

“I am humbled and grateful that I not only get to hold the endowed chair, but I get to hold the Swarts family endowed chair, endowed by a person who has meant and continues to mean so much to me,” Pannier said.

Swarts’ gifts have created a ripple effect that will reward current and future generations of Husker researchers and students. It’s those direct impacts on individuals that inspire Swarts to continue supporting education and research.

“I see things as what can happen because of what I can contribute,” Swarts said. “I support scholarship because I think students who are interested in learning and progressing deserve that extra help and inspiration.”

Nebraskans Mark and Carol Moseman have collected more than 200 works of art representing an eclectic array of styles and renowned artists from America and Europe, with one thread that weaves them together: humankind’s relationship to the land.

Now considered a collection of significant artistic and historic value, the works fall under the genre of Agrarian Art, a term coined by Mark Moseman, a well-respected agrarian artist himself, and is now a term recognized by the Smithsonian Institution.

Over the years, the Mosemans donated art from their collection to various museums and are now giving the remainder to the Great Plains Art Museum, which is housed at the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

 “Agrarian Spirit in the Homestead Area: Artwork from the Moseman Collection of Agrarian Art” will be exhibited at the Great Plains Art Museum from July 2 to Oct. 23, with an opening reception July 2 from 5 to 7 p.m. The opening reception is free and open to the public.

“We are incredibly grateful for the Mosemans’ continued support and generosity, and we are honored they have entrusted this collection to the museum and University of Nebraska,” said Ashley Wilkinson, museum director and curator. “These artworks enable us to provide a new level of education and experiences for visitors, students, and researchers, one that fosters important conversations surrounding the diverse and complicated history of land use on the Great Plains. We look forward to sharing this collection with the public for years to come.”

Over the years, Carol and Mark Moseman have donated art from their collection of agrarian art to several museums and are now giving the remainder to the Great Plains Art Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Mark Moseman curated the exhibition of 61 works. It includes paintings, sculptures and prints revealing a dramatic change in culture in the Great Plains, from European American settlement and homesteading in the 1860s to an exodus from the land beginning in the 1930s.

The exhibition features works by artists such as Jean-François Millet, Eastman Johnson, Winslow Homer, Georges Laugée, Thérèse-Marthe-Françoise Dupré, John Gutzon Borglum, Harvey Dunn, Diego Rivera and Robert Gwathmey. Artwork by John Steuart Curry and Georges Schreiber show uncertainty near the end of the Homestead era and the twilight of this brief but transformative time in American history.

“The Moseman Collection and the financial support the Mosemans have committed is an invaluable contribution to our mission to foster the study of and appreciation for the people, cultures and natural environment of the Great Plains,” said Margaret Jacobs, director of the Center for Great Plains Studies. “Their donation also elevates the overall stature and excellence of the university. We are so grateful for their generosity.”

About giving their art, Carol Moseman said, “It feels good because it will have a home. People will be able to see it long after we’re gone. People will be able to see the stories in the paintings.”

The Mosemans have also established a fund through the University of Nebraska Foundation for the Great Plains Art Museum. The endowment will ensure their collection is preserved and help to make it accessible to the public.

The Mosemans grew up in small-town Nebraska, Mark Moseman outside Oakland and Carol Moseman in Brainard, and are descendants from immigrant homesteaders and settlers who came to Nebraska in the 1800s.

Mark Moseman said his earliest memory of farm life was putting up hay with his father and grandfather. He recalls a vibrant family and social life on the farm and in the surrounding community — the farms were small, and the families helped each other.

Mark and Carol Moseman, both graduates of UNL, said as they became older, they saw the centuries-old farm life begin to change. Hands-on labor transitioned to mechanized farming, which needed fewer people. As technology advanced, farms got bigger, and the small towns that depended on their business emptied out.

“It was a gradual, slow death,” Mark Moseman said of the exodus from family farming. “The loss of those people and culture is something that should be noted. It shouldn’t just be something that dies on the vine.”

The Mosemans decided to do their part to document that story through the art they collected — not just the exodus from the farm, but the way one’s relationship to the land has changed and what has been lost in the transformation, including one’s role and responsibility as caretaker.

