UNO Alumni Association History
The alumni association was organized June 6, 1913, at a banquet given by the class of 1913, the first class to graduate from the University of Omaha after its founding in 1908.
According to the 1914 Metropolitan Annual,“the purpose of the organization is to concentrate the divided efforts of the graduates into one unit in order to work more proficiently for the up-building of the school, and to promote, as far as possible, the activities of the school.”
The alumni association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Nebraska in 1937. In 1943, Olga Strimple became the first paid executive secretary. The following year, the first alumni office opened in the Administration Building. Rear Admiral Stanton W. Salisbury received the first Citation for Alumnus Achievement Award from the Alumni Association in 1949. Since then, 129 alumni have been cited for career achievements.
The monthly Alumni Gateway publication was replaced with the quarterly Injun Alumni Magazine in 1950. Over the years, the alumni publication has been called Alumni Newsletter, UNO Alumni News, UNO Today and currently, The UNO Alum.
The alumni association dropped membership dues and started an annual fund drive in 1953. Dan Koukol chaired the first campaign, “Life Begins at 40,” in honor of the Association’s 40th anniversary. The first annual fund campaign raised $1,727. In 1990, the annual fund surpassed $1 million.
In 1960, under the direction of executive secretary Betty Davis, the alumni offices moved from the Administration Building to the new Milo Bail Student Center. “That period of time seemed to be a turning point for the alumni association,” Davis recalled in a 1988 publication. “We were bursting from one building to another, and our dreams weren’t confined either. We expanded.” A 1965 determination letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service established the alumni association as an educational and charitable organization exempt from paying corporate income taxes. In 1968, the University of Omaha Alumni Association became the University of Nebraska at Omaha Alumni Association when the university joined the University of Nebraska system.
Thirty-three chartered members began the Century Club program in 1973, honoring donors who contribute $100 or more each year to the annual fund. Century Club membership surpassed 1,600 during 1991. Two more award programs, the Outstanding Service Award and the Athletic Hall of Fame, began during 1974 and 1975. The first service awards recognized Ellen Gast, John Jeter and Maury Shadle. The first Hall of Fame inductees included Bill Englehart, Roger Sayers, Marlin Briscoe and Leo Peary.
Once again, the alumni association outgrew its offices. During 1979, the association purchased and renovated a mansion bordering the western edge of campus. Alumni offices moved into the new house, which was dedicated in honor of alum, former professor and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences William H. Thompson.
In 1981, the alumni association began the First Fridays program for faculty and staff. In 1984, the first Golden Circle Reunion was held, honoring 50-year graduates of the University of Omaha. Today, Golden Circle members meet monthly for lunch. Sam Leftwich led the Diamond Jubilee effort in 1983 to establish professorships for each of the university’s seven colleges. Another effort led by Gary Penisten in 1986 initiated the Talent Scholarship program. Alumni, friends and corporations contributed more than one-half million dollars for endowed scholarships.
Still growing with more than 70,000 university graduates, the alumni association raised $1.3 million through the UNO Alumni Center Campaign during 1990-91 to build onto the alumni house. The new alumni center, which was added on to the east end of the house, includes a banquet hall, heritage library and a visitors center. The building was dedicated in September 1994. An addition was completed in 2006 followed by a renovation in 2015.
Today, the UNO Alumni Association keeps in contact with more than 100,000 alumni all over the world.