Phillip C. Nelson
Phillip C. Nelson
Phillip C. Nelson – Hamilton Telecommunications
Phillip C. Nelson joined his father, Earl Nelson, at Hamilton in 1967. As president, he guided its growth from a small, local telephone company into a leading telecommunications and information technology company with several diverse business lines. Today Nelson continues to be active in the company as chairman of the board.
Nelson significantly led Hamilton to be among many firsts in the telecommunications industry. He served as a leader in the early development of cable television services in rural communities. In the 1980s, he helped lead the way for cellular telephone development in rural Nebraska as the first president of the newly formed Nebraska Cellular, the predecessor rural network to the Verizon cellular network. Hamilton also served as one of the first companies in the state to open customer service call centers in rural Nebraska in the late 1980s. The call center business, coupled with Nelson’s telecommunications expertise, led to the formation of Hamilton Relay in 1991.
Hamilton Relay provides telecommunications relay services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in all 50 states. In the 1990s, Hamilton began providing broadband services and in 2010, joined with several other telecommunications companies to form a network of diverse statewide fiber rings for high-speed data transport and broadband deployment. During Nelson’s tenure, Hamilton’s employment grew from less than 50 in 1967 to more than 1,000 employees operating in Nebraska and nationwide.
Nelson served as an active community leader recruiting new businesses and jobs to the Aurora, Nebraska, area. He participated as an officer and director of national telecom industry organizations, including the U.S. Telephone Association. He also served on the board of directors for Aurora Memorial Hospital, Pinnacle Bank Corp., the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Aurora Development Corporation, Edgerton Explorit Center and Central Community College Foundation.
Nelson graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He and his wife, Lora, have two children: John and Jim, both involved with Hamilton Telecommunications.
Tonn M. Ostergard
Tonn M. Ostergard
Tonn M. Ostergard – Crete Carrier Corporation
Tonn M. Ostergard serves as president and chief executive officer of Crete Carrier Corporation, a privately owned Lincoln, Nebraska-based transportation and logistics company. Crete Carrier, along with the temperature controlled division Shaffer Trucking and flat-bed subsidiary Hunt Transportation employ more than 6,000 associates with 19 terminal locations across the United States operating 5,600 power units and 13,000 trailers. Prior to joining Crete Carrier, he spent five years in public accounting working the KPMG firm.
He served as chairman for the Nebraska Trucking Association from 1995 to 1996 and participates as a member and director of the American Trucking Association and Truckload Carriers Association.
In addition to his industry related positions, Ostergard serves on the board of directors of Union Bank and Trust Company, Ameritas Mutual Holding Company and NEBCO, Inc. His civic responsibilities include chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation, board member of the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation, former chairman and board member of St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, former chair of the board of directors of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, a former director and president of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Alumni Association, alumnus of Leadership Lincoln and former board member of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce. Ostergard received the College of Business Alumni Leadership Award in 1991 and the University of Nebraska Young Alumnus Award in 1994. He also served as a member and officer of the Young President’s Organization.
Ostergard earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1981, and graduated from Harvard Business School Management Program in 1991.
He and his wife, Holly, have two children: Halley and Winston.
William “Willy” Theisen
William “Willy” Theisen
William “Willy” Theisen – Business Ventures, LLC
William “Willy” Theisen always strived to provide quality product ingredients, a fun atmosphere and great hospitable energy to create an overall positive experience in all of his restaurants. He began by opening a popular beer garden called Wild Willy’s which led to the founding of Godfather’s Pizza, soon becoming the fastest growing pizza chain in America. Within a year, Theisen began franchising in Columbus, Nebraska, then expanding across the state, the Midwest and nationwide. At its peak, Godfather's had nearly 900 locations in 40-plus states.
After selling Godfather's Pizza in 1983, he bought and sold GB Foods, a Mexican food chain restaurant in southern California. Theisen served as chairman and CEO of the company while developing the core business as well a revolutionary dual-concept strategy with other branded restaurants and frozen food businesses. Then, he became Famous Dave's first pure franchisee. After he sold that franchise in 2008, he developed Pitch, Theisen's most refined dining model as of yet. Theisen’s latest business venture is a new restaurant concept called Paragon, which opened in August of 2016 in Dundee, Nebraska.
Business Ventures, LLC owned and operated restaurants for more than 40 years and has been directly responsible for the hiring of more than 24,000 full-time and part-time individuals. Theisen continues to open and operate restaurants with the same business integrity philosophy.
Frank Zybach – Zybach Self-Propelled Sprinkling Apparatus
Frank Zybach, born in 1894 in Oregon to Swiss immigrant parents, moved to Columbus, Nebraska, where his father was a blacksmith. In his teens, Zybach invented and patented a driverless tractor which plowed concentric circles in ever-decreasing size from the outside to the middle. He also worked on an automatic transmissions for tractors and trucks but failed to perfect the idea.
In the 1940s, Zybach worked a tenant farmer in Colorado where he attended an irrigation demonstration. Within a year of seeing the demonstration, he built the first center pivot irrigation system. The system pivoted around the wellhead that supplied the water and used the power of the water to move itself. Frank applied for a patent on his Zybach Self-Propelled Sprinkling Apparatus in July 1949 and received the patent in 1952.
Zybach partnered with A.E. Trowbridge of Columbus, Nebraska, who provided the capital necessary to begin manufacturing the new center pivot irrigation system and in the first two years of production, 10 systems were sold. In September 1954, Zybach and Trowbridge agreed to license their center pivot irrigation patent to Omaha businessman Robert Daugherty. They received a five percent royalty on every machine Valley Manufacturing produced until the patent expired in 1969.
In 1973, Zybach received the first Pioneer Irrigation Award ever presented by the Nebraska Water Conference Committee and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Zybach and wife, Elizabeth, had two daughters: Angeline and Frances. Zybach died in 1980 in Columbus.
Maurice “Moe” Beardmore
Maurice “Moe” Beardmore
Maurice “Moe” Beardmore – Chevrolet
Born in Glasco, Kansas, Maurice “Moe” Beardmore graduated from the University of Kansas and served with the U.S. Navy during World War II. A third generation car dealer, Beardmore began his automotive career in 1948 as general manager of his family’s dealership, Meade Beardmore Motor Company, in Mankato, Kansas.
In 1954, Beardmore started his first Chevrolet dealership in Oxford, Nebraska. In 1958, he moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, where he owned and operated Beardmore Chevrolet until 1967. After moving to the Omaha, Nebraska, area he purchased the former Fishko Chevrolet in Papillion, Nebraska, and renamed it Beardmore Suburban Chevrolet. The company moved to its current location in 1971 and has since operated as Beardmore Chevrolet in Bellevue, Nebraska.
Beardmore worked in the automobile business in Nebraska for nearly 40 years. He served as president of the Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association, trustee for Bellevue University and as a member of the SAC Museum Board of Directors among other community organizations. His numerous awards included Time magazine Quality Dealer Award, Boss of the Year while in Beatrice and Outstanding Service Award from the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Henning – Assurity Life Insurance Company
Tom Henning serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer for Assurity Life Insurance Company. A graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University, he holds chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant and chartered financial analyst designations. Henning, a former banker, served as president and CEO of the Overland National Bank in Grand Island, Nebraska, in the 1980s, and president and COO of the National Bank of Commerce in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Active in a variety of industry groups, Henning’s service includes the board of directors of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), chair of the ACLI Political Action Committee board and ACLI Forum 500. He also received the ACLI Distinguished Service Award and served as president of the Nebraska Insurance Federation.
Outside of industry, Henning actively participates in many civic organizations including the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, University of Nebraska Foundation, Lincoln Chamber Economic Development Corporation, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development and the steering committee of Lincoln’s Vision 2015 group. He continues to serve on the Foundation’s investment committee and its donor advisory board as well as the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Innovation Campus Governing Board.
Henning received the 2015 Lincoln Chamber’s Burnham Yates Citizenship Award. He also served as a board member for Nelnet, Lincoln Industries and Great Western Bancorp, Inc.
He and his wife, Candy, also operate Henning Farms which is devoted to developing wildlife habitat. They have two daughters: Maddie and Cassie.
Owen Palm – 21st Century Equipment
21st Century Equipment began in 1996 by purchasing the Alliance, Nebraska, John Deere dealership. The founding members of the LLC were Owen Palm and his wife, Karen, his brother Eric Palm and Bridgeport, Nebraska, agri-businessmen Pete and Nick Lapaseotes. Today they still work as partners and through various mergers and acquisitions, added additional members to their ownership group. They now own 17 John Deere agricultural dealerships in western Nebraska, northeast Colorado and Wyoming, creating one of the largest John Deere dealerships in the United States. Palm served as president and chief executive officer since the company’s inception.
He grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota before attending the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, majoring in geological engineering. While in school, he met Karen Niedan, from Hershey, Nebraska, who eventually became his wife.
In 1979, after completing a four-year stint in the U.S. Army, Palm began an eight-year career with oilfield services giant, Schlumberger, Ltd. In 1987, Owen resigned from his senior management position in Houston, Texas, and he and his family moved to Gering, Nebraska, in search of an agriculture job. He began a new career with The Western Sugar Company in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.
In 2000, as Western Sugar transitioned from stock ownership to a grower-owned cooperative, Palm left the sugar business to become fully engaged in 21st Century Equipment, a two store operation at the time. The company grew to employ 425 people and operate in five states as an industry leader in precision farming. The company actively participates in the export of late-model John Deere equipment to Ukraine and other parts of eastern Europe.
For several years, Palm involved himself in organizations across the state including Ak-Sar-Ben, Platte Institute for Economic Research, Nebraska Natural Resources Commission and Nebraska Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. He serves as vice-chairman of the board of directors of Hershey State Bank. In addition to serving on numerous local committees, he is a trustee on both the Chadron State College Foundation and the South Dakota School of Mines Foundation Boards.
JoAnn M. Martin – Ameritas Life Corporation
JoAnn M. Martin joined Ameritas Life Insurance Corporation in 1984 as a manager in the audit department and rose to chair, president and chief executive officer of the company in 2008. A year later, Martin became president and chief executive officer of Ameritas Mutual Holding Company. Her leadership included Ameritas becoming one of the strongest companies in the insurance industry, including achieving a record asset and capital position. Martin championed a series of strategic accomplishments, including the merger of the insurance companies that were solely owned subsidiaries into two entities: Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. and Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of New York.
Martin grew up on a farm near Plainview, Nebraska, and graduated from Plainview High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and master’s degree in business administration from Colorado State University. She also serves as a certified public accountant.
Martin actively served on numerous boards of directors including Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation, National Research Corporation, University of Nebraska Foundation and Lincoln Vision 2015.
Earl May – Earl May Nursery and Garden Center and KMA radio
Born in 1888 near Hayes Center, Nebraska, Earl May used his entrepreneurial spirit to earn money for college and after graduation became a high school principal. In 1911, he entered law school at the University of Michigan and earned money in the summers as a door-to-door salesman for the D.M. Ferry Seed Company. He eventually transferred back to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and married Gertrude Welch, whose father worked in the seed and nursery business. May joined the family business in Shenandoah, Iowa and with the financial backing of E.S. Welch, he founded Earl May Nursery and Garden Center in 1919.
He took advantage of the new technology radio offered at the time, greatly impacting the growth and success of the company. First operating out of a radio station in Omaha, Nebraska, he received a license to operate his own station in Shenandoah (KMA) in 1925. Using telephone lines to connect to the WOAW transmitter 60 miles away in Omaha, the May studio acted as the longest remote radio connection of the day.
May passed away in 1946, but his foresight proved to be instrumental in the company's entry into television beginning with the origination of KMTV in Omaha in 1949. His family manages the Earl May Nursery and Garden Center and KMA radio.
Richard F. Reinke
Richard F. Reinke
Richard F. Reinke – Reinke Manufacturing
Nearly half a century ago, a small-town businessman and inventor Richard F. Reinke introduced his first center-pivot irrigation system. A self-taught engineer and draftsman, he began inventing at a young age in his father’s machine shop. He formed Reinke Manufacturing Company, Inc., on his family farm near Deshler, Nebraska, in 1954. He introduced the world’s first reversible, electric gear driven center pivot system that ran on rubber tires.
This same system also featured a bow-string truss design, a major innovation that allowed the water pipe to ride much higher off the ground. Reinke serves as one of the oldest and largest irrigation system manufacturers in the world. Many of his innovations became standard in the industry.
Reinke continued to work and innovate until his death in 2003 at the age of 80.
Michael B. Yanney
Michael B. Yanney
Michael B. Yanney – Burlington Capital Group
Michael “Mike” B. Yanney served as chairman emeritus of the board of The Burlington Capital Group LLC, formerly America First Companies, which manages public investment funds. From 1977 to 1984, Yanney engaged in the ownership and management of commercial banks. He served as a director and member of the executive committee of FirsTier Financial, Inc. from 1985 until he resigned in 1991. He conducted business in the former Soviet Union and 14 other countries since 1976. Yanney also served on the East West Institute joint U.S./Russia delegation in 2007.
Yanney served as a member of the board of directors for America First Tax Exempt Fund, Tetrad and Core Bank Holding Co. He also participated as a member of the board of Level 3 Communications, Inc., Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, Freddie Mac Advisory Board, Durham Resources, Inc., Freedom Communications, Inc., Forest Oil Corporation, MFS Communications, Inc., PKS Information Services, Inc., Omaha Steaks, MFA and Streck Inc.