“This art has more than a simply feel-good purpose,” Mark Moseman said. “It has a purpose where hopefully it can have an impact on people who see it. We will feel we’ve accomplished something in life that no one else really could do but for a vision that we had.”

Carol Moseman said, “There are paintings I’m going to dearly miss, but I know that they’re going to be safe.”

The Moseman Collection exhibition arrives to the Great Plains Art Museum from the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Missouri. An exhibition catalog written and edited by Mark Moseman accompanies this exhibition. It includes guest essays by Reed Anderson, associate professor of art history at the Kansas City Art Institute; Brandon Ruud, the Abert Family Curator of American Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

About the Center for Great Plains Studies
The Center for Great Plains Studies is a regional research and outreach program established in 1976 at the University of Nebraska. The mission of the center is to foster the study of and appreciation for the people, cultures, and natural environment of the Great Plains.

Before the movers came to pack everything up, Carol Moseman stepped into one of her favorite rooms and took pictures. Filling the walls were more than 60 works of art that had resided in her home for years. Sculptures and drawings, bold oil paintings and colorful pastels — all special, all painstakingly chosen and collected with her husband, Mark, over the last 50 years.

As she walked past, Carol recalled the days they purchased each one.

“There are paintings I’m going to dearly miss,” she said, “but I know that they’re going to be safe.”

The Moseman collection totals more than 200 works of art, an eclectic array of styles and renowned artists from America and Europe, with one thread that weaves them together: humankind’s relationship to the land. Today considered a collection of significant artistic and historic value, the works fall under the genre of agrarian art — a term that was coined by Mark, a well-respected agrarian artist himself, and is now recognized by the Smithsonian Institution.

“Sons of the Frontier,” circa 1940, by Harvey Dunn (1884–1952), courtesy of the Mark and Carol Moseman Collection of Agrarian Art.

Over the years, Mark and Carol have donated pieces from their collection to several museums and are now giving the remainder to the Great Plains Art Museum, which is housed at the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. They have also set up a generous bequest to endow the collection and ensure it forever remains preserved and accessible.

“It feels good, because it will have a home,” Carol said. “People will be able to see it long after we’re gone. People will be able to see the stories in the paintings.”

Those stories are what is most meaningful to the Mosemans, partly because their lives are reflected in them. They grew up in small-town Nebraska — Mark outside Oakland and Carol in Brainard — descendant from immigrant homesteaders and settlers who came to Nebraska in the 1800s and set up modest family farms.

It was a family tradition bigger than their experience. It was fundamentally tied to the early vision of America — its identity, culture and values. As Thomas Jefferson imagined, family farmers would form the foundation of democracy as embodiments of the spirit of hard work and independence.

“As close to the Jeffersonian ideal in America, we lived it,” Mark said. “We took it for granted. We didn’t know there was anything else. We didn’t know it would ever change.”

Mark said his earliest memory on the farm was putting up hay with his father and grandfather. He recalls a vibrant family and social life on the farm and in the surrounding community — the farms were small, and the families helped each other.

But as they grew older, Mark and Carol saw that centuries-old farm life begin to change. Hands-on labor transitioned to mechanized farming, which required fewer and fewer people. As technology advanced, farms got bigger and the small towns that depended on their business emptied out. In fact, 23 million Americans lived on farms in 1953, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Today, just 3 million do.

It has been a significant exodus — one of the largest movements of Americans in the country’s history. But it happened slowly.

“It was a gradual, slow death,” Mark said. “Farmers have lost their family farms and gone to work at McDonald’s or whatever, and a number of them committed suicide, feeling they were failures, when it was really the economy had changed.

“The loss of those people and culture is something that should be noted. It shouldn’t just be something that dies on the vine.”

The Mosemans decided to do their part to document that story — not just the exodus from the farm, but the way our relationship to the land has changed and what has been lost in the transformation, including our role and responsibility as caretakers.

Today the Moseman collection is one of the few art collections — if not the only one — to tell the story.

