Nebraska Alumni Association announces masters, award winners

WICK alumni center
March 29, 2020

Lincoln, Neb. —The Nebraska Alumni Association has announced its 2020 class of Alumni Masters, as well as the 2020 alumni and student award winners.

The Alumni Masters and award winners were to be recognized on campus during Alumni Masters Week from April 1-3 and at the Nebraska Medallion Dinner on April 3; however, both events have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The student award winners were to be recognized during the Cornhusker Experience Gala, which also was postponed.

The Alumni Masters and award winners will be given the chance to accept their honors when the events are rescheduled.

The 2020 Alumni Masters:

College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources: Lalit Verma, ’76

Lalit Verma
Lalit Verma

Verma is the head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Arkansas. He has made outstanding contributions as an educator, researcher and leader through the development and promotion of biological engineering. As a department head, he led transformations of the agricultural engineering programs at the University of Arkansas and Louisiana State University.

College of Architecture: Douglas J. Bisson, ’89, ’92

Douglas J. Bisson
Douglas J. Bisson

Bisson is the Central Region urban planning and design principal at HDR, a global engineering, architecture and planning firm, where he specializes in urban design and redevelopment. He is an expert in bringing together key city leaders, business owners and residents to stimulate economic development and neighborhood revitalization using environmentally friendly, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use development practices. He was the project manager for several notable initiatives in the region, including Aksarben Village, River’s Edge and the Downtown Omaha 2030 Master Plan.

College of Arts and Sciences: Dr. Charles Wilson, ’60

Dr. Charles Wilson
Dr. Charles Wilson

Wilson was a pioneering leader in health care in Nebraska during a 40-year career. He is one of the founders of the Nebraska Heart Institute and the Lincoln Cardiac Transplant Program. Passionate about higher education, he was elected to three terms on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents and served as chair of the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education. He helped found the Humanities in Medicine program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and University of Nebraska Medical Center, with an endowment for student scholarships and speakers focused on the intersection of medicine and the humanities. He also served as chair of the Lincoln Community Health Endowment.

College of Business: Howard Hawks, ’57

Howard Hawks
Howard Hawks

Hawks is the founder and chairman of Tenaska, an independent energy company known for its expertise in natural gas, wind and solar power plant development and operations; energy production and marketing; and private equity fund management. He has spent decades as a patron and supporter of the College of Business, endowing the Howard Hawks Chair in Business Ethics and Leadership at the College of Business, which is now housed in Howard L. Hawks Hall. He also served three terms on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

College of Education and Human Sciences: Deacon Donald Blackbird Jr., ’01

Donald Blackbird Jr.
Donald Blackbird Jr.

Blackbird is the principal of St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago, an ordained Catholic deacon for the Archdiocese of Omaha and a member of the Umonhon Nation of Nebraska. He has received several honors throughout his educational career serving the people of the Winnebago and Umonhon nations, including being named the Archdiocese of Omaha Educator of the Year in 2007 and Archdiocese of Omaha Administrator of the Year in 2016.

College of Engineering: Nancy Pridal, ’94

Nancy Pridal
Nancy Pridal

Pridal is the chief executive officer, president and board chair of Lamp Rynearson — a firm that specializes in civil engineering, landscape architecture and surveying. As a civil engineer with a master’s degree in organizational leadership, she applies a diverse skill set to drive strategy and organizational change companywide. She is a member of the Greater Omaha Chamber Board of Directors, University of Nebraska Engineering Advisory Board and President’s Advisory Council, and Engineering Change Lab-USA steering committee.

Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts: Richard Svoboda, ’78

Richard Svoboda
Richard Svoboda

Svoboda is the principal bassoonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, both positions he has held since 1989. He is on the faculties of the New England Conservatory, Tanglewood Music Center and Sarasota Music Festival, and has given master classes throughout the world. Prior to his appointment to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he performed for 10 seasons as principal bassoonist of the Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony.

College of Journalism and Mass Communications: Wendy Guillies, ’86

Wendy Guillies
Wendy Guillies

Guillies is president and chief executive officer of the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the United States, with $2.4 billion in assets. Guillies leads the foundation’s work to boost student achievement in Kansas City and accelerate entrepreneurship across the country. She also serves on the boards of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, MRI Global, St. Luke’s South Hospital, Folience and Enterprise Bank.

College of Law: William Schwartzkopf, ’73, ’76

William Schwartzkopf
William Schwartzkopf

Schwartzkopf is president and principal of Sage Consulting Group, a construction consulting firm based in Denver, for whom he has worked since 1989. He testifies as an expert witness in various courts and alternative dispute forms throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Iceland. During his career, he has been vice president and general counsel for a large electrical contractor, vice president of a large building contractor working in the western United States and vice president for a regional commercial development company.

Learn more about the 2020 Alumni Masters.