Deryl F. Hamann
Deryl F. Hamann
Deryl F. Hamann – Baird Holm LLC
Deryl F. Hamann serves as a member of the corporate and tax sections of Baird Holm LLC. He regularly represents clients regarding estate planning, taxation, banking law and corporate law matters.
Hamann received his juris doctor, cum laude, from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Law. He serves as a member and a former president of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation and the Nebraska Association of Bank Attorneys. Hamann also participates as a member of the American Bar Association, and a member and past president of the Omaha Estate Planning Council. He also acted as an investor and owner in numerous banks in the region.
A fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Hamann previously served as chairman of the Bethpage Foundation, Inc., and Bellevue University. Hamann serves as a director of Bellevue University and the Bellevue University Foundation.
In 2011, he was designated by Best Lawyers in America as the Corporate Lawyer of the Year in Omaha, Nebraska.
Max and Eric Brown
Max and Eric Brown – KRVN Radio
Max Brown, a pioneer in broadcast journalism, founded a network of radio stations serving Nebraska agriculture. He served as part of a group of leaders from Nebraska farm organizations who started the Nebraska Rural Radio Association, which put KRVN on the air February 1, 1951. The association’s Rural Radio Network subsequently grew to six stations.
More than 4,200 Nebraska farm and ranch families own the association. Brown served as executive secretary of the association and general manager of its radio stations until he retired in 1979.
Eric Brown began his broadcasting career in 1962 as a part-time rock-and-roll disk jockey at KRVN while attending Lexington High School. He earned degrees from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of Missouri before teaching at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.
In 1979, Eric moved to Lexington, Nebraska and rejoined KRVN AM/FM as a general manager when Max retired. In 1984, the Nebraska Rural Radio Association purchased KNEB AM/FM in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and in 1996 added KTIC AM/ KWPN FM in West Point, Nebraska, to form the Nebraska Rural Radio Network.
Eric retired in 2012 as general manager of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association, but remains active with their foundation.
John Doherty – NUCOR Steel
John Doherty, one of the founders of NUCOR Steel, was instrumental in designing and building the NUCOR steel mill northeast of Norfolk, Nebraska. As a general manager from 1973 to 1995, he set annual production records and helped write the company’s history as a modern American success story.
At the mill, Doherty often worked seven days a week. Past co-workers said he would be either in his office working with the door always open, or out on the mill floor in the heat and the smoke with his crew of nearly 400 employees.
An engineer and draftsman by training, he gave up his position as a general manager in 1995 and worked for two years as the NUCOR vice president of engineering and consulting. He retired from the company in 1997 and operated a steel mill engineering consulting company for several years.
Donald Everett Sr.
Donald Everett Sr.
Donald Everett Sr. – Runza National
Located in Lincoln, Nebraska, near Pioneers Park, the first Runza drive inn opened in 1949 serving the original Runza sandwiches. The famous hot sandwich was created by Sally Everett and her brother, Alex Brening. Donald Everett Sr. began working at Runza in 1964. By the time Donald Everett Sr. completed his work with the business, the Runza became a household name and a Nebraska tradition.
Everett oversaw the expansion of the business from a sandwich shack into a booming chain almost synonymous with the Nebraska experience. In 1966, as the second Runza location opened in Lincoln, Everett purchased the trade name and with his mother’s blessing incorporated Runza Restaurants.
In 1994, Everett was named state Restaurateur of the Year. Runza celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009 and expanded to more than 80 locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa and Kansas.
Marc LeBaron – Lincoln Industries
Marc LeBaron began working for his father, Nebraska Business Hall of Fame member Dale LeBaron, when the company resided in their house. Deciding to stay with the firm, LeBaron led Lincoln Industries to become the nation’s leading supplier in high-performance metal finishing. With more than 500 employees, the company operates 24 hours a day and has obtained YS 16949 and ISO 14001 certifications. Lincoln Industries serves as the largest, most diverse privately-held metal finishing operation in North America.
Outside of the industry, LeBaron contributes to his community, state and nation. He sits on the U.S. Bank advisory board and the board of directors for Assurity, Inc., Ballantyne of Omaha, TEK Industries, Bryan Medical Center, Nebraska State Chamber, University of Nebraska–Lincoln NUtech Ventures, International Sculpture Center and many other non-profit organizations. He received the College of Business Business Excellence Award and is one of two Nebraskans to receive Junior Achievement’s Gold Award.
Passionate about wellness, LeBaron initiated the company’s wellness program 20 years ago. Today the company’s wellness program serves as a benchmark for companies across the nation.
He and his wife, Kathy, have two children: Katie and Kassy.
Dr. Lee Simmons
Dr. Lee Simmons
Dr. Lee Simmons – Henry Doorly Zoo
Dr. Lee Simmons joined Omaha’s Zoo in 1966 as staff veterinarian, soon becoming associate director. Named director of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in 1970, the zoo opened many cutting-edge, world-class exhibits including the Lied Jungle, Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night, Hubbard Gorilla Valley and the Berniece Grewock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion.
Named among the top five zoos in North America, Henry Doorly Zoo grew to more than 250 full-time and 300 part-time employees and a budget of $22 million. The zoo serves as a leader in conservation, research and preservation of endangered species. Field work in Madagascar by the staff led to the discovery of 20 new lemur species. Notable accomplishments by Henry Doorly Zoo include an artificially inseminated guar calf, an in-vitro fertilized guar calf, an artificially inseminated tiger cub and an in-vitro tiger cub.
As chairman of the Omaha Zoo Foundation, Simmons continues to provide support for the zoo’s strategic master plan and its extensive research and conservation programs. He raised $160 million for buildings, research and conservation. Simmons built a reputation for finishing projects on time and within budget and grew attendance and memberships to be among the best in the nation.
Simmons and his wife, Marie, have three children: Lee, Heather and Heidi.
S.N. “Bud” Wolbach
S.N. “Bud” Wolbach
S.N. “Bud” Wolbach – First National Bank of Grand Island
S.N. “Bud” Wolbach’s grandfather began the First National Bank of Grand Island, and Wolbach served as president and chairman of the board of The First National Bank of Grand Island from 1956 to 1982. During this time, the bank grew from $20 million to almost $150 million.
As an aeronautical engineer, Wolbach worked throughout World War II for the Beechcraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, on designing future aircrafts. During this time, he served as director of the Omaha Federal Reserve Bank, director of the Equitable Building and Loan Association, president of NETS Inc. (Nebraska Electronic Transfer System) and the board of directors of Search Inc. He also owned, managed and expanded cattle operations in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming. This venture grew from 5,000 acres to 27,000 acres. Wolbach served on numerous civic boards and received many awards for his contribution to Nebraska.
As a well-known community and civic booster, he served on the Hall County Museum Board for the Stuhr Museum. When Leo Stuhr unexpectedly passed away, Wolbach stepped into his role as president and served for 37 years. He secured 200 acres of land for the present location of Stuhr Museum. Under Wolbach’s leadership, the Stuhr grew to be rated among the top ten outdoor historical museums in the U.S.
Wolbach and his wife, Gloria, had two children: Gloria and William.
Paul Younes – Younes Hospitality
Paul Younes came to the United States from Israel on a soccer scholarship at York College. After transferring to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, he earned a degree in business administration and helped support himself as a dishwasher at a local hotel restaurant. He became manager of the hotel and began his career in the hospitality business.
In 1977, he leased the Captain’s Table Restaurant in the Kearney Ramada Inn (now the Holiday Inn). Over the years, he bought out the owners and became the sole owner of Younes Hospitality, which owns nine hotels throughout Nebraska. In addition, he determined Kearney needed a new convention center and privately financed the Younes Convention Center which opened in 2010.
Younes dedicated much of his time and energy to Kearney, Nebraska, serving on the Kearney Area Chamber Board, Buffalo County Heart Association, UNK Foundation, Optimist Club and Kearney Catholic High School Foundation. In 2009, he was named the Friend of Kearney for his charitable and volunteer efforts, as well as his commitment to the lodging and tourism industry.
Younes and his wife, Linda, have two children: J. Paul and Maggie.
John Gottschalk – Omaha World Herald Co.
A native of Rushville, Nebraska, John Gottschalk was born into a newspaper family. Both his grandfather and father owned newspapers, and he learned from them and others the lessons of stewardship to his community. At the age of 23, he purchased the Sidney Telegraph
. He also served as mayor of Sidney, making him the youngest mayor in Nebraska. He sold his company and joined the Omaha World-Herald
in 1975 as an assistant to the president.
When Gottschalk retired as a publisher and chief executive officer in 2008, the enterprise included of 26 companies comprising 40 print titles, plus direct marketing, advertising and high tech companies. The company’s operations reside in eight states with more than 2,500 employees. He served as a key figure in the $2 billion resurgence of downtown Omaha and the Omaha riverfront with his decision to build the company’s Freedom Center and purchased another downtown building as the Omaha World-Herald headquarters.
Gottschalk served as national vice president of the Boy Scouts of America, chairman of the USO Foundation and a member of the boards Joslyn Art Museum, Henry Doorly Zoo, Creighton University, Kiewit Institute, Omaha Symphony and Nebraska Games and Parks Foundation. He and his wife, Carmen, have two daughters. They also served as volunteer foster parents for dozens of children through the Child Saving Institute and operate a charitable foundation.
Harry “Hal” Ackley Lainson Jr. – Dutton-Lainson Co.
Nebraska native Harry “Hal” Ackley Lainson Jr. helped develop one of the country’s leading manufacturing companies, a firm that played a prominent production role during World War II. Starting out delivering invoices on his bicycle for his father, Lainson spent more than 70 years with Dutton-Lainson Co. The company began in 1886 as a maker of harnesses and horse collars. It gradually expanded into marine, agricultural, industrial and automotive products.
He graduated from Hastings College, and studied business at Northwestern University and architecture at Iowa State University. Lainson began as advertising manager in 1934 and became general manager in 1937.
As general manager, Lainson began attending state and national meetings, including those of Associated Industries of Nebraska, forerunner of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He served as a member of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board most of his life and as president of Associated Industries of Nebraska in 1948. He served as the chairman of Hastings College Board of Trustees for 27 years, and a founder and trustee of the Nebraska Independent College Foundation. He also participated as a member of the first advisory board of the Nebraska Hospital Association and the first board of Economic Development for the State of Nebraska.
Lainson and his wife, Gretchen, had two daughters: Margaret and Mary.
Bob and Cynthia Milligan
Bob and Cynthia Milligan
Bob and Cynthia Milligan – MI Industries, University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business
Bob and Cynthia Milligan first met at a church function in Lincoln, Nebraska. After she graduated from the University of Kansas and he graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, they married and attended George Washington University to earn their law degrees. Both began careers in Washington, D.C., Bob at the White House and Cynthia with a large law firm.
In her law career, Cynthia acted as the first woman to become a partner with a large, prominent Washington law firm. She served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Law. After being a partner of a Lincoln law firm, she served as director of banking and finance for the state of Nebraska. From 1991 to 1998, she became president and chief executive officer of Cynthia Milligan and Associates, a consulting firm for financial institutions. The longest serving director of Wells Fargo Bank, she also served as a director for Gallup, Ameritas/Calvert Funds, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Raven Industries and Colonial Williamsburg. She was named the eighth and first woman dean of the College of Business of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, serving from 1998 to 2010.
Bob founded a company in Virginia that he moved to Lincoln in 1980. Utilizing Nebraska meat and grain products, he built MI Industries into an international company. As founder and chairman, he grew the firm into a leading producer of nutritional pet products and the largest producer of fresh frozen pet food in North America, as well as in Asia and Europe. MI Industries maintains four operations in Lincoln, as well as production in California, Kansas, Missouri and Texas. The company also maintains production in Asia and South America.
He served as the international president of CBMC, a Christian marketplace ministry active in 90 nations around the globe, and on the boards of Prison Fellowship Ministries, LI-COR Scientific Products, Cornhusker Council and National Advisory Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In 2007, he became the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the first and only Nebraskan to serve in the position.
Bob and Cynthia have five children.
Eldon N. Roth
Eldon N. Roth
Eldon N. Roth – Dakota Dunes, BPI Technology, Inc.
Founder and president of BPI, Eldon N. Roth built the company into the dominant player in its niche – lean meat added to ground beef, particularly when making hamburger patties for quick service restaurants. Roth left his native South Dakota as a teen and lived and worked in California until he was 45. Self-taught, he learned about refrigeration and freezing technology in a San Francisco ice cream factory where he began as a janitor.
Two company slogans are prominent at BPI. “We know how to do things because we do things,” and “Communicate and Cooperate.” Both provide BPI an edge in allowing employees the ability to re-think and look outside the box to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. The BPI facilities serve as models of cleanliness and technology.
He and his wife, Regina, together with their children, Jennifer and Nick, continue to lead BPI. Recognized throughout the food industry for their food-safety innovations and commitment to making the highest-quality lean beef, BPI maintains a Midwestern work ethic that stresses safety and quality in everything they do. The company looks to expand into new beef products and Roth experiments at his restaurant, Eldon’s, in Sioux City, Iowa.
Clayton Andrews – Andrews Van Lines
A.R. Andrews, father of Clayton Andrews, founded Andrews Van Lines in 1920. Then known as Andrews Transfer and Storage, the firm began delivering large packages from the train station to homes and businesses. Born the same year his father started the family business, Andrews enjoyed trucks at an early age.