“This art has more than a simply feel-good purpose,” Mark said. “It has a purpose where hopefully it can have an impact on people who see it.”

The Mosemans selected the Great Plains Art Museum as the beneficiary of their collection because they believe it is uniquely suited to house it. Beginning July 2, selections from the Moseman collection will be on display at the museum. “Agrarian Spirit in the Homestead Era — Artwork from the Moseman Collection of Agrarian Art” runs through Oct. 23, and full-color catalogues of the exhibit are on sale to benefit the museum.

The connection is also personal. As an artist, Mark was offered a one-man exhibition by the Great Plains Art Museum in 2004. He said that meant a great deal to him, and he feels the collection has found a perfect home.

“It will feel really good that they’re organized in a really thoughtful fashion … that it’s museum-worthy,” Mark said.

“We will feel we’ve accomplished something in life that no one else really could do but for a vision that we had.”

At age 9, Beatrice “Bea” Kalisch stepped onto a bus in Omaha and saw her future: a nurse dressed in a trim, starched-white uniform, her hair tucked neatly behind a white cap.

“I just thought she looked wonderful,” Bea recalled.  It was 1952, and the nation loved a good uniform.

A few years later, Bea, a Burnett Society member, began volunteering at the Red Cross and was assigned to a polio ward. Polio was ravaging communities. In hospitals, children were brought in for care, their tiny limbs immobile with paralysis. Some had to be fed through straws by nurses.

The experience was impactful. “The patients were so helpless,” Bea recalled. “To feed them, I felt so useful.”

Bea became convinced nursing was her future. Her path led her first to the University of Nebraska Medical Center and then all around the world conducting research and presenting her findings. Now through a generous bequest to UNMC, Bea is encouraging more people to impact lives as only nurses can.

Bea’s education at UNMC was foundational in her career. Having a bachelor’s degree helped land her first job. But it also taught her how impactful nursing can be on patients’ well-being. That lesson came through the faculty, particularly one pediatrics teacher, Esther Sock Dworak.

Bea and several of her classmates were inspired to go into pediatrics and later established a scholarship in the teacher’s name.

Her education also empowered Bea to recognize when nursing was being done wrong. At one position, she said she practiced under a nurse who embodied the opposite of compassionate care. She recalled being reprimanded for playing with a sick child.

“She came in and grabbed all his toys and said nurses are not for play,” Bea said. “I cried all the way home. My whole focus was to help people.”

Although she was discouraged, Bea kept going. “I was lucky I had that nurse who showed me another way at Nebraska,” she said. “And I was lucky that I got directed to Nebraska. We had some really good faculty members that made a huge difference with me.”

After UNMC, Kalisch earned her master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Maryland. She has had a distinguished career, authoring nine books and more than 140 journal articles and presenting her research around the world, including on the image of the nurse.

“The images in the media … didn’t show nurses making a difference in patient outcomes,” she said. “They didn’t show nurses as intelligent decision makers.”

Kalisch said that lack of recognition exacerbates the nation’s nursing shortage. To help counter that, she established a scholarship at UNMC, which she hopes will encourage more talented students to pursue nursing and conduct research.

She describes her gift simply: “What better place to put your money?”

Facility highlights unique history of the state’s academic health science center

Today, the University of Nebraska Medical Center celebrated the opening of a new facility designed to memorialize its unique history, and also serve as a campus welcome center.

The multi-level, 13,000-square-foot facility includes gallery and digital exhibit space and allow the Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library staff to showcase previously hidden, prized collections to the public.

“The Wigton Heritage Center serves as a place of welcome and a catalyst for understanding, experiencing and appreciating UNMC’s history and the Nebraska health professionals who have transformed lives, now celebrating 150 years since the founding of the first Nebraska medical college,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD. “We are grateful to Dr. Bob Wigton and all of the donors who helped us create this transformational space.”

Leadership gifts for the $8 million building addition were provided by Robert S. Wigton, MD, and the Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Charitable Foundation, along with other private gifts supporting exhibits within the Wigton Heritage Center. Funding also was provided by the Nebraska Legislature through LB 957 for infrastructure upgrades to the adjoining Wittson Hall.

