University mourns passing of longtime supporter Bill Scott

Headshot of Bill Scott

The University of Nebraska community is mourning the passing of Bill Scott, who together with his wife Ruth was one of the most transformative donors in the university’s history. The Scott family confirmed Bill Scott’s death Tuesday at the age of 93.

Both natives of Ashland and University of Nebraska graduates, Ruth and Bill Scott have been deeply rooted and invested in the Omaha community and the State of Nebraska throughout their lives. With a focus on supporting education and children through their foundation, the Scotts have contributed greatly to the city’s and state’s progress, health and vitality in a quiet but exceptional way.

The Scotts’ generosity has benefited students, faculty and programs across all the University of Nebraska campuses. Just a few examples of their giving include the Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza at UNMC; the UNMC Student Life Center redevelopment and expansion; the Munroe-Meyer Institute; the College of Nursing facility in Lincoln; the Frederick F. Paustian Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center; the leadership gift for the Health Science Education Complex at UNK; the leadership gift for the Douglas A. Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex (or what Bill Scott has affectionately named “The Doug”); the Dreamers Pathway Scholarship and Project Achieve to support first-generation students, students with limited incomes and students with disabilities at UNO; the John and Jan Christensen Concert Hall in the redeveloped Strauss Performing Arts Center; the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center; the Biomechanics Research Facility and its expansion; Barbara Hibner Soccer Stadium in Lincoln; the Gnotobiotic Mouse Facility and Nebraska Food for Health Center at UNL; and the Cherish Nebraska exhibit space at Morrill Hall.

In 2009 they received the Board of Regents’ most prestigious honor, the Regents Medal, for their contributions.

Bill Scott, a 1953 graduate of the UNL College of Business, joined the Buffett Partnership in 1959 and Berkshire Hathaway in 1970, where he remained until the early 1990s. Ruth Scott, who earned her bachelor’s degree from UNL in education, became a teacher and went on to found the Omaha Bridge Studio.

Following are statements on Bill Scott’s passing from the senior leadership of the University of Nebraska.

University of Nebraska Interim President Chris Kabourek:

“I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Scott at a university event just last week. He and Ruth were as warm, funny, down-to-earth and generous as everyone had told me they would be. I’ll always remember Bill closing the event by pulling out his trumpet and playing ‘There is No Place Like Nebraska’ while the chancellors and I sang along.

“The Scotts are the true embodiment of great Nebraska philanthropy. While they never wanted attention or credit for any of it, it would be impossible to overstate the impact their generosity has had on the lives of students and Nebraskans. The University of Nebraska is a stronger, more accessible, more impactful institution for the leadership and vision of Ruth and Bill.

“We have lost a great Nebraskan, but Bill’s legacy will touch our university and state for many generations. All of us at the University of Nebraska thank Bill for his lifetime of service and extend our deepest sympathy to Ruth and the Scott family at this sad time.”

University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.:

“Bill Scott was a champion of the faculty, staff and students at UNMC. More so, he was a wonderful friend and simply a terrific human being. He and Ruth’s impact on the University of Nebraska Medical Center is incalculable. Our thoughts go out to Ruth and the rest of the Scott family. We should take comfort in knowing that Bill’s support of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will have a lasting impact on the health and well-being not only of his fellow Nebraskans, but on others throughout the country and the world. His is a magnificent legacy.”

University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen:

“Bill Scott’s passing enables us to reflect on one of the great Nebraskans. Bill and his wife Ruth, from their first kiss at age 12 at the top of the Ferris wheel, have been a great team. A team that has significantly and generously benefited so many Nebraska communities. Quietly, they have impacted so many rural communities with their charitable giving. Most recently, the state’s most comprehensive rural health education initiative benefited from their lead donation. Bill was a friend to the University and the state. Personally, I found Bill to be a great role model in how to impact all Nebraskans for the common good with their resources. My sincere sympathy to Ruth and the Scott family. They are one of the great Nebraska families.”

University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Joanne Li:

Bill and Ruth Scott’s contribution to the University of Nebraska including UNO is immense. Bill Scott and Ruth changed the trajectory of this urban university, especially in our world-renowned biomechanics department, and created a multigenerational impact among our communities by funding critical student support initiatives.  Words don’t seem enough to describe how saddened we are to lose one of our most inspirational philanthropists but to quote Winston Churchill “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  This sums up Bill’s life and the profound effect he had on our entire community. Our hearts go out to Ruth and the Scott family.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Rodney Bennett:

“Bill Scott loved the state of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the University loved him right back. Along with his wife, Ruth, the Scotts have impacted generations of UNL students through their support of numerous projects and initiatives, including the Dinsdale Family Learning Commons, a transformational space on East Campus; the Nebraska Food for Health Center; and our beloved Nebraska State Museum – Morrill Hall. UNL shares in mourning Bill’s passing with all those who loved and cared for him.”

University of Nebraska Foundation President and CEO Brian Hastings:

“Bill Scott was truly one of a kind. He was a treasure to Nebraska and its University – a man who gave generously touching so many projects and programs at the University of Nebraska through his many thoughtful investments. He gave simply to help others and to make Nebraska a great place to live and raise a family, and he did it all without ever wanting to be in the spotlight. We are all better for having known Bill Scott. He will be deeply missed.”

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