In 1936, the Interstate Commerce Commission started granting certificates for motor carriers and the firm obtained a certificate to operate in 13 states. The company operated within this area until 1947 when it purchased a certificate adding 22 additional non-radial states, giving it access to the east coast. After serving in World War II, Andrews took over management of the firm. In 1954, the company’s name changed to Andrews Van and Storage, and he began expanding the organization into a larger van line. His dream of building his father’s organization into a nationwide van line became a reality. Andrews Vans Lines is a worldwide moving company operating between all 48 contiguous states, Alaska and Hawaii. In addition, the international division maintains representation in 21 foreign countries.
Later in his career, Andrews began active involvement with the Orphan Grain Train, a Christian volunteer network that shares personal and material resources with people in need in America and around the world. Grain Train volunteers donations of clothing, medical supplies, food and other aid to meet real needs. In 1992, Andrew’s pastor approached him with an idea to help people in Latvia in desperate need of spiritual, emotional and humanitarian aid after the breakup of the former Soviet Union. Together, they founded Orphan Grain Train.
Andrews has two children: Jean and Jane.
Leo A. Daly III
Leo A. Daly III
Leo A. Daly III – Leo A. Daly Company
Leo A. Daly III leads a team of more than 1,100 design professionals responsible for a broad array of architecture and engineering projects in the U.S. and abroad. His firm’s expertise in the U.S. ranges from securing facilities for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Strategic Air Command to contemporary structures including The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Los Angeles, the North Terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. As leader of his firm, Daly provided visionary guidance for major building projects across the nation and around the world.
The creation of the National World War II Memorial serves as his most prized personal architectural achievement. When selected as architect, engineer and head of the design team, Daly took charge and guided his team through the numerous reviews and hearings essential to bringing the project to fruition.
Daly and his firm also created environmentally friendly buildings such as the Lied Library of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and the Carl T. Curtis Midwest Regional Headquarters for the U.S. National Park Service in Omaha, Nebraska. The Carl T. Curtis building received gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the 2005 U.S. Department of the Interior’s Environmental Achievement Award and the 2005 GSA Environmental Award for Sustainable Design and Green Buildings.
Daly holds professional registration as an architect in 48 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Australia, Guam, United Kingdom and Germany. He received his architectural degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He holds professional memberships in the American Institute of Architects (fellow), Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Australian Institute of Architects (fellow), National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, Society of American Military Engineers and USO World Board of Governors.
D. William “Bill” Smith
D. William “Bill” Smith
D. William “Bill” Smith – Speedway Motors
After graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1952 with a teaching degree, D. William “Bill” Smith followed his passion and opened one of the first speed shops in the Midwest. His passion for racing and cars began as a young man driving a used Model T in his Lincoln, Nebraska, neighborhood. He and his wife, Joyce, began in a 400-square-foot shop and supplemented the fledging business by racing on weekends, which eventually turned to building cars and hiring drivers, using the winnings to finance his growing business.
Smith and his family grew the shop into an international mail order company with several divisions meeting the needs of automotive and auto memorabilia enthusiasts worldwide. Speedway Motors is the world’s largest maker, distributor and retailer of auto products for the racing and street rod world.
Smith, while ever striving to cater to the needs of his customers, also continued his hobby as a collector. Over the years, he worked on an extensive collection of toy racers, pedal cars and exotic engines. He and Joyce founded the Smith Collection Museum in 1992. The museum not only preserves, interprets and displays items significant in racing and automotive history, but also presents a continuous chronology of automotive racing engine development.
Speedway’s commercial real estate division developed many projects throughout Lincoln, including renovated historic buildings in downtown Lincoln and the historic Haymarket District. Smith received numerous awards and honors including induction into eight halls of fame in the auto industry, as well as the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Smith and his wife have four children: Carson, Craig, Clay and Jason.
Harold and George Wimmer
Harold and George Wimmer – Wimmer’s Meat Products
Brothers Harold and George Wimmer continued the operation of the firm started by their father in 1934. As young men, the brothers helped their father when he established the business in Snyder, Nebraska, after moving the family from Milwaukee. Eventually, local grocery stores began asking to sell products locally and the firm’s meat formulas, old-world spice recipes and reputation for uncompromised quality were quickly recognized.
Soon the small butcher shop began wholesaling its products and after World War II, the brothers began active management of the company’s operations. In 1957, a fire at the Snyder facility prompted the brothers to relocate the business to its present location in West Point, Nebraska.
Harold led the marketing and sales part of the operation while George continued the wurst-making skills from his father. They modernized their facilities and encouraged their employees to learn all they could to continue the Wimmer’s way.
Wimmer’s Meat Products continues as a family-owned operation with the same personal attention to quality, service and product superiority. Over the years, the firm bought three other quality sausage brands: Bassett, Ambassador and Fairbury Brand Meats. The official hot dog of the Nebraska Conrhuskers, Wimmer’s sponsors Der Viener Schlinger at every home game.
The brothers always believed in giving back and installed a strong commitment to West Point and surrounding communities. Harold’s son, Dave, currently serves as the chairman of the board of Wimmer’s Meat Products.
George had two sons: Bill and George. Harold and his wife, Delores, had four children: Dave, Paul, Ruth and Mary.
Abe Baker – Baker’s Supermarkets
Abe Baker emigrated from Russia as a child and held a variety of jobs, including newspaper carrier and produce clerk, before becoming Omaha's favorite grocer. Baker and his wife, Helen, founded the grocery chain, Baker’s, just prior to the Great Depression with a store in Walnut, Iowa. The tiny store with six workers grew to employ more than 3,600 associates. He preached dedication to customer service and total quality management long before the phrases became the buzzwords of the 1990s. He led by example, working the sales floor, sacking groceries and visiting with customers at his many stores.
As the business grew, Baker realized controlling locations would be a key to future growth and began developing shopping centers. The firm acted as a pioneer in employee benefits and profit sharing also creating a scholarship program to help young employees further their education.
Baker had three children: Debbie, Jack and Bob.
C.G. "Kelly" Holthus
C.G. "Kelly" Holthus
C.G. “Kelly” Holthus – Cornerstone Bank
C.G. "Kelly" Holthus, serves as chairman, president and CEO of Cornerstone Bank, a multi-bank holding company formerly known as First National Bank of York, with a mission to meet the financial needs of central Nebraska. Surviving the pioneer days, the Great Depression and a bank robbery in 1933, the bank grew to 29 locations in 20 communities throughout central Nebraska.
Holthus attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking in 1970. He began his banking career in his hometown of Bertrand, Nebraska, before joining the York bank.
Holthus became the American Bankers Association (ABA) president in 1990 and also served as president of the Nebraska Bankers Association. He served as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1996. He served as treasurer of the York General Health Care Services, and a member of the board of directors of the York Community Foundation and University of Nebraska–Lincoln Technology Park. He previously served as president of the York Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the York City Council, Concordia Foundation, University of Nebraska Foundation and Nebraska Independent College Foundation.
Holthus also helped improve the York Area Senior Center and the York County Fairgrounds. To recognize his commitment to the community, Holthus Field House at York College was dedicated in 2003.
Kelly and his wife, Virginia, have four children.
John P. Nelson
John P. Nelson
John P. Nelson – Silverstone Group
After attending Carleton College and serving as a U.S. Naval officer, John P. Nelson joined his father at the Nelson Insurance Agency in 1965. The company has since changed its name and grown from a one-room office with three employees to more than 160 consultants, actuaries, administrators and registered investment representatives who serve clients throughout the United States.
Nelson serves as chairman after serving in the roles of sales manager, executive vice president and president of the company. With nearly 200 employees, SilverStone is an independent consulting, actuarial and insurance brokerage firm and an industry leader in risk management, property and casualty, human resource consulting, employee benefits and private client services. Nelson sees two key elements to the company's growth: a focus on acquiring companies and the recruiting of highly qualified technical associates to create a state-of-the-art company.
He served many Omaha and Council Bluffs organizations and boards, including the Iowa Western Community College Foundation, Doane College, Durham Western Heritage Museum, Great Western Bank and Growth Management Corporation and Boy Scouts of America Mid-America Council. In addition, he became the 2003 King of Ak-Sar-Ben and the 2002 United Way Citizen of the Year and was inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.
He and his wife, Anne, have three children.
Joe Hampton – Hampton Enterprises
In 1947 at the age of 22, Joe Hampton moved to Lincoln from Chadron, Nebraska, when a lack of funds forced him out of college and into the workforce as an apprentice electrician.
In his spare time, he began building a house for himself. Housing was short in those post-war years so he sold his brand new home just as soon as he finished it. Then he built another one and then another. In 1964, he made the leap from homebuilder to developer by purchasing land that became the city's first office park and residential community, Lincolnshire Square. The firm continued to build and develop commercial properties in Lincoln, including Williamsburg Village, Corporate Centre and Meadowlane Shopping Center.
Hampton continued to grow in size and scope, and built a solid reputation for quality craftsmanship and unique architectural detail. Today the company employs more than 60 people and participates in land development, commercial general contracting, construction management and real estate services, including property management and building maintenance.
An avid pilot, Hampton served on the Airport Authority Board from 1963 to 1977. He served two terms on the Lincoln City Council supporting pro-growth policies and expansion of the city's infrastructure for future development. He continues to be actively involved in state and civic development efforts.
He and his wife, Marge, have two children.
Willard H. Waldo
Willard H. Waldo
Willard Waldo – Waldo Farms
Willard Waldo, a graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, began his lifelong involvement with agriculture at a young age. After the Civil War, his family migrated to Nebraska to build a farming operation The company set a goal to have the best Duroc hog herd in the world and to either make the business profitable or quit farming altogether.
While working as a vocational agriculture instructor and county extension agent, Waldo established his own Duroc herd using selected Waldo-raised foundation stock. He strongly believed in using the principles of agricultural science to improve swine breeding stock. He put these principles into practice by being among the first to weigh pigs at birth to determine when they would reach market weight. He also developed a simple, but effective ear-notching system used to identify the pigs.
Over time, Waldo Farms established a tradition of using independent evaluators and industry-wide trials to measure the performance of Waldo Farms' pigs. Waldo’s son, Max, graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and became a full partner of Waldo Farms in 1960.
Over the years, Waldo worked with many Nebraska agricultural organizations, such as Livestock Breeders and Feeders, Farm Bureau, Sheep Breeders and Wheat Commission. He served as a state senator, and on numerous local and state civic and charitable organizations. He is well-known as a lifelong supporter of the Nebraska State Fair.
Waldo has two children.
J. Gates Minnick
J. Gates Minnick
J. Gates Minnick – DuTeau Chevrolet
J. Gates Minnick graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1954. Minnick's father-in-law, Al DuTeau, began the family car dealership in 1928 and Minnick began working at DuTeau Chevrolet in 1955, becoming president of the company in 1983. His love for the automobile industry and innate concern for customers helped Minnick and the DuTeau team grow significantly during his tenure.
Minnick served as a board member of the Lincoln Foundation, the University of Nebraska Foundation and Alumni Association, Bryan Memorial Hospital, the Downtown Lincoln Association and other significant industry boards. He also served on boards for civic and charitable organizations, such as Lincoln Electric System and the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
Minnick served as president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association as well as chairman of the State Chamber in 1997. He also served two terms on the Lincoln City Council.
Minnick received many awards for his service, including the Time magazine Quality Dealer Award, the University of Nebraska Builder Award and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Man of the Year Award. In retirement, he continued to serve on the Lincoln Vision 2015 group.
He and his wife, Daisy, have four children.
Donald Smeal – Smeal Fire Apparatus Company
Donald Smeal, part of the fourth generation of a family who settled on a homestead in Snyder, Nebraska, learned about mechanical objects and took particular interest in the steam engine tractor that was used to operate a saw mill. In high school, Smeal focused on math, physics and science while he continued with work on the farm, such as threshing, saw milling and silage cutting. He also served in World War II.
Upon returning to Snyder, Smeal bought farm machinery that allowed him to shell corn and bale hay for profit. In 1955, he purchased a repair shop to start a welding business. He designed and built a feed box with an auger system and a water well hoist, which became the basis of Smeal Manufacturing. In 1965, due to the success of his machines, he received the Nebraska Businessman of the Year Award.
Today Smeal Fire Apparatus Company serves as a major competitor in the fire and rescue industry. The company owns thousands of trucks and aerial ladders throughout North America and includes more than 340 employees.
Five of Smeal’s children work in the company, along with their spouses and children. Smeal never strayed from his roots and built his business with people who share his values and work ethic.
Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon
Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon
Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon
Five generations of the Simon family turned Omaha Steaks into a nationally recognized company. Beginning with a father and son who left Riga, Latvia, in 1898 to escape religious persecution, they found themselves in Omaha, Nebraska, working as butchers. In 1917, they founded their own company and dedicated themselves to processing and selling tender, grain-fed beef to restaurants and grocers in the area. Originally known as Table Supply Meat Company, the firm also supplied to the Union Pacific Railroad. The company's reputation quickly spread to the general public and the family began a mail order venture in 1952.
It began with a father and son, who left Riga, Latvia in 1898 to escape religious
persecution. They found themselves in Omaha, Nebraska where they worked as butchers.
In 1917, they founded their own company and were dedicated to processing and selling
tender, grain-fed beef to restaurants and grocers in the area. Originally known
as Table Supply Meat Company, the firm also supplied to the Union Pacific Railroad.
The company's reputation quickly spread to the general public and the family began
a mail order venture in 1952.
Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, three key innovations developed: direct parcel shipping, polystyrene shipping coolers and vacuum packaging, which allowed the firm to ship its products to a much larger audience more efficiently. In 1966, the company became Omaha Steaks International, Inc. and between 1975 and 1978, they began providing inbound and outbound customer phone service.
