You can take the Nebraskan out of Nebraska, but…
The Andersons lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, before retiring to that big house in Oregon.
John Anderson is homesick.
Yes, he misses the big home he and Ruthie had in Eugene, Oregon.
“We had a magnificent backyard, with lots of beautiful flowers and a forest that was green with trees that were like Christmas trees. It was just a wonderful place.”
They sold their home last year after Ruthie – once a world-record setting runner – suffered a stroke. They moved to Eureka, Calif., to be near their daughter while Ruthie recovers. They gave their Oregon home to the University of Nebraska as a gift.
But that’s not why John is homesick.
He starts to sing the Nebraska fight song.
“There is no place like Nebraska …”
“I get so blooming homesick for Nebraska, so homesick it’s not even funny. Nebraska people – they are the cream of the crop. It wasn’t a very hard decision, when we gifted the house. We just turned the property over to you guys (at the foundation).
“Anything we could do to help you guys, that’s what we will do because the university has done so much for us.”
John is a retired veterinarian. Ruth is a retired nuclear chemist. Both grew up in Nebraska. John grew up in Lincoln. His home back then was ordinary. His family didn’t have much money. At Lincoln High, he claims, he was just an ordinary student. The only thing he was good at was chemistry. After a year and a half in the Marines, he earned a scholarship and enrolled at the university.
Ruthie was an Omaha girl. Her dad was a dentist. She was the kind of girl John thought was out of reach. But one day on campus, in Avery Hall, she walked into chemistry class and changed his life.
He jokes that he almost dropped the crucible he was holding.
“Here comes this neat-looking girl with black hair and really nice legs. She was 10 times prettier than anyone I’d ever met.”
Ten times smarter, too. They married after graduating in 1952. He went on to get his master’s degree in microbiology from UNL and his doctorate in veterinary medicine from UC-Davis. Ruthie went on to be a nuclear chemist. And a world-class runner.
Her really nice legs, they found out later, were also really athletic. In middle age, she started competing in ultra marathons. At age 46, she set a world record for her age group in the 100K.
The Andersons lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, before retiring to that big house in Oregon. The money from that house went into a Charitable Remainder Unitrust with the University of Nebraska Foundation. It will help grad students who are studying microbiology at UNL.
John and Ruthie feel proud to be helping students through their fund, the John T. and Ruth N. Anderson Excellence Fund.
“We both just had a bunch of good teachers,” John says. “And whatever I developed into, I can trace it back to the university.”
John says he and Ruthie couldn’t be happier with their gift to the university.
And they couldn’t be happier with their new home in California, where they have a redwood forest in their backyard and every flower possible seems to grow there.
But, he says, it’s still not Nebraska. That will always be home.
Once again, he starts singing the fight song.
“There is no place like Nebraska …”
“It’s hard to express yourself and not sound like a fool when talking about what the university has done for me,” he says. “But that’s just how Ruthie and I both feel about the place.”
Student support is one of the top priorities of the campaign. If, like John and Ruth, you feel proud of being a University of Nebraska alum and would like to help this generation of students, please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216. If you’re interested in leaving a gift to the university in your estate, please contact the foundation’s Tracy Edgerton at 402-458-1160. She or others on our Gift Planning staff would be happy to help you out.