The 2020 alumni award winners:

Distinguished Service Award: Dr. James R. O’Dell, ’74, ’77

Dr. James R. O'Dell
Dr. James R. O'Dell

O’Dell is the Stokes-Shackleford Professor of Internal Medicine and Vice Chairman of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. After earning a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1974, he received his medical degree and completed a residency at UNMC. He founded the Rheumatology and Arthritis Investigational Network in 1990, which he has directed for 30 years, leading internationally renowned research in treatments for rheumatoid arthritis. He has been published several hundred times in his career, including four first-authored publications in the New England Journal of Medicine. He also served as UNMC’s director of the internal medicine residency for 35 years, training nearly 1,000 residents.

Family Tree Award: Burbank family

Raising six children in the throes of the Great Depression was no easy task, but despite the long odds, Herbert and Gertrude Burbank of Madrid, Nebraska, were able to send all of their children to the University of Nebraska. Five graduated with degrees in extension – Mary, Leta, Vaunia, Wayne and John. Sister Laura attended through her sophomore year, while John returned to receive a doctorate in the 1970s. The legacy continued into future generations, with 16 Burbank grandchildren receiving undergraduate degrees from Nebraska and one going back for a post-graduate degree. Six of Herbert and Gertrude’s great-grandchildren hold Husker degrees, with a seventh working on a master’s degree in agricultural economics. Two great-great-grandchildren are enrolled as undergraduates.

Burbank family
Burbank family

Public Service Awards:

State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, ’84

Patty Pansing Brooks
Patty Pansing Brooks

Pansing Brooks represents Legislative District 28 in central Lincoln. She serves as the vice chair of the Judiciary Committee and a member of the Education Committee, Committee on Committees and Justice Reinvestment Oversight Committee. A champion of public education, she co-chaired the successful 2007 Lincoln Public Schools bond issue and serves on a number of community boards. She is owner of and partner in the law firm Brooks, Pansing Brooks with her husband, Loel.

State Sen. Jim Scheer, ’76

Jim Scheer
Jim Scheer

Scheer is the speaker of the Nebraska Legislature and represents the 19th Legislative District, consisting of Madison and the northwest corner of Stanton County. In addition to serving his second term as speaker, he also serves on the Performance Audit Committee, Planning Committee, Reference Committee, Executive Board and Rules Committee. Before his election as a state senator, he served on the State Board of Education and Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education and as mayor of Norfolk.

Learn more about the 2020 alumni award winners.

The 2020 student award winners:

Jack Miller Scholarship: Bre TenHulzen

Bre TenHulzen
Bre TenHulzen

This scholarship memorializes a former executive vice president of the Nebraska Alumni Association, whose leadership and professionalism instituted many innovations, including the establishment of the Nebraska Student Alumni Association. This year’s recipient is Bre TenHulzen, a junior advertising and public relations major from Sioux City, Iowa. TenHulzen joined the Nebraska Student Alumni Association Board of Directors her freshman year and currently serves as the vice president of marketing and communications. Prior to this role, she served on the alumni relations committee and was a Nebraska Legends peer mentor. She is a student strengths coach for the Clifton Strengths Institute and member of the UNL Honors Program and Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies.

Shane Osborn Student Leadership Award: Adam Stiles

Adam Stiles
Adam Stiles

This award honors a University of Nebraska–Lincoln Naval ROTC graduate who piloted a U.S. reconnaissance plane to a safe crash landing after it was hit by two Chinese fighters. This year’s recipient is Adam Stiles, a junior business administration major and Marine-option midshipman in the Naval ROTC program. During his time at Nebraska, he has been on the College of Business Dean’s List for four semesters and served two years as the Joint ROTC liaison, working between the ROTC branches and the athletic department. This semester, he is his battalion’s operations officer, scheduling and overseeing all NROTC events. This summer, he will attend Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, where he will earn the title of Marine. He will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps upon graduation.

Howard and Judy Vann Student Leadership Award: Ryan Wolff

Ryan Wolff
Ryan Wolff

This award recognizes an undergraduate who has shown exceptional leadership capabilities through energetic participation in student activities, commendable classroom performance and personal integrity. This year’s recipient is Ryan Wolff, a junior actuarial science major from Brookfield, Wisconsin. Wolff has been involved with the Nebraska Student Alumni Association since his freshman year, when he was introduced to the organization through a Nebraska Legends Scholarship. He has served on the SAA’s Board of Directors for the past three years.

Roy and Catherine Yaley Student Leadership Award: Josephine Borene

Josephine Borene
Josephine Borene

This award is named in memory of a former Nebraska Alumni Association president and his wife. It recognizes a student who has made a significant contribution of time, talent and leadership to the alumni association through one of its student programs. This year’s recipient is Josephine Borene, a junior actuarial science major from Onalaska, Wisconsin. Borene is involved in the Nebraska Student Alumni Association through the Board of Directors, most recently serving as vice president of alumni relations. She is an active member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and Dance Marathon. This past summer, she traveled to Shanghai for an internship abroad experience.

Learn more about the 2020 student award winners.