In 1990, Omaha Steaks became one of the first companies to join the technological wave of electronic marketing. They developed the website – www.omahasteaks.com – in 1995. Today customers can order from anywhere in the world.
The fourth generation of the Simon family: Alan, Fred and their late brother, Steve, instrumentally developed the concept of mail order steak. This concept helped the company grow to become a worldwide supplier of a variety of red meats, smoked meats, poultry, fish and other seafood, pastas, soups, desserts and gift baskets. Bruce and Todd Simon, the fifth generation, now play major roles in managing the company. All five generations contributed to the company's success in serving 1.5 million customers.
James P. Abel
James P. Abel
James P. Abel – NEBCO
James P. “Jim” Abel began working for NEBCO, Inc. in 1969 as a laborer in the company's concrete pipe plant. A family-owned business based in Lincoln, Nebraska, NEBCO involves the manufacturing concrete building materials, road construction, mining, railroading, farming and real estate development. Abel attended both the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Arizona State University, earning a degree in business.
He succeeded his father, business hall of fame member George P. Abel Jr., as president of the firm in 1985. Under Jim’s leadership, NEBCO expanded its concrete building material business through organic growth and acquisitions. NEBCO's real estate activities expanded to include commercial, residential and recreational developments. Most notable include the Landmark office buildings near the Nebraska State Capitol, Chalco Valley Business Park in Omaha, Nebraska, and Fallbrook, a 700-acre residential and commercial development in Lincoln, utilizing the features of new urbanism. The Abel family's love of golf led to the construction of Quarry Oaks Golf Club, voted by Golf Digest as the best affordable public golf course in America when it opened in 1997.
His passion for baseball led to the development of Haymarket Park, adjacent to Lincoln's historic Haymarket District. Built through a joint cooperation of NEBCO, the city of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Haymarket Park became home to the Lincoln Saltdogs and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln baseball and softball teams. Abel serves as chairman of the Lincoln Saltdogs franchise which began their inaugural season in 2001.
His activities within the community and state extend to membership on civic, philanthropic and professional boards including the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation, Nebraska Wesleyan University Board of Governors, University of Nebraska Foundation, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.
The Abel Foundation continues his family's tradition of returning a measure of the company's success back to the communities where they operate. Abel actively participates in the foundation’s operations and serves as president. The Lied Center for Performing Arts, Abel Stadium on the Nebraska Wesleyan University campus, Folsom Children's Zoo, Mahoney State Park, Lincoln Children's Museum, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and United Way received Abel Foundation gifts.
Abel and his wife, Mary, have one son: Jack.
Fred Bosselman – Bosselman and Eaton Truck Stop
In 1948, a farmer and part-time truck driver, Fred, his wife, Maxine, and family members opened Bosselman and Eaton Truck Stop in Grand Island, Nebraska. Having been on the road, he saw the wretched conditions for drivers and began providing good service, good food and quality products for the transportation industry and traveling public.
The company expanded to 40 Pump and Pantry stores, eight Grandma Max's restaurants, five motels, 10 Boss Truck Shops and eight Bosselman Travel Centers. The company includes Bosselman Energy, a multi-state distributor of fuels, propane, ethanol and lube products; Bosselman Tank and Trailer, providing fuel transport trailer and bobtail truck sales, testing and repair; Petroleum Equipment Co., with complete services for the petroleum industry; Bosselman Carriers, a multi-state fuel transportation company; and Bosselman Contractors Services, providing construction and environmental services, condominiums and farming.
Bosselman’s sons, Chuck and Fred Jr., oversee the retail operation and petroleum product and distribution operations. With the third generation of Bosselmans now entering the business, they are poised to enter the new millennium. Despite the growth of the company, Bosselman’s hands-on management style provided the vision for continued success.
Bosselman’s career involved many honors, including University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He served as president of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators and Fonner Park. His generosity to Grand Island ranged from contributions for the Stuhr Museum, College Park, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Crane Meadows Center and Fonner Park Civic Center.
Jack Vetter – Vetter Health Services
A Sandhills native and lifelong Nebraskan, Jack Vetter worked on a ranch as a blacksmith, completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Army and served as foreman of a feed and fertilizer plant before becoming administrator of a Valentine, Nebraska, nursing home in 1965. Over the next three years, he succeeded in improving the home's low occupancy rate. He was soon recruited by the Bethesda Foundation to be director of operations. During the next 10 years, he played a key role in the company's growth from seven facilities to 20 and tripled the bed count from 500 to 1,500.
With experience and tenure in long-term care, Vetter and his wife, Eldora, bought their first nursing home in 1975. Vetter Health Services (VHS) evolved as the management company. The company owns and manages 32 skilled nursing centers, three assisted living units, one retirement campus and a rehabilitation care center with locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Wyoming. They employ more than 3,000 team members with an annual payroll of $59 million. Collectively, these team members provide 784,000 days of resident care each year.
An active member of the Nebraska Health Care Association, Vetter also completed committee assignments and held regional and national leadership positions with the American Health Care Association. In 2001, he received the Friend of the AHCA Quality Award in appreciation of his dedication to and support of the AHCA Quality Award. He maintains a political presence and visits Lincoln and Washington, D.C., regularly to be a voice for the elderly and long-term care providers in the state and across the nation.
He and his wife own and manage the family farm outside of Bassett, Nebraska. Through the years, they purchased additional land in the area for their cow and calf operation, and to grow crops.
They developed the Vetter Foundation to receive personal contributions along with regular donations from the long-term care operation's profits and outside contributions to promote and assist them in philanthropic giving. In addition to providing ongoing education for people in long-term health care, the foundation supports local organizations including the Alzheimer's Association, Nebraska Special Olympics, Nebraska Operations Airlift and Assistance League of Nebraska. The foundation partners with Convoy of Hope to assist with disaster responses in the U.S. and around the world. The foundation also contributed land, libraries and computer labs to bible colleges in Ethiopia and Kenya, and promotes water well drilling in Africa to provide clean and safe drinking water in rural villages.
The Vetters have three children.
Dr. Wayne Ryan
Dr. Wayne Ryan
Dr. Wayne Ryan – Streck Laboratories
A native of Corning, Iowa, Dr. Wayne Ryan served in the U.S. Navy after completing high school. Following World War II, he earned degrees in chemistry and biochemistry from Creighton University and a doctorate degree in biochemistry from University of Missouri. Ryan founded Streck Laboratories in 1971 with two employees. It expanded to include more than 300 employees with 15,000 customers and generates $50 million in annual sales revenue.
Streck, whose products are sold throughout the U.S. and in 42 countries worldwide, recently completed a brand new $12 million, 114,000-square-foot facility in La Vista, Nebraska. Streck maintains 65 percent of the world market of hematology controls through a combination of Streck label, private label and patent licenses. Recently, the company developed preservatives that are added to blood collection tubes to prolong the life of samples, assisting in treatment of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Ryan divides his time among teaching, research and running the business. He gained 40 patents and authored or co-authored 80 published scientific works. His Platelet-Chex became the first hematology control on the market.
Ryan also received numerous awards and honors from local and national organizations. He widely supported area philanthropic causes, such as the Christian Urban Education Services, Creighton University and St. Augustine Mission at the Omaha-Winnebago Tribes Reservation.
He and his wife, Eileen, have four children.
Dale C. Tinstman
Dale C. Tinstman
Dale C. Tinstman – First Nebraska Securities
Born in Chester, Nebraska, Dale C. Tinstman admired his father's efforts in selling stock. He earned degrees at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in business and law, intending to become an investment banker. After service in World War II, he finished law school and began working in the financial industry. He started his own firm in 1960 to finance agricultural-related industries, which he felt was ignored by Wall Street.
The firm, First Nebraska Securities, Inc., acted as the only Nebraska member of the New York Stock Exchange. He proved to be instrumental in providing financing for food, grain, cattle, hogs and packing companies, including Iowa Beef Packers (IBP), an innovative packing company.
Serving as president of IBP, Tinstman played an important role in the early success of the company by establishing their headquarters in Nebraska. Founded in 1960, IBP revolutionized the beef industry by locating highly efficient slaughtering and processing facilities near the source of supply in the heart of the nation's rural cattle producing areas.
Tinstman actively involved himself with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, serving twice as chairman of the University of Nebraska Foundation. He was an original director of the Nebraska Technical Development Corporation and assisted in the establishment of the University's Technology Park. He participates in investments and venture capital projects for many Nebraska companies, including Gene Seek, Nature Technology and development of the Flat Iron Steak.
Dale and his wife, Jean, have three children.
Robert, and Gary Kelley
Robert and Gary Kelley – Kelley Bean Company
Robert L. Kelley Sr. founded the Chester B. Brown Company in 1927. In 1969, his sons, Robert and Gary Kelley, opened the Kelley Bean Company and their father joined them in 1972.
The initial growth of the company was enhanced through mergers and acquisitions. In 1982, the brothers purchased and merged with the Chester B. Brown Company. The pattern of acquisitions continued and Kelley Bean Co. grew to become one of the largest originators and marketers of dry edible beans in the world. The company owns receiving and processing plants in Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. Kelley Bean's reputation for quality and service enabled them to expand their markets globally to every continent except Australia. The Kelleys pride themselves on their relationships with growers and dealers at home and abroad.
The company delivers quality at every level of bean production through the Kelley Bean Vertical Integration system of research, production, processing and distribution, culminating with the end consumer. Their mission is to understand and deliver superior value with absolute integrity.
The brothers maintain a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the North Platte Valley area, headquartering their six-state operation with 28 plants.
Gary and wife, Patty, have two children. Robert and his wife, Rossel, also have two children.
George F. Russell – Millard Lumber and Grain Company
A native of Belden, Nebraska, George F. Russell graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and served in the U.S. Navy. He and a partner founded Millard Lumber and Grain Company in 1948, initially catering to a rural farming community of fewer than 400. Millard Lumber provided a center for the farmers to sell grain, buy coal and purchase lumber.
Russell shifted the focus of the business towards building materials and products that supplied both professional contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners. Millard Lumber was an early manufacturer of roof trusses, pre-manufactured wall sections and pre-hung doors, staying at the forefront of advanced building techniques.
Today Russell's son, Rick, and his management team run the family-owned business along with more than 300 associates at their Omaha, Waverly and Des Moines locations. While Millard Lumber experienced tremendous growth, the mission remains unchanged: to provide basic building materials and continually add project lines and services that provide quality and efficiency on the job.
Russell also served on the board of two banks, various business organizations and as a member of the Millard City Council. He served as president or chairman of a number of civic and business organizations, including the National Lumber & Building Materials Association, Bellevue College, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry and several other associations. He was inducted into the Millard Education Foundation's Hall of Fame and an elementary school in the district was named after him.
Bill Kubly – Landscapes Unlimited
Bill Kubly founded Landscapes Unlimited (LU) in 1976, following five years of work for a local golf course construction company. With that experience and his landscape architect degree from the University of Wisconsin, Kubly formed his one-man operation. Equipped with a truck, pipe wrench and pipe cutter, he began handling small irrigation projects for local golf courses.
Soon Kubly started to broaden his capabilities. He worked with many different golf course architects helping take their conceptual designs into striking realities. From its modest beginning in 1976, the company employs more than 1,000 professionals during its peak season.
For the past 28 years, Kubly's philosophy and vision remained unchanged. LU builds more than 35 golf courses per year from coast to coast, working with designers and architects on renovation and new development construction projects. LU completes projects ranging from $50,000 to $50 million.
In 2000, Kubly received the National Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. He also served as president of the Golf Course Builders Association of America from 1996 to 1999.
Kubly and his wife, Myrna, have two daughters.
Robert "Bobby" Gottsch
Robert "Bobby" Gottsch
Robert “Bobby” Gottsch – Gottsch Enterprises
Growing up on his family's farm in Elkhorn, Nebraska, Bobby Gottsch began his entrepreneurial career when he was six years old selling eggs from his uncle’s farm throughout the neighborhood. Following his father's footsteps in the agricultural business, he worked for his father's feed yard after high school graduation and later developed his family's interests into cattle feeding, ranching, farrow to finish pork production and farming.
Gottsch Enterprises includes a packing company, a mail-order steak business, commercial and residential real estate, a trucking firm, Indian Creek Golf Course in Elkhorn, and San Crisobal Farm, a rice farm in Argentina. Businesses also reside in Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.
Active in the Hastings, Nebraska, community, Gottsch serves as a member of the Nebraska Environmental Quality Council and Hastings College Board of Trustees. Gottsch also served on the Omaha Federal Reserve Bank Board of Directors from 1997 to 2002.
Gottsch and his wife, Cindy, have five children.
Bruce Lauritzen – First National of Nebraska, Lauritzen Corporation
Bruce Lauritzen works as chairman of First National Bank of Omaha, its holding company, First National of Nebraska and Lauritzen Corporation. He serves as chairman of more than a dozen other banks and bank holding companies operating in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and Texas. The combined organizations include more than $16 billion in assets and 7,500 employees in 31 states.
His family has been involved in Omaha's growth and development since 1854, when Thomas Davis, one of the bank's first shareholders, helped start the bank. During most of the past century, the Davis and Lauritzen families became synonymous with the leadership and growth of First National Bank.
Lauritzen promoted Omaha's downtown redevelopment by bringing to fruition the riverfront area and new skyline highlighted by the 40-story First National headquarters, the state's tallest building.
