University of Nebraska receives $1.5 million Hayes County ranchland for education, research and outreach

David and Sande Scholz, then of Salida, Colo., attended graduation at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in 2017. They greeted NU Vice President Mike Boehm at Ag Hall. Sande's vision was to give her family ranch to NCTA's educational mission. (Mary Crawford / NCTA News photo)
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The University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) in Curtis announced the university has received the gift of 2,147 acres of ranchland in northeast Hayes County.

David Scholz and his late wife Sandra “Sande” Scholz made the gift valued at nearly $1.5 million through the University of Nebraska Foundation for education and research purposes.

“Through this extremely generous donation, David and Sande Scholz are giving NCTA students access to the kinds of hands-on, experiential education that is impossible to replicate in a classroom,” said Mike Boehm, NU vice president and UNL vice chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “This gift represents the ultimate laboratory for NCTA students, and their experience will be richer – and Nebraska’s agricultural workforce will be stronger – as a result.”

A portion of the gifted land was originally acquired by Frank B. and Mabel (Wray) Leu in 1902 through the Homestead Act. Over the years, the Leu family, including Frank B. Leu’s siblings, acquired adjacent land for cattle ranching and dryland farming.

Sande (Clark) Scholz, an alumna of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, was granddaughter to Frank and Mabel Leu and lived on the ranch for a time in her early childhood. She had good memories of time with her grandparents on the ranch even after moving to North Platte where she attended school. She inherited the Leu property through the estate of her mother, Grayce (Leu) Clark.

In honor and recognition of the Leu family’s pioneering spirit and longtime care of the land, the university will seek approval of its Board of Regents to name it the Frank B. and Mabel Leu Memorial Ranch.

“It was a special property to Sande because of her grandparents,” said David Scholz, an alumnus of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. “We discussed that using the land for educational purposes would be a way to honor her grandparents and the many others of that generation who settled in Western Nebraska — the ranchers who pioneered there and worked so hard.”

“On behalf of our campus community in Curtis and the surrounding region, we are excited to honor the wishes of David and Sande Scholz by preserving the Leu family’s ranching history as an outdoor learning laboratory emphasizing range management and beef cattle production,” said NCTA Dean Larry Gossen. “The educational opportunities this gift provides NCTA and our Aggie students are significant.”

Scholz said it’s rewarding to know the ranch will now be used as an educational facility to help students learn various aspects of ranching, including the care of cattle, keeping ranchlands, managing healthy and productive pastureland and more.

“Both Sande and I believe in education and particularly vocational education,” Scholz said. “And in talking with the university over the years, we discussed that a lot of young people who are interested in farming and ranching don’t necessarily come from this background, so they don’t have an opportunity to grow up and learn on a ranch or a farm. By enabling the university to have the ranch for use in their teaching curriculum, it gives students an opportunity to learn so many aspects of ranching.”

NCTA has plans in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation to raise funds for enhancements at the Frank B. and Mabel Leu Memorial Ranch. This could include a meeting facility for students, guests and faculty as well as improvements needed for the care of livestock animals.

About Frank B. and Mabel (Wray) Leu

Frank B. and Mabel (Wray) Leu were married in 1901 and first lived in Danbury, Nebraska. They were parents to three boys and two girls. Their daughter, Grayce (Leu) Clark, was the mother of Sande (Clark) Scholz.

The Leus valued education and made certain their children attended the Nebraska School of Agriculture in Curtis, which is now NCTA. Their children also went on to attend other schools of higher education in Nebraska, including the University of Nebraska.

Frank B. Leu was born in 1877 in Saunders County and died in North Platte, Nebraska, in 1975. Mable Leu was born in Culbertson, Nebraska, in 1881 and died in North Platte in 1957.

About David and Sande (Clark) Scholz

David and Sande Scholz met while attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Sande Scholz studied psychology and social work at UNL and graduated in 1963. David Scholz studied electrical engineering and graduated in 1964. The two then moved to New York to attend graduate school at Columbia University where Sande Scholz received a Master of Social Work, and David Scholz received an MBA and Juris Doctorate.

The couple married in 1965 and moved to the Chicago area where they established their careers and raised their sons Brian and Daniel.

David Scholz enjoyed a longtime career with Commonwealth Edison, the electric power company serving Chicago and northern Illinois. Sande Scholz served as a social worker for various organizations, including the Institute for Juvenile Research and Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society. She later spent many years as a social worker with the River Forest, Illinois, school system. She died in 2019 at age 78.

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the university to change lives and save lives. It’s ranked among the top 25 public U.S. universities for its endowed assets of $1.7 billion. During the foundation’s last fiscal year, more than 53,000 people and organizations provided $320.4 million in gifts and commitments to aid the university and its affiliated organizations with 99 percent of assets restricted to a specific use. More is at

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