UNMC’s unofficial campus historian, Dr. Wigton is a 1969 alumnus of the College of Medicine, professor of internal medicine and served in several key administrative areas, including associate dean for graduate medical education for nearly 40 years. The Wigton legacy spans three generations with several physicians within the family serving on the faculty of UNMC.

Gifts also were committed by the Leland J. and Dorothy H. Olson Charitable Foundation. The Olsons, both deceased, were University of Nebraska alumni and major contributors to UNMC for a variety of women’s health and university initiatives. Dr. Leland Olson, a respected obstetrician and gynecologist in Omaha, was a volunteer UNMC physician faculty member and mentored medical interns in his practice. Three generations of the Olson family have graduated from the UNMC College of Medicine.

“We are grateful to our donors and thrilled to showcase UNMC’s impactful story to our community, as well as the many visitors who come to campus,” said Emily McElroy, dean of the McGoogan Library.

The Wigton Heritage Center tells UNMC’s story through gallery and digital exhibit space; showcase the McGoogan Library’s vast special collections, artifacts, archives and rare books; and expose University Hospital’s historic façade and iconic columns within a planned atrium that will serve as a welcoming space for alumni, visitors, new and prospective students, and others. A Dunkin Donuts will open within the space at the end of June.

On three floors of the Wigton Heritage Center, visitors may view 11 exhibits featuring images and artifacts from the McGoogan’s Special Collections and Archives, UNMC College of Nursing, UNMC College of Dentistry and cultural institutions across the state. Three additional exhibits will open in November 2021. Visitors also can view 13 interactive displays throughout the Wigton Heritage Center by viewing campus images and biographical information, selections from the library’s rare book collection and listening to oral histories from past UNMC leaders.

Earlier this month, the American College of Surgeons, the largest professional organization of surgeons in the world, permanently transferred an endowment to the University of Nebraska Foundation to support its H. Winnett Orr rare book collection. The collection that includes surgical archives has been on permanent loan to the UNMC McGoogan Health Sciences Library since the 1970s.

Late this fall, the library will offer online versions of the on-campus exhibits with expanded content. Immediately after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a virtual tour will be available via the McGoogan Library website.

Learn more about the Wigton Heritage Center at www.unmc.edu/wigton/index.html

A groundbreaking ceremony on June 28, 2021, celebrated the beginning of construction of the privately funded $97 million Kiewit Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The event was held adjacent to the new building site at 17th and Vine streets at the College of Engineering in Othmer Hall.

Following a short program, lead contributors to the project, together with university and city officials and corporate partners, participated in a traditional dirt-turning in front of the construction site. The event can be viewed on the college’s Construction Central website at engineering.unl.edu/construction-central.

“This is a big day for us, the University of Nebraska, for the state of Nebraska [and] for the field of engineering as we turn ground on the largest academic facilities project in the 152-year history of the university,” said University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green.

“We are very excited about it. We know our students are going to build the future, and they’re going to be more enabled to do that through this new facility.”

Kiewit Corp. of Omaha announced its major support for the expansion initiative in 2019 with a $25 million gift commitment. Other lead contributors recognized during the groundbreaking ceremony were the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation, Abel Foundation, Peter Kiewit Foundation, Robert B. Daugherty Foundation and Acklie Charitable Foundation.

“As someone who has spent my career at this university, I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see that kind of investment in the College of Engineering,” said Dean Lance C. Pérez. “What matters is what’s going to happen in this building. For the first time in over a generation, we will have a facility that is all about teaching engineering. It’s going to be a game-changer for the state of Nebraska and the next generations of students.”

A current rendering of the new Kiewit Hall designed by Ballinger at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Slated to open in 2023, Kiewit Hall will serve as the academic hub for undergraduate engineering education and house Lincoln-based construction management programs. It will include classrooms, instructional labs, Engineering Student Services, maker spaces for the college’s student organizations, and a large outdoor plaza for the university community.

“In our company’s earliest days, Peter Kiewit came to the University of Nebraska to find the engineers that made the company what it is today, and the university has remained incredibly important to us,” said Rick Lanoha, president and chief executive officer of Kiewit Corporation. “When this opportunity came along to build this world-class facility, it was a unanimous vote at our board of directors meeting.”