Lauritzen serves as president of the Omaha Development Council and Foundation, Royal Danish Consulate for the State of Nebraska, member of the Chief Executives Organization, Financial Services Round Table and the STRATCOM consultation committee. He also serves as chairman of Clarkson Regional Health Services, treasurer of the Nebraska Medical Center and a director of Ak-Sar-Ben, Creighton University, Joslyn Art Museum, Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation, Omaha Symphony Association, Strategic Air and Space Museum, and Visa U.S.A. The Omaha Business Hall of Fame inducted him as a member in 2004.
He and his wife, Kimball, have three children.
Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas
Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas
Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas – Douglas Manufacturing Corporation
Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas, the inventor of the collapsible voting booth, founded Douglas Manufacturing Corporation in 1910. When she began designing ballot boxes, her first order came from Los Angeles County as they were impressed with the collapsible voting booth.
Douglas possessed a flair for innovation and designed a number of items ahead of their time. The business had several patent applications which were never applied for, such as retractable Pullman car steps, a gasoline pump shut-off valve and a mail cart for mail delivery.
Now owned by the fourth generation, Douglas Manufacturing acts as a major supplier of auxiliary supplies to makers of voting systems. The company began making metal storage containers in 1970 when former IBM employees sought a company to make boxes for their data storage business. Located in Crete, Nebraska, the business survived three fires and a flood.
Jan Thayer – Excel Development Group
Jan Thayer, born and raised on a farm near Wolbach, Nebraska, graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and devoted her career to health care for the elderly.
She developed Riverside Lodge in Grand Island, Nebraska, serving as executive director. She also founded and served as CEO of Excel Development Group, which developed, managed and owned retirement facilities in three states with more than 400 employees.
Thayer received many awards including the American Health Care Association Chairman’s Award in 2011, the organization’s highest national honor. She was also named Grand Island Independent’s Woman of the Year in 1988 and University of Nebraska Businesswoman of the Year in 1990 and Entrepreneur of the Year in 1992. Riverside Lodge received the American Health Care Association National Quality Award in 2011.
After receiving the Clarence Swanson Award, the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame inducted Thayer into the group in 2013. Located in the east side of Memorial Stadium, the Thayer Family Brain Research Lab dedicates time to the research of concussions.
Lawrence J. Arth
Lawrence J. Arth – Ameritas Life Insurance Corp.
Lawrence J. Arth became president and chief operating officer of Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. in 1988, the same year the firm changed its name from Bankers Life of Nebraska. He served the company for 36 years, beginning in the investment area.
Under his leadership, the firm grew to a major diversified financial services company, delivering products and services in life insurance and annuities, retirement plans, group dental and eye care, investments, banking and public finance.
A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Arth attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and served in the U.S. Navy before starting his career. His past community services and activities range from the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben to Junior Achievement and the Girl Scouts. A charter member of Leadership Lincoln, Arth received the group's Pillar of the Community honor, presented to people who have significantly strengthened and transformed Lincoln.
Ameritas functions as a key player in the state’s economic activity. In 2003, the Nebraska Diplomats awarded the company for its work in helping finance community growth and infrastructure.
Under his direction, Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. converted to a stock life insurance company, wholly owned by Ameritas Mutual Insurance Holding Company. The firm subsequently merged with Acacia Mutual Holding Corporation of Bethesda, Maryland, to form Ameritas Acacia Mutual Holding Company.
He and his wife, Mary, have three children.
William A. Fitzgerald
William A. “Bill” Fitzgerald – Commercial Federal Savings and Loan
The forerunner to Commercial Federal started as a building and loan association in 1887. In 1974, Commercial Federal Savings and Loan named William A. "Bill" Fitzgerald as president – the third generation of Fitzgeralds working for the firm. He began working as a part-time teller and served many roles in the firm.
During his tenure, the company began building an interstate network of retail banking offices with purchases of thrift institutions in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, bringing its philosophy of outstanding customer service and innovative products to an even broader range of customers.
Fitzgerald served as chairman of the board for Creighton University, his alma mater, and participates in many civic and professional duties.
Under his leadership, Commercial Federal provides corporate support to a wide range of nonprofit organizations relating to the company's major areas of concern: social services, education, arts and community development. They provide support in many ways, including operating fund support, capital drive donations, event sponsorships and in-kind donations.
Fitzgerald strongly believes in personal involvement. He and his wife, Barb, have three children.
E.H. "Shoey" Shoemaker
E.H. "Shoey" Shoemaker
E.H. “Shoey” Shoemaker – Milldale Ranch
Born on Long Island in New York, E.H. "Shoey" Shoemaker returned from World War II service intending to work for an insurance firm in Chicago. However, the father of his wife, Marie, asked him to run the Milldale Ranch, north of North Platte, Nebraska, believing his business experience would be valuable to the operation.
Marie's grandfather established the ranch in 1884. In fact, the first brand recorded under the new Nebraska law included the joined 7HL, by Milldale Land and Cattle Co. of Gandy. Shoemaker's Milldale Ranch still uses the brand today.
Shoey graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He learned about ranching from some of the dedicated cowboys who worked the ranch – from branding and calving to riding and roping. He involved himself in the operations of the ranch, which covers about 55-square-miles in Logan County on the southern edge of the Sandhills.
In addition to his ranching duties, he actively involved himself in the community. He served as president of the North Platte Chamber of Commerce, vice president of the American National Cattlemen's Association and a trustee for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. He worked to establish banking and insurance operations in the community. A popular and enthusiastic spokesman for ranching and the beef industry, he was inducted into the Nebraska Cattlemen's Hall of Fame in 2002.
He and his wife, Marie, have two daughters.
Walter, Mike, and Gib Behlen
Walter, Mike, and Gib Behlen
Walter, Mike and Gib Behlen – Behlen Manufacturing
Walter Behlen started Behlen Manufacturing in his backyard garage in 1936 in Columbus, Nebraska. Joined by his brothers H.P. “Mike” Behlen and G.E. “Gib” Behlen, the modest undertaking grew to an 800,000-square-foot plant located east of Columbus. The company grew steadily and developed a systems concept that was apparent in all of its activities. Among these innovations were the Behlen animal husbandry systems such as the Pork Factory and Beef Factory. Additional products included the Behlen Building System, Behlen hydraulic presses and Behlen grain-conditioning handling and storage systems.
The firm grew to a worldwide manufacturer before the Behlens sold the company in 1969 to the Wickes Corporation. Among the many contributions to Nebraska, they donated more than $500,000 to the Columbus Family YMCA and the Columbus Hospital, as well as contributing to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln through the Behlen Observatory and the Behlen Laboratory of Physics.
Donald O. Clifton
Donald O. Clifton – The Gallup Organization
For 19 years, Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., served as a professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 1969, he founded Selection Research, Inc., which became a nationally recognized company in the fields of employee selection, management research and survey research. In 1988, Selection Research, Inc. acquired The Gallup Organization. Best known for The Gallup Poll, the company now is one of the world's largest management consulting firms with more than 40 offices in 20 countries. Gallup's core expertise includes measuring and understanding human nature and behavior. Gallup leverages this knowledge to develop research-based measurement tools, development programs and strategic advisory services that help organizations and individuals maximize their performance.
In demand as a speaker and seminar leader, Clifton published many articles in professional and trade journals. His mission involved selecting and developing the right people for the right jobs and letting people be heard through surveys and opinion polls.
Clifton served his community with participation on many local boards including the YMCA, Father Flanagan's Boys and Girls Town, the University of Nebraska Foundation and Rotary International. In 2002, the American Psychological Association presented Clifton with its Presidential Commendation for lifetime contributions.
Clifton and his wife, Shirley, had four children: Jim, Connie, Mary and Jane.
Henry H. "Hod" Kosman
Henry H. "Hod" Kosman
Henry H. “Hod” Kosman – First Bank Systems Inc.
A third generation member of a banking family, Hod Kosman became president and chief executive officer of Scottsbluff National Bank in 1990. The bank merged with First Bank Systems Inc. and in 1996, the Kosman family sold their interest in First Bank and announced the opening of their own Platte Valley Bank and three financial institutions.
Kosman co-founded the Community and Economic Development committee, served as director of the Oregon Trail Community Foundation, a member of the U.S. Small Business Advisory Council and chair of the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce housing committee. He also served on the board of advisors for the Eppley Cancer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Trustees. Kosman received the University of Nebraska Alumnus of the Year from the Panhandle Alumni Chapter, the Star-Herald Citizen of the Year and the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce Trail Blazer Award.
Kosman grew up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Colorado School of Banking. He serves as chairman of Regional West Health Services, director of the Omaha Branch of the Federal Reserve Board and the Nebraska Information Technology Commission.
Kosman and his wife, Willa, have two children: Jennifer and Hunter.
Richard K. Davidson
Richard K. Davidson
Richard K. Davidson – Union Pacific Corporation
Chairman and chief executive officer of the Union Pacific Corporation, Dick Davidson began his railroad career as an 18-year-old brakeman-conductor with Missouri Pacific in 1960 as a college student. He served as a trainmaster and in various operating departments with the railroad.
He directed Union Pacific's merger with the Southern Pacific Railroad, making the UP one of the largest U.S. railroads. He received the 2002 Horatio Alger Award, given to individuals who share a belief in the American dream and overcame adversity through positive thinking, determination and hard work. He earned a degree from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, and actively involves himself in various civic endeavors in Omaha, Nebraska. Davidson served as a member of the board of directors of Grupo Ferroviario Mexicano and The Kroger Co.
A trustee and director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards Foundation, he was also chairman of the President's National Infrastructure Advisory Committee (NIAC) and represented NIAC on the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). In addition, Davidson served as a member of the U.S. Strategic Command Consultation Committee and the advisory roundtable for former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns. He also serves on the board of trustees of the Boy Scouts of America.
Davidson and his wife, Trish, have three children.
Thomas C. Woods, Jr.
Thomas C. Woods, Jr.
Thomas C. Woods Jr. – Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. (LT&T)
A pioneer in Nebraska telecommunications, Thomas Woods Jr., directed Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. (LT&T) for 29 years. Under his direction, the company grew to one of the country's largest independent telephone companies and served as one of the first developers of cable television.
After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1943, Woods served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army. In 1947, he and his wife moved to Cleveland where he worked in a variety of positions at the Addressograph-Multigraph Company. In 1958, he returned to Lincoln and carried on the business and civic traditions established by his father and grandfather. During his tenure, LT&T served as the first phone company in the state to offer coast-to-coast direct distance dialing, provide 911 services, use electronic switching systems and deploy fiber-optic transmission facilities.
The Woods family served Nebraska through the Woods Charitable Fund, established by Woods’s grandparents in 1941. Woods served as chairman of the board from 1968 to 1990. The arts, social services and economic development programs all received support from both the company and the foundation under his leadership. He served on countless boards and committees, including the State Building Commission, the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Board and the Nebraska State Historical Society.
Woods and his wife, Marjorie, have two children: Avery and Thomas III.
Roy Dinsdale – Pinnacle Bank
Roy Dinsdale, a 1948 graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, started his career with Dinsdale Bros, Inc., a farming and cattle operation based in Palmer, Nebraska. He also worked for the State Bank of Palmer. Over the years, the farming operation expanded in Nebraska and Colorado and the cattle operation, one of the largest in Nebraska, is also located in California, Colorado, Kentucky and Oklahoma.
The family's banking business, known as Pinnacle Bank, acquired assets of $3 billion and operations in Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Texas. The family-owned bank holding company started when a group of businessmen and farmers opened the bank in Palmer after the two banks in town closed in the 1930s. This group included Dinsdale’s father, George, a local cattle rancher and farmer. In 1958, Dinsdale and his brother, Jack, purchased a second bank.
Dinsdale contributed time and funds to various charitable organizations and community endeavors, proving particularly instrumental in helping rural hospitals and medical recruitment efforts. In addition, he contributed to agencies that help the disabled.
Roy and his wife, Gloria, have three children: Sid, Chris and Jane.
Roy A. Smith
Roy A. Smith
Roy A. Smith – H.P. Smith Ford, Old Mill Toyota
A longtime advocate for business in Nebraska, Roy A. Smith involved himself in the new car business most of his life. The son of a car dealer, Smith grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and later attended Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he developed a passion for campus political activities that he later used on the local, state and federal level. His father, Homer P. Smith, needed Smith to help run the family business.
While maintaining an active role in Omaha politics, Smith served as a steady and insistent voice for growth in Nebraska. He served the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry twice, once as president of the Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry (NACCI) in 1978-79 and as chairman of the Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry in 2000. He served as chairman of the Nebraska New Car Dealers Association and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
Smith received awards from United Way, Boy Scouts and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He earned an honorary degree from Bellevue University, as he worked tirelessly for the growth and development of that institution. Recognized for his advice and outspoken promotion of the Nebraska business community, he was inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame and a former King of Ak-Sar-Ben.
Smith and his wife, Macaela, have two children: David and Sandra.
Edwin E. Perkins
Edwin Perkins – Kool-Aid
Edwin Perkins, a self-taught investor, chemist, printer, manufacturer, researcher and merchandiser, became an entrepreneur at a very young age in rural Nebraska during extremely difficult times. In 1900, he saw a magazine advertisement that read, “Be a manufacturer. Mixer's Guide tells how. Write today.” He sent for the materials and turned his mother's kitchen into an aroma-filled juvenile laboratory. At the age of 25, he created a small mail order business known as Perkins Products Company. Eventually he and his wife, Kitty, moved to Hastings and began experimenting with soft drink syrups.
Fruit Smack acted as his first major success but bottle breakage, leaks and shipping costs caused Perkins to borrow an idea from Jell-O. He began manufacturing a concentrated powder called Kool-Aid in 1927. Kool-Aid, designated as Nebraska's official soft drink, created such high demand that the Hastings plant reached full capacity and he moved his business to Chicago. Kool-Aid, one of the most popular drinks in the world, boasts more than 563 million gallons consumed each year.
