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The Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab is being dedicated to the Swarts family.

On Friday, Oct. 7, UNL will dedicate a new state-of-the-art lab in the basement of Chase Hall on East Campus, home of the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. It will be called The Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab.

Dr. Carol Swarts, a UNL and UNMC alum, will be there. She donated much of the money needed to build the lab. She did this in honor of her family.

She also has supported UNMC throughout the years, often in honor of her family. Without them and the education she received at the University of Nebraska, she says, she wouldn’t have had her rewarding career.

From a conversation with her:

I grew up “barefoot” in the Sandhills during the Depression. Like many tenant farm families, we had nothing. You depended on each other in those days, and you looked after your family.

For me, it’s all about family. We were brought up with a work ethic and the altruism that goes along with it – looking after your neighbor and working for what you get. My parents never turned anyone away.

My dream of being a doctor began when I was 3. My folks promoted that dream. When I went to medical school in 1955, they bought me a $500 microscope. That was a fortune for them. But they believed in education. They believed it was the way out of poverty and the way to find success. They never defined success in terms of money. They defined it as the ability to give back and help others. My three brothers supported my dream, too. They always said, “Carol, anything we can do, you can do.” If I had not had family support, I would never have been able to persist.

That’s why I wanted to honor my parents and brothers and name this lab for them – The Swarts Family Biological Engineering Teaching Lab.

My mother attended UNL in the early 1900s. She became a teacher and an artist. She helped get the school in Murdock, Neb., accredited and was the first female school superintendent in Nebraska. I established the Elenore Gakemeier Swarts Distinguished Scholarship in Biological Systems Engineering in her name at the university to encourage and help outstanding, passionate students in bioengineering – students like Angie Pannier, now a professor of bioengineering.

You never achieve anything on your own. There are many others who contribute to your success with encouragement, finances, mentoring. Someone may help you get a part-time job so you can earn money for school, or someone may teach you the importance of education.

Like Will Allen Dromgoole’s poem “The Bridge Builder.” It tells the story of a man who, at the end of a long day, encounters a chasm. He crosses the span and then sets out to build a bridge across the space he just navigated. His companion wants to hurry to journey’s end and asks him why he didn’t just continue on his journey. The man explains that others will come after him who are inexperienced and face unknowns and that he built the bridge for them.

I think those of us who have and know, should share – whether it’s knowledge, personal assistance or finances. To me, a successful gift is when you see something positive develop that might not have been possible.

My dream for this lab is that it gives undergraduate students the opportunity to extend beyond the norm, to find a good life, to discover a passion for what they do. I expect it to attract those exceptional Nebraskans who want more from their university than a regular class. They are our future. The lab gives our professors the tools to lead them.

And my dream for this lab is that, someday, the students who use it will build their own bridges for others who follow.

Support for students is a priority of the Campaign for Nebraska, and honoring your family through donations to the University of Nebraska Foundation is a great way to help the next generation.

If you’re interested, please consider giving online or call the foundation toll-free at 800-432-3216.

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