The facility is being constructed on the east side of UNL’s existing engineering complex, east of Othmer Hall and across 17th Street, which is now closed to traffic. Once completed, Kiewit Hall will connect to Othmer Hall via a skyway, providing an expanded complex that also includes Scott Engineering Center, the Link and Nebraska Hall.

Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, said that when you look at what is going to happen within Kiewit Hall, the privately funded facility will have a transformative effect on many lives.

“It will help educate generations of engineers who will lead teams, who will use their engineering principles to solve practical and important issues and challenges, engineer other facilities like this and engineer infrastructures that will really help change lives and save lives in our communities,” Hastings said.

“Every project needs champions, and without our principal benefactors this project wouldn’t be a reality, but without the 734 individuals and organizations who have given so far, we wouldn’t be here today.”

The new Kiewit Hall is part of an overall $170 million expansion and facilities transformation for the College of Engineering. Scott Engineering Center is being renovated along with the new, under-construction Link building that will feature enhanced spaces for research labs, graduate students and several academic departments.

“Having an establishment such as Kiewit Hall at our disposal is integral to student success,” said Noha Algahimi, a senior in chemical engineering. “It means new spaces to develop our projects and additional study spots to build the social connections we so heavily rely on to get us through a rigorous four years. It means state-of-the-art classrooms nurturing the comfort of both students and faculty, thereby allowing for the effective delivery and reception of information.

“As the College of Engineering continues to provide visionaries and valuable members to the scientific world, Kiewit Hall will become a fixture in each individual’s success story.”

UNL is home to the sole College of Engineering in the state of Nebraska, supplying engineering education and leadership in technology-based economic development for the state, the nation and the world. The College of Engineering offers the state’s only nationally accredited undergraduate degree programs in engineering, as well as 13 master’s programs and 11 doctoral programs. Programs are offered on City Campus and East Campus in Lincoln and on Scott Campus in Omaha.

Professor David J. Sellmyer has been recognized for his achievements during his nearly 50-year-long tenure at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. A permanently endowed faculty chair has been named in his honor to support physics teaching and research.

“I am amazed and honored by the establishment of this chaired professorship,” Sellmyer said. “It gives me confidence that the strong, collaborative condensed-matter and materials-physics culture that exists at Nebraska will continue and flourish in the future.”

Sellmyer joined the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy in 1972 to teach and guide graduate-level research. Through the years, he has aided the careers of many students, led research collaboration, acquired grant funding, guided improvements of equipment and facilities, and published hundreds of academic journal articles and book chapters. He holds a George Holmes Distinguished University Professorship.

Sellmyer served as founding director of the Center for Materials Research and Analysis from 1988 to 2006; it was renamed the Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience in 2006, which he directed until 2019. In this role he repeatedly brought science and engineering faculty together to jointly write research proposals to federal agencies. This took place over a period of more than four decades and led to many tens of millions of dollars in new grants and contracts. This enhanced financial support made a significant impact on the quality and quantity of research in physics and related fields at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The David J. Sellmyer Chair in Condensed Matter Physics was established with a gift from UNL Professor John Woollam to the University of Nebraska Foundation. Sellmyer’s longtime colleague, Woollam also holds a George Holmes Distinguished University Professor and is in the College of Engineering Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He joined Nebraska in 1979.

“Dave Sellmyer has been an incredible role model for professors to follow in their careers,” said Woollam, who first met Sellmyer while the two were in graduate school at Michigan State University in the early 1960s. “David has a wonderful collaborative spirit. He’s a true leader and an inspiration for others, with wisdom, competence and kindness to share.”

UNL College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Button said the university appreciates the opportunity to recognize Sellmyer while having more funds to bolster teaching and research.

“Through the years, the David J. Sellmyer Chair will enable Nebraska to recruit and retain the very best physics educators and researchers,” Button said. “These will be individuals who exemplify the personal and professional qualities of Dave Sellmyer. Having an endowed position named for his legacy will be a tremendous attraction.”