By 1933, Perkins reduced the cost of an envelope of Kool-Aid from 10 cents to five cents. Perkins sold the company in 1953 to General Foods, merging with Kraft in 1989. He and Kitty generously donated proceeds of the company to the Perkins Foundation.
C.L. Werner – Werner Enterprises, Inc.
Chairman and chief executive officer at Werner Enterprises, Inc., C.L. Werner started the business in 1956 with one truck at the age of 19. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, seeking factory work, but discovered he would rather drive a truck. He bought a gas-powered Ford F800 truck and started subcontracting to haul cargo for other trucking companies. He also hauled the kind of low-end cargo exempt from regulatory restrictions, such as grain, watermelon, livestock feed and fence posts. Werner built the company one truck at a time, hauling in a five or six state region.
Werner Enterprises, a truckload motor carrier of general commodities in both interstate and intrastate commerce, exists among the five largest truckloads carriers in the United States and maintains its headquarters in Omaha. Werner completed its initial public offering in April 1986 with a fleet of 630 trucks. By the end of 2000, the fleet consisted of 7,700 tractors, more than 19,770 trailers, and more than 10,000 employees and independent contractors. The firm serves as the only carrier with approval from the Department of Transportation to use paperless logging, eliminating costly downtime for drivers, and adding more efficiency and productivity.
Another innovation involved the use of a training center simulator and computer-based training for Werner's drivers. Located in its Omaha headquarters, the state-of the-art simulator gives Werner’s drivers the best defensive driver-training program available.
Three of Werner’s four children work in the business. Gary serves as vice chairman, Gregory serves as president and Curtis serves as vice chairman of corporate development. Werner's daughter, Gail Werner-Robertson, served on the board of Werner Enterprises and owns several businesses. Werner and his wife, Linda, live in Omaha.
J. Robert Duncan
J. Robert Duncan
J. Robert Duncan – Duncan Aviation
Established by Robert Duncan’s father, Donald Duncan, in 1956 as a Beechcraft distributorship, Duncan Aviation grew into the largest family-owned aircraft support facility in North America. Robert Duncan earned his pilot's license at the age of 16 and began learning about business aviation. One of the first distributors of the new Learjet, Duncan continued to build the business and continually added employees.
As new business aircrafts entered the market and Duncan Aviation's customers purchased new models, the company invested in support capabilities for those models and continued its passion for service. Duncan became president of the company in 1968.
For nearly half a century, Duncan Aviation provided business aircraft operations with high standards and limited downtime to the best in turbine service, sales and support. The company believes in investing in facilities and people and in developing innovative products, services and processes to continually improve the corporate aviation industry. There are teams who specialize in aviation services and paint, overhaul, install, modify, inspect, troubleshoot, fuel and repair.
Duncan Aviation employees work to attain the highest customer satisfaction in any service industry, not just in the world of corporate aviation. In 1998, the company added service facilities in Battle Creek, Michigan, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, by purchasing a former competitor, Kal-Aero.
Duncan Aviation expanded significantly since the early days, with more than 1,900 employees located across the United States. Last year, Duncan was named one of the Top 100 Companies to Work For by Fortune magazine.
Duncan and his wife, Karen, have two children: Todd and Paige.
Hugh, and Richard Hunt
Richard A. Hunt (left)
Hugh W. Hunt (right)
Hugh and Richard Hunt – HunTel Systems
In 1912, E.C. Hunt's vision developed the foundation for HunTel Systems. Hunt's son, Emory, adopted his father's innovative style. He nurtured the young company through the middle of the 20th century before passing the torch to his two sons, Hugh and Richard. The brothers discovered by expanding the core business beyond local exchange telephone service, HunTel could better meet its own needs while offering more comprehensive services to its growing customer base.
After attending college and military service, both Hugh and Richard joined the firm in the early 1960s, working many positions before assuming management positions. Active participants in community and industry activities, they held many leadership positions. Recently honored by the Applied Information Management Institute, the Hunt brothers transitioned their telephone company into a family of diversified businesses on the technological forefront in the development of local cable television, the deployment of fiber-optic technology, local telecommunications services and data processing.
Headquartered in Blair, Nebraska, HunTel's products and services, which include 900 associates worldwide, also provide business forms, portable concrete mixing equipment, professional staff augmentation, communication engineering, energy billing, customer care software, software development and service bureau administration.
Hugh and his wife, Jane, have two children: Karen Aman and Bryce.
Richard and his wife, Janyce, have five children: David, Daniel, Nathan, Jay and Greg.
Joe R. Seacrest
Joe R. Seacrest
Joe R. Seacrest – Lincoln Journal
Born into a family of newspaper writers and editors, Joe R. Seacrest aided the growth and development of four daily newspapers in Nebraska. He believed newspaper publishers should maintain active roles in community affairs.
He started his career at the Lincoln Journal in 1946, working as a carrier, reporter, copy editor, editorial page editor and associate editor before becoming managing editor in 1958 and editor in 1962, a position he held until his retirement in 1986. Among the many issues he championed, Seacrest believed in good streets, good highways and good planning for roads. His influence branched beyond the Lincoln area. He passionately supported Nebraska's road system and the Game and Parks Commission Foundation.
He also helped organize Media of Nebraska to represent newspapers, radio and television interests on matter of First Amendment issues, open meetings and public records. His dedication to fostering freedom of the press earned him the Nebraska Press Association Master-Editor Publisher Award in 1984, and he became a member of the Nebraska Press Association Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1987.
Seacrest and his wife, Beatrice, have five children: Kent, Gary, Eric, Theodore and Shawn.
Charles Durham – HDR, Inc.
Charles Durham built HDR, Inc. as a nationwide architectural and engineering company. He also built other companies including Continental Care Center, two Illinois banks and one independent bank in Omaha and made many other investments in Nebraska businesses. Born in Chicago, Durham followed other family members into the engineering field, eventually obtaining three engineering degrees from Iowa State University.
After beginning with his wife's father's architectural firm, he built HDR into an international giant. HDR projects around the state include Nebraska Methodist Hospital, the Hastings Sewage Treatment Plant, the Omaha Federal Building and many of the Strategic Air Command/Offutt Air Force Base facilities. Durham served as the chairman of the Durham Resource, where he actively involved himself in the business and community.
A strong supporter of both the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he provided substantial time and funds to the Omaha community, such as the Durham Western Heritage Museum, Henry Doorly Zoo, Boy Scouts, the Carillon on the UNO campus and many others.
He and his wife, Marge, have four children: Sunny, Steve, Lynne and Debra.
Margaret Robinson – Norfolk Iron and Metal Co.
Margaret Robinson retired as chairman of the board of Norfolk Iron and Metal Co. in Norfolk, Nebraska. Robinson accepted a leadership role when her husband, Arnold, died unexpectedly in 1974. Under her leadership, Norfolk Iron and Metal grew from a small salvage and metal company to a regional leader in steel distribution with her son, Richard, as the third generation of leadership. Norfolk Iron grew to serve a 10-state area from three locations and a fleet of more than 100 trucks.
Under her leadership, the firm won the national Small Business of the Year Award in 1979, just five years after she started full-time duties at Norfolk Iron and Metal. She credits key employees and their talents for the firm's success.
A strong proponent of education at all levels, Robinson served on the Norfolk School Board for 14 years. She became the first woman elected to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in 1982 and served until 1994.
Despite running a family business, raising a family and taking a leadership role in Nebraska's growth in higher education, Robinson engaged in local civic and charitable activities. She served on the board of the NEBRASKAland Foundation, Nebraska Council of Economic Education, the Norfolk Family YMCA and Governor's Conference on Small Business. In addition, she served for six years on the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors, one of the first women to do so.
Robinson had four children: Gwen, Barbara, Dianne and Richard.
Paul Mohr – Ideal Linen
Paul Mohr, one of the best hitters in the Cleveland Indians minor league organization in the late 1950s, looked forward to a promising career in professional baseball ahead of him. However, his father, who founded Ideal Laundry, needed assistance and so he moved back to Scottsbluff to learn the business.
Ideal Linen covers the Nebraska panhandle and eastern Wyoming, and expanded to include janitorial products and services, paper products, uniform supply services and commercial cleaning products. A business starting with one truck and 20 employees, now includes more than 30 delivery trucks and 120 employees.
A strong proponent of growth and development in western Nebraska, Mohr served on the State Highway Commission and numerous local organizations. He taught Sunday school and served on the board of the YMCA, local banks and was actively involved in the Scottsbluff Rotary Club, United Way and Centennial Celebration.
He and his wife, Beverly, have two children: Paul Jr. and Mindy.
Fred Hawkins, Sr.
Fred Hawkins, Sr.
Fred Hawkins Sr. – Hawkins Construction Company
In 1923, Fred Hawkins Sr. worked as a water boy for 25 cents a day as his father's construction company built Memorial Stadium. He later played varsity football in the stadium for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and earned a degree in architectural engineering.
By the time he graduated, Hawkins worked as a general laborer, truck driver, heavy equipment operator, carpenter, ironworker and bricklayer, learning the business from the ground up. In 1960, he founded Hawkins Construction Company with his father. Among the major construction jobs completed by Hawkins Construction include the Omaha City-County Building, the Telephone Building at 13th and Douglas and 20th and Douglas, the Eppley Airfield terminal, parking garage and runways, the Kiewit Conference Center and the Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library and School of Law buildings at Creighton University.
Under Hawkins’s leadership, the company became one of the nation’s 400 largest buildings contractors and ranks among the top 200 equipment fleet owners in the U.S. Hawkins was named the University of Nebraska Entrepreneur of the Year in 1997.
Fred and his wife, Tish, have three children: Fred Jr., Kim and Susan.
Charles “Chuck” Sand – Sand Livestock Systems, Inc.
Charles "Chuck" Sand founded Sand Livestock Systems, Inc. in 1969 and revolutionized the pork industry throughout the world. Sand acts as the world's largest domestic and international builder of swine product facilities. In 1979, Sand became the first company to build modern swine productions systems in the People's Republic of China and added more than 23 additional units since that time.
Sand Livestock produces more than one million pigs worldwide each year. Locally, Sand employs more than 400 Nebraskans in his various companies and continues to expand his operations.
The son of a grocer in Lindsay, Nebraska, Sand began a small construction business in the mid-60s. After taking over a farm building dealership in Columbus, Nebraska, he began putting up the first of their swine confinements units.
Sand actively participated in economic development activities in the Columbus area and throughout Nebraska, and contributes generously to civic, religious and political organizations.
He and his wife, Carol, have three children: Mike, Michelle and Nicole.
Harriet Petersen Fort
Harriet Petersen Fort
Harriet Petersen Fort – Petersen Manufacturing
Harriet Petersen Fort co-founded, co-owned and served as a senior officer of Petersen Manufacturing. Along with her brothers, the family perfected their father's tool, the Vise Grip, into one of the best-known tools in the world.
Starting at his blacksmith shop in Dewitt, Nebraska, Bill Petersen invented and patented the unique wrench in 1924. Petersen Manufacturing, a partnership, was established in 1934 and the business took off.
Petersen Fort served as senior vice president in charge of finance and marketing, and developed sales internationally. Under her guidance, the company expanded into the international market with sales of approximately $30 million at the time of their acquisition by American Tool Company.
Dale LeBaron – Lincoln Plating Company
Dale LeBaron served as chairman of the board of Lincoln Plating Company, a firm he started and grew into one of the Midwest's leading finishing companies. Working in a heavy industry fought with potential waste issue and heavily regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, LeBaron advanced the firm ahead of current regulations that paid dividends down the road.
He believed totally in his business and constantly worked to improve Lincoln Plating. Today the firm acts as the exclusive furnisher for chromed Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts.
LeBaron received the Nebraska Small Businessman of the Year Award in 1981 and actively participated in numerous business organizations to promote small business. He held many leadership positions in both professional and civic organizations as well as being a foster parent to 35 children in his home. Always willing to help employees and his community, LeBaron hired or worked with nearly 500 parolees on work releases. A strong proponent of the free enterprise system, he supported programs to help train youth, such as Junior Achievement.
He and his wife, Joanne, have four children: Marc, Marcia, RoseMary and Mike.
Jack Swartz – Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry
In 1982, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors hired Jack Swartz as president. He previously served in a similar capacity in Kansas and brought new direction and growth to the Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry (NACI). Swartz began his lifelong passion for horseracing as a jockey for his father's thoroughbreds. He worked briefly in his family’s grain business before becoming executive director of the Jaycees. He worked for the Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry for 13 years before coming to Nebraska in 1982.
Born in Dodge City, Jack began his lifelong passion for horseracing as a jockey
for his father's thoroughbreds. He worked briefly in the family grain business before
he began duties as executive director of the Jaycees. He worked 13 years for the
Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry before coming to Nebraska in 1982.
Swartz’s organizational management skills flourished in the company. By incorporating a strong outreach to members via the statewide legislative forums and chamber conference calls during unicameral sessions, inaugurating a major annual meeting and legislative caucus for all members, representing the Nebraska business community before state and federal governments and employing a member-driven professional staff, Swartz helped bring the organization to the largest business association in the state. Attention to details and working closely with members and public officials paid long-term dividends. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry today is one of the most respected organizations in governmental affairs.
He and his wife, Nadine, have four children: Dana, Sean, Jay and Tim.