After completing their doctoral programs at Michigan State in the mid-1960s, Sellmyer went to work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Woollam went to NASA in Ohio. The two remained friends and enjoyed opportunities for their families to get together.

The two friends would later come back under the same academic roof in the late 1970s when Sellmyer encouraged Woollam to apply for an opening at Nebraska. Woollam did so and was offered an engineering faculty teaching and research position.

“I feel Dave needs to be recognized for a lifelong contribution of bringing people together and working together in science and engineering,” Woollam said. “He’s raised the quality of Nebraska’s faculty just by being there and being good and helping other faculty grow in their academic knowledge and abilities while bringing us all up together. What leadership! You can’t find better leadership than that in academia. I mean, you can’t.”

The Sellmyer Chair will be used to recruit faculty members with a strong publication record, proven effectiveness in building experimental collaborations, and success in securing collaborative grants. Additionally, the chair holder will grow the stature of the condensed matter physics program, be dedicated to mentoring graduate students and promote excellent physics education at all levels.

Recipients will receive an annual stipend from the endowed fund for salary support or support for scholarly research and creative activities. Appointments will be for five years with the possibility for renewal.

Munroe-Meyer Institute celebrates new home and new standard of care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“This is a place where people’s hearts feel love,” said Timothy Shriver, chair of the Special Olympics, at the June 8 grand opening of the new Munroe-Meyer Institute building in Omaha.

The new home for the Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) is now the country’s most advanced and state-of-the-art facility dedicated to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

The building “is a dream literally come true,” said MMI Director Karoly Mirnics.  

“With this new building, MMI is positioned as never before to support the intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) community as it strives for awareness, acceptance and opportunity,” Mirnics said. “This building will fuel a palpable change in the IDD community and in the broader community as we work together toward those goals.” 

“We created a unique building, the most advanced facility for those families impacted by IDD in the nation,” Mirnics said. “We wanted to create a new standard in IDD care for families, and we turned to these families – experts in their own right – to discover what they wanted that facility to be.” 

VIDEO: Watch the grand opening event featuring family testimonies and remarks by Special Olympics Chair Timothy Shriver, Seattle Seahawks Manager John Schneider and others.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey Gold called the new building a doorway into the institute’s second century. 

“Since its beginning in 1919, Munroe-Meyer Institute has worked to improve the lives of the people and families it serves,” Gold said. “This new home gives it a much larger space and increased versatility and flexibility, but the core of the MMI mission — partnering with those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families to overcome challenges, to live fuller, richer lives — remains the same. We are forever grateful to all of the private philanthropists from our community who have invested in this world-class facility and the MMI mission.”

PHOTOS: See photos from the grand opening event

Costs for the building initiative were more than $90 million with funding provided through the state of Nebraska and private gifts to the University of Nebraska Foundation.  

“Due in large part to the philanthropic generosity of those who saw the need and value, many families will benefit from the excellent care and expanded services now possible through the Munroe-Meyer Institute in its new home,” said Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation. “Thank you to our benefactors for the dream they’ve made possible and to the faculty, staff and providers for delivering this life-changing care to our families.” 

Major contributors to the building initiative include the following: 

Now located at 6902 Pine Street in Omaha near the University of Nebraska at Omaha Scott Campus, the new building is more than double the size of MMI’s former home. It provides critical room for growth of existing programs and the development of innovative new ones, ample parking, entrances and a floor plan designed to accommodate the needs of the individuals MMI serves. 

Susan Gass said her son Kaleb takes advantage of all that MMI offers and that Omaha is fortunate to have the university and the help it provides.

“MMI partners with our families to allow us to dream big for our kids,” Gass said. “It provides opportunities for our kids to help them achieve their potential at home, at school and within our community. The staff in this facility are truly amazing. They are the reason that Kaleb wants to be here for every opportunity.”

Although MMI now has a wonderful facility, it’s what takes place inside it that really maters.

“What is most important is what the building will allow us to provide: the best, most comprehensive, most integrated family-centric care for IDD in the world. And we will be doing that … for decades to come,” Mirnics said.