B. Keith Heuermann
B. Keith Heuermann
B. Keith Heuermann – B.K. Heuermann’s Exclusive Popping Corn
Born and raised on a dryland farm near Phillips, Nebraska, Keith Heuermann attended the College of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. While in college, he worked for Dr. Louis Camp, an accomplished breeder of hybrid seed corn. Heuermann saw the potential for hybrid seed on his father's Hamilton County farm, so he wrote home to ask for $12 to purchase the foundation seed. He began production in 1943. As Heuermann's successful hybrids increased, yields caught the neighbors' attention and he began producing hybrid seed for them.
As the demand for hybrid seed grew, Heuermann expanded production in 1956. He developed a single-cross hybrid bringing even more success. He started Prairie Valley Hybrids, which also developed sorghum, wheat and soybean hybrids. In 1978, he sold the business to Stauffer Chemical (now Novartis Seed, Inc.).
Keeping a strong interest in hybrid corn, Heuermann experimented with developing popping in 1982. Marketed nationally, B.K. Heuermann's Exclusive Popping Corn reaches as far as Argentina and when it appeared on the QVC Shopping Network, it sold out its first shipment.
Heuermann and his wife, Norma Faye, have four children.
A.F. "Tony" Raimondo
A.F. "Tony" Raimondo
A.F. “Tony” Raimondo – Behlen Manufacturing
The son of a Buffalo, New York steelworker, Tony Raimondo worked in manufacturing his entire adult life. A graduate of Michigan Technological University and the University of Rochester, he worked for General Motors, Moog and Sperry Corp. before moving to Nebraska in 1982 as general manager of Behlen Manufacturing, a family-owned agricultural supply company. He began a new, people-oriented program, which helped increase sales for grain bins.
The next year, the federal government ended the subsidization of grain storage, replacing those subsidies with the Payment-in-Kind (PIK) program that paid farmers to keep land idle. Behlen's business dropped 50 percent and the Wickes Corporation wanted to sell off the assets. Tony and his partners, Dick Casey, Bob Theilen and Steve McGill, began a leveraged buy-out of Behlen in 1984.
Having already decertified the union, Behlen began as a new company utilizing profits sharing, incentives and eliminating time clocks to grow the firm. Raimondo implemented changing products, exploring new markets, diversification and proceeding on a path of slow growth and steady profitability. By 1994, the turnaround was obvious with Behlen making more than $5 million in profits on $108 million in sales.
Raimondo served as chairman of the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors, the Nebraska Economics Development Commission, and director of the National Association of Manufacturers.
He and his wife, Jeanne, have four children.
Peter Kiewit – Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc.
Peter Kiewit's father, a Dutch immigrant bricklayer, founded Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc. in Omaha in 1884. Under Kiewit's leadership, the local construction company became one of the world's largest construction and mining enterprises. Assuming control in 1939, Kiewit guided his company as it built canals, dams and power plants for the Public Works Administration. War led to a switch to munitions plants and the beginning of interstate road construction. Eventually, the firm invested in coal mining and other business ventures Kiewit learned about during the contracting work.
A strong supporter of community activities and higher education, Kiewit gave or pledged $20 million to charitable and civic causes until his death in 1979. The Peter Kiewit Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in the country and the largest in Nebraska.
James Stuart – Stuart Investment Company
James Stuart attended Lincoln High and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1940. Shortly after beginning his career, he served in World War II as an infantry company commander. He returned to Lincoln to begin building on the family business of his father and grandfather.
Stuart began his business career with Stuart Investment Company located in the Smart Building. Often called Lincoln’s first skyscraper, the Start Building was built by his father, Charles, in 1928. Stuart worked in property and casualty insurance, real estate development, radio broadcasting, outdoor signs and banking. He was a member of the board of directors of First Commerce Bancshares of Lincoln and National Bank of Commerce.
One of the original radio stations owned by Stuart was Lincoln's KFOR. In 1948, he originated Operation Santa Claus through KFOR, which still continues today. Stuart also gifted a portion of the Stuart Building to the University of Nebraska Foundation in 1977, with the remainder of the building gifted to the Lincoln Foundation in 1985.
He has been honored by and served on many civic charitable and educational organizations including, the Lincoln School Board, University of Nebraska Foundation, Nebraska Games and Parks Foundation, and Lincoln Foundation.
He and his wife, Helen, had three children.
Willis Strauss – InterNoth
Willis Strauss, a legend in Omaha business circles, possessed a management style and commitment to civic progress that inspired many Nebraskans. He retired as chairman of InterNorth (Northern Natural Gas Company) in 1984. After serving in World War II and obtaining an engineering degree from Iowa State University, Strauss moved back to his hometown of Omaha, beginning his career with the firm in 1948 as an engineering department clerk.
Promoted into many leadership positions, he became chairman, CEO and president in 1966. Under his leadership, the company increased its revenues from $308 million in 1966 to nearly $5 billion in 1983.
A strong supporter of community activities and higher education, Strauss served on the boards of Creighton University and Hastings College and the foundations at the University of Nebraska and Iowa State University. He served as the chairman of the citizens commission for the Study of Higher Education during Gov. Robert Kerrey's term. He and his wife, Janet, were honored by having the University of Nebraska at Omaha Performing Arts Center named after them.
A founding member of the Joslyn Art Museum Board of Governors, Straus was a governor of Ak-Sar-Ben and named the United Way Citizen of the Year in 1981. Post-retirement, he worked on economic development projects in Omaha such as the SAC Museum and University of Nebraska at Omaha Information Science and Technology Center.
He and Janet have two daughters.
Nathan J. Gold
Nathan J. Gold
Nathan Gold – Gold and Company
Born in Hampton, Iowa, in 1894, Nathan Gold moved with his family to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1902. His father started a dry-good business and Gold attended Lincoln High School, Lincoln Business College and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, while also working for his father. The business, Gold and Company, grew to be Lincoln's retail landmark operating until 1964. Gold actively participated in the business and economic development for the city and state.
In 1962, Governor Frank Morrison appointed Gold as special council for the Nebraska Economic Development Division, where he traveled across the nation to spread Nebraska’s potential to other industries. Gold received Nebraska’s highest service honor, the Nebraska Builder Award, in 1966 for his work in establishment and operations of the Nebraska Resource Foundation. He served as one of the organizers of the Lincoln Community Chest and the Urban League Center.
Gold served on the board of directors and as president in 1959 for the Retail Merchants Association. He was nationally recognized by receiving the gold medal of the National Merchants Association, the highest award in the retail industry. He strongly supported youth activities and received many awards of appreciation for his longstanding efforts towards 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers of America and Future Homemakers of America.
Gold married Evelyn Baum in 1922 and lived in Lincoln until his death in 1970. They had two children: Louise Levitt and William Gold III.
Herman Cain – Pillsbury Co.
Raised in Atlanta as one of two sons of a chauffeur and domestic worker, Herman Cain attended Morehouse College and earned a graduate degree from Purdue University. After working for the Department of the Navy, he worked at Coca-Cola where his father, Luther Cain, was a chauffeur. Not long after, he joined the Pillsbury Co., and was named vice president of systems and service in a few years.
Pillsbury ran a fast-track program for its Burger King subsidiary. Cain signed on and dropped the prestige of having a vice president's title and salary to broil burgers so he could progress through management. By the time he was 40-years-old, Pillsbury approached Cain to become president of Godfather’s Pizza, an ailing subsidiary of the company, where he turned performance around in less than 18 months. Two years later, he and Ron Gartlan formed a partnership and bought Godfather’s Pizza.
As the volunteer chairman of the National Restaurant Association, he involved himself in debating the Clinton Health Care Plan. These efforts propelled him into his next challenge – president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association.
Cain and his wife, Gloria, have two children: Melanie and Vincent.
Kenneth L. Morrison
Kenneth L. Morrison
Kenneth L. Morrison – Morrison Enterprises
Kenneth L. Morrison, born in Roxbury, Kansas, traded farm commodities and developed agricultural properties at an early age. He attended McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas, and then moved to Hastings, Nebraska, in 1947.
Morrison and his family owned and operated Morrison Enterprises of Hastings, where he served as managing partner. He also acted as a pioneer in the dehydration, pelleting and marketing of alfalfa in Nebraska.
A worldwide company, Morrison Enterprises operates a fully integrated shrimp production business in Ecuador, as well as commercial fishing boat construction in Chile. The business includes grain storage and farmland in Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana for the production of cotton, soybeans and feed grains. The company also engages in large-scale livestock production and feeding with other Nebraska partners.
Morrison served as a trustee for the University of Nebraska Foundation and a member of the board of directors for Hastings College. He received the University of Nebraska Builder Award and the Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honors recognized him as a Leader of Business and Industry.
He and his wife, Marjorie, had one daughter, Susan Roberts, also actively involved in the family business.
Ernst Lied – Lied Performing Arts Center
Across Nebraska, a number of facilities bearing the name, Lied, serve as a testament to Ernst Lied, who made a fortune in real estate and began a charitable foundation with the money he made.
Lied followed his father's footsteps as an Omaha car dealer, utilizing World War II airplane parts contracts to stay in business when rationing nearly shut down his dealership. After the war, his Buick dealership prospered, becoming the third largest dealership in the nation. Another partnership began as well. Christian Hixon, who worked at Lied's dealership since 1944, became his secretary, assuming accounting duties.
In the 1950s, Lied identified the potential for land development in Las Vegas and determined that would be the next boom. He sold the car dealership, leased his Omaha property and moved to Las Vegas. Hixon joined as his assistant in 1960.
Lied had no living relatives and created his foundation trust in 1972, requiring the Lied Family name must be displayed on projects funded by the foundation and all foundation assets be given away by 2010.
Among the many gifts to Nebraska include the Henry Doorly Zoo Lied Jungle, the Lied Performance Center in Lincoln, the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City, and the IMAX Theater in Hastings.
Alice Dittman – Cornhusker Bank
The daughter of two bankers, Alice Dittman naturally succeeded in her position as chairman of the board of Cornhusker Bank of Lincoln. She earned a master’s degree in finance from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a degree from Harvard. She also graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin.
Her banking career began with her family’s bank, Farmers State Bank of Davey, Nebraska, where Dittman worked as a cashier. She also worked at banks in Central City, Nebraska, and Richmond, Missouri, before returning to Nebraska. In 1964, the Farmers State Bank moved to Lincoln, becoming Cornhusker Bank. Alice became president, CEO and secretary of Cornhusker Bank in 1975.
A strong believer in community involvement, Dittman and her employees actively participated in many Lincoln organizations ranging from PTAs, Girl Scout Council, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Bryan Memorial Hospital and University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She serves as a pioneer for Nebraska women in business, becoming the first female chair of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in 1988, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association in 1993 and first woman chairman of the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors in 1992.
She has three children: Dawn, John and Doug.
Rose Blumkin – Nebraska Furniture Mart
Rose Blumkin founded Nebraska Furniture Mart, one of the largest stores in the country. Referred to often as Mrs. B, Blumkin believed in three cardinal principles: sell cheap, tell the truth and give special attention to customers.
She began working in her mother's store in Russia when she was six years old. She married Isadore Blumkin and planned to immigrate to America. While Isadore left in 1914, Blumkin began her journey in 1917 in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
They moved to Omaha and after working in clothing stores and a second-hand furniture store, Blumkin opened the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1937. Most of her family, whom she helped bring to America, joined her. Weathering fierce competition from other furniture stores and manufactures, lawsuits, a change in location and the 1975 Omaha tornado, her determination helped her succeed.
In 1983, Omaha investor Warren Buffett bought a majority of stock in the company. Without formal education or business training, she produced a business success.
Virgil Froehlich – Affiliated Foods
Virgil Froehlich started working for Affiliated Foods in Norfolk, Nebraska, the day after his high school graduation. Fifty years later and a lifetime of change in the food industry, Froehlich served as president and general manager of the company.
Affiliated Foods is a mammoth operation, serving 550 member grocers in the eight-state area and records an annual sales volume of $500 million. About 500 full and part-time employees work at the Norfolk warehouse facility where more than 20,000 varieties of foods and grocery items are shipped daily to retail stores.
Norfolk profited from Froehlich's success. He served on the city council, the planning commission, PTA, hospital board, the local chamber of commerce, the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board and many other community and state groups. He initiated the Affiliated Reclamation Center, which salvages food and other products, then sells at low prices to food banks and other pantries from Norfolk to Omaha, as well as provides meaningful employment to the area's mentally handicapped citizens.
He and his wife, Betty Jane, have 10 children.
George P. Abel
George Abel – NEBCO
George Abel, born in Boulder, Colorado, began a lifelong career in the construction business by helping his father, founder of one of the state's oldest paving companies, as a water boy on city paving projects.
Attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Abel participated as a student member of the Athletic Board of Control and received the Big Six Athletic Scholarship Award. One of the Nebraska's full-time football greats, Abel, a guard, won all Big Six honors and played in the Rose Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game and the College All-Star Game before joining the U.S. Army in 1942.
Upon his discharge, he assumed an active role in the Abel family business. Under his leadership, NEBCO became a broadly diversified company with interests in building materials, construction, banking, insurance, railroading, farming, ranching, warehousing and real estate. NEBCO is one of Nebraska's largest privately-owned employers with operations throughout the state.
Abel served the state in many capacities, such as president of the Nebraska Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, a trustee of the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation and as organizer and member of the executive committee of FirsTier Financial, Inc.
He and his wife, Elizabeth Nichols, had two sons, John and James, both involved in the family enterprises.
Harold Warp – Pioneer Village
Harold Warp founded Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, in 1948, when he bought his old schoolhouse. He wanted to collect items to tell the story of growth on the Great Plains and across the United States.
Warp, born and raised in a sod house near Minden, began inventing products as a teenager. With $800 in savings, he left for Chicago in 1924 with his patent for Flex-O-Glass, where he and his two brothers began production. He established a network of dealers, which grew to 3,000 across the country. A pioneer in advertising and aviation, Warp built his company's growth on advertising and he used his first airplane, a Curtiss JN-4D, to fly to dealers and distribute Flex-O-Glass samples from the air. A holder of more than 30 patents in plastics and a stall-speed indicator for airplanes, Warp's record as an inventor and businessman displayed a major influence on agricultural growth and in the development of the plastic industry.
Despite his factory location in Chicago and his worldwide travels, Warp still called Minden home. In 1979, Warp received the Haratio Alger Award by the late Norman Vincent Peale. Reserved for those who not only have a rag to riches story, the honor recognizes those who have used their success to enrich others.
Daniel W. Gardner
Dan Gardner – M.G. Waldbaum Company
Dan Gardner, born in New York City, served in World War II and graduated from Syracuse University in 1948. On vacation in 1951, he visited Nebraska and Dr. Milton Waldbaum, who was just beginning his egg production business. Gardner moved to Wakefield, Nebraska, in 1952 to run the company, while Waldbaum began medical studies in Omaha.
Beginning with only 25 employees, the M.G. Waldbaum Company grew to employ nearly 900 people in Nebraska. Starting as a regional wholesaler of locally produced eggs, the company eventually produced their own eggs and developed egg products for the entire food industry. In addition to shell eggs, Waldbaum's manufactured more than 100 million pounds of egg products each year, including frozen, dried, liquid and hard-cooked for food services and industrial users.
Gardner's leadership in developing complete control of production served as a key component to the company. Waldbaum owned and operated five feed mills, pullet farms, laying farms and processing facilities in Wakefield and Bloomfield, Nebraska. Actively involved in the egg and poultry business, he served on the board of institutions such as the Poultry and Egg Institute of America, the Egg Clearinghouse, America Egg Board and the United Egg Producers Board, which named him Industry Man of the Year in 1985.
Gardner and his wife, Jeanne, and their children act as major public servants and philanthropists for Wakefield and northeastern Nebraska.
Walter Scott, Jr.
Walter Scott Jr. – Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc.
Walter Scott Jr. born in Omaha, Nebraska, graduated with an engineering degree from Colorado State University. He followed his father's footsteps as an engineer, beginning his career at Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc. in 1953.
Started more than a hundred years ago by a Dutch immigrant bricklayer, Peter Kiewit Sons expanded under the late Peter Kiewit Sr. into a giant construction firm building canals, dams and power plants for the Public Works Administration. Later, the company built munitions plants and interstate highways. Headquartered in Omaha, the company stays close to its core construction business, which produces 80 percent of the firm's revenues. Scott worked in many roles and became chairman of the company in 1979. Scott guided the company into outside investment in telecommunications and private financing of infrastructure projects, utilizing the talents of many long-term employees.
Scott and his wife, Suzanne, donate their time to Omaha and Nebraska, particularly the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Joslyn Art Museum. He served as president of the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America and as the director of Creighton University, the SAC Museum Memorial Society, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Boys Club Omaha, the University of Nebraska Foundation, Omaha Junior Achievement, United Way of Omaha, Hastings College and many other civic and philanthropic posts. He also received the University of Nebraska Builder's Award.
Scott and Suzanne have three children: Karen Dixon, Sandra Parker and Amy Walter Scott.
Duane W. Acklie
Duane W. Acklie
Duane Acklie – Crete Carrier Corporation
Duane Acklie founded Crete Carrier Corporation. He served as chairman of Shaffer Trucking, Inc.; Sunflower Carriers, Inc.; and HTL Truck Line, Inc.; and president of LRC, Inc. While under the same ownership, Crete Carrier and its sisters companies are independently operated and comprise one of the largest privately-held carrier networks in the United States.
A native of Madison, Nebraska, Acklie graduated from Norfolk Junior College before attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where he earned a bachelor of science and law degree. He served as a U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Officer in Germany. After returning to the U.S., he practiced law becoming very involved in transportation law, which helped Crete Carriers determine its name in 1967. Five years later, he and his wife, Phyllis, purchased the company. Crete Carriers Corporation operates a state-of-the-art truck servicing facility, as well as all data processing and satellite communications to its rigs across the continent from its headquarters in Lincoln.
A member of many civic and state boards and organizations, Acklie served as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1988. He was also a commissioner of the Nebraska State Highway Commission.
The Acklies had three children: Dodie Nakajima, Laura Schumacher and Holly Ostergard.
Richard, and James Cabela
James Cabela (left)
Richard N. Cabela (right)
Richard and James Cabela – Cabela’s
Richard “Dick” and James “Jim” Cabela, avid outdoorsmen who loved hunting, fishing and camping, founded Cabela’s. While working in his father's Chappell furniture store in 1961, Dick decided to make a profit by selling fishing flies. Drafted on the kitchen table, a thriving mail order and retail sporting goods business with more than 1,000 employees began. In 1962, they realized their kitchen table business was growing fast enough to need full-time attention. Dick persuaded his younger brother, Jim, into leaving the banking business in Denver and joining the family enterprise.
Jim ran the day-to-day operations of the young company in Chappell, while Dick focused on developing business contracts on the road. Eventually, the company outgrew a number of locations in Chappell and the volume of the mail orders necessitated a move to a 50,000-square-foot John Deere building in Sidney, Nebraska. Within 10 years, they outgrew the Sidney building and moved to old Sioux Ordinance Depot west of Sidney. A second retail outlet was opened in Kearney in 1986. The Cabela brothers stressed a commitment to quality products, value, service and guaranteed customer satisfaction to outdoor enthusiasts throughout the world.
Dick and his wife, Mary, had nine children. Jim, who is passionate about the conservation and restoration of wildlife habitat, worked with youth to respect the environment.
V.J. Skutt – Mutual of Omaha
V.J. Skutt, born in Deadwood, South Dakota, entered Omaha on a cattle train to attend Creighton University. He joined the legal department at Mutual of Omaha in 1924 after earning a law degree at Creighton. Appointed to the legal counsel for the company's southwest division in Dallas in 1926, he became a director and executive vice president in 1947 and president in 1949. Named chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1953, Skutt served until his son, Thomas, succeeded him as CEO in 1986.
For 33 years, Skutt positioned Mutual of Omaha as one of the largest health insurance providers in the world. As president, annual sales hit $76 million and when he retired in 1987, premium sales exceeded $2.37 billion. To assure the highest standard of professional selling, Skutt established a unique training program for the company's sales.
Skutt served on many boards and committees throughout his career. He established the Mutual of Omaha Criss Award to recognize contributions in the fields of health, safety and/or the public welfare. His awards and honors include honorary degrees, Distinguished NEBRASKAlander in 1984, and founding president and former chairman of the Nebraska Chapter of National Wildlife Federation. The Omaha Archdiocese honored Skutt and his wife by naming the community's Catholic high school V.J. and Angela Skutt High School.
The Skutts had a son, Thomas, and daughter, Sally Desmond.
Kenneth L. Wortman
Kenneth L. Wortman
Ken Wortman – Wortman Enterprise
Ken Wortman, known for his skills as an entrepreneur and ambassador for his community and the state of Nebraska, served as president of Wortman Enterprise. He oversaw business operations of automobile dealerships, motels, residential and commercial construction company, and a petroleum marketing business.
Born in Neligh, Nebraska, he purchased Aurora Ford in 1948, combining natural business ability with an interest in mechanical things. This launched him into a diverse range of business interests.
Throughout his career, he participated in many civic affairs. Instrumental in ensuring quality health care facilities and service to his community, he worked diligently in establishing area vocational technical schools. A leader in industrial recruitment for his community and for the state, Wortman served as president of the Nebraska Diplomats, an organization which honored him as an Ambassador Plenipotentiary.
He and his wife, Marilyn, had two children: Jayne Mann and Brian Wortman.
Clifton K. Hillegass
Clifton K. Hillegass
Clifton K. Hillegass – CliffsNotes, Inc.
Clifton K. Hillegass founded CliffsNotes, Inc., a Lincoln-based publisher of literary study guide materials. Under his direction, the company established a reputation for excellence and success based on long-held business principles.
Born in Rising City, Nebraska, Hillegass carried newspapers and sold magazines to earn money for college. He graduated in 1937 from Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska, and received a graduate assistantship at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to pursue studies in physics and geology. An avid reader, Hillegass landed a job at Long's College Bookstore (now the Nebraska Bookstore) as a graduate student where he furthered his knowledge of the book business. After serving in the U.S. Army Corps as a meteorologist during World War II, he resumed working for the Nebraska Book Company in its wholesale division. He worked closely with their operations and getting to know their needs as retailers.
In 1958, working from the basement of his home, Hillegass established CliffsNotes, Inc. The company produced study guides, becoming a reference for countless students worldwide. There are CliffsNotes for more than 200 literary classics and are sold in approximately 7,000 retail outlets in the U.S. and abroad.
Cliff Hillegass and his wife, Mary, had five children: James, Linda, Diane Nolan, Kimberly M. Newton and Patrick J. Ebel.
Robert L. Peterson
Robert L. Peterson
Robert L. Peterson – IBP, Inc.
Robert L. Peterson, president and chief executive officer of IBP, Inc. of Dakota City, Nebraska, led his company through years of growth to become one of the largest and most successful companies in the meat packing industry.
Born in Hartington, Nebraska, Peterson lived in Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Active in the livestock and meat processing industry, he acted as one of IBP's original cattle buyers when the company began operations at its first plant in Denison, Iowa, in 1961.
During the 1960s, Peterson advanced through the management ranks before founding his own company, Madison Foods in Madison, Nebraska. He rejoined IBP in 1976, when Madison Foods was acquired by IBP through a stock transaction and named president of the company in 1977.
Under Peterson's leadership, IBP experienced tremendous growth. He led the company through significant expansion, adding new beef plants and pork facilities, increasing both employees and sales. The company served as the nation's largest producer of fresh beef, pork and related allied products.
Peterson received numerous honors during his career, including being named “Best Chief Executive in the Meat Industry” in 1981 by the Wall Street Transcript. In 1989, BEEF magazine selected him as one of 25 individuals who have made a major contribution to the beef cattle industry. He received the Ak-Sar-Ben Agricultural Achievement Award for his contributions to the beef industry, and the South Sioux Development Corporation of South Sioux City, Nebraska, named him Developer of the Year in 1984.
He and his wife, Ginny, had two children: Mark and Susan Peterson.
Thomas Creigh, Jr.
Thomas Creigh, Jr.
Thomas Creigh Jr. – KN Energy
Thomas Creigh Jr. of Hastings, Nebraska, served as chairman emeritus of the board of directors of KN Energy, Inc. Beginning his career with KN as a construction inspector in 1936, he served in a variety of capacities including assistant to the president, and chief engineer and vice president of transmissions and gas supply.
A Chicago native, he graduated from Wabash College in 1933. He served as a chairman of Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1966 and of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education in 1968. He served on the board of trustees of Hastings College and the University of Nebraska Foundation. He was also a member of the board of the Nebraska Art Collection, and Nebraska State Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and the Nebraska State Historical Society.
Creigh and his wife, Dorothy, had four children: Mary Elizabeth Pfeil of Philadelphia; Thomas II and John, both of Hastings; and James of Washington, D.C.
Dr. Lewis Harris
Dr. Lewis Harris
Dr. Lewis Harris – Harris Laboratories
Dr. Lewis Harris began Harris Laboratories in the summer of 1933. Over the next 50 years, his business idea grew to one of the largest laboratories of its kind in the nation with more than 500 employees worldwide. It is also recognized as one of the industry's most respected scientific testing and research laboratories.
Harris played a major role in the growth of Lincoln's Norden Laboratories, where he served as president from 1959 to 1969. After the SmithKline Corporation acquired Norden, Harris joined the SmithKline management team, serving as chairman of the board for three years.
Harris served on numerous civic and charitable organizations including many years as a trustee to the University of Nebraska Foundation, with two Nebraska lecture series established in his name. He served as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1969 to 1970. Harris continued to be actively involved at Harris Laboratories and served as chairman emeritus.
He and his wife, Toni, had two children: Ron, president of Harris Laboratories, and Bob, chairman of the board of Harris Laboratories.
Robert B. Daugherty
Robert B. Daugherty
Robert B. Daugherty – Valmont Industries
Robert B. Daugherty, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, served as chairman of the board of Valmont Industries, Inc., in Valley, Nebraska. A graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, he served as a captain of the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. After returning to civilian life in 1946, he co-founded Valley Manufacturing Company, a small manufacturer of farm elevators. He helped build Valmont into a major worldwide producer and supplier of outdoor lighting and traffic signal poles, electric transmission and substation structures, and communications towers. Valmont maintains approximately 39 percent of ValCom, Inc., a major distributor of microcomputer products and services, and is the leading producer of mechanized irrigation systems for worldwide agricultural markets.
Beyond his many achievements in the business sector, Daugherty involved himself in civic activities and philanthropy. He served as chairman of the ConAgra, Inc. executive committee and a director for KN Energy, Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc. and FirsTier Financial, Inc. Daugherty also was a member of the Peter Kiewit Foundation, a director of Creighton University and Clarkson Hospital, and a trustee of Hastings College. He served as chairman of the board of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1967.
Earl T. Luff
Earl T. Luff
Earl T. Luff – The Lincoln Steel Works Company
Earl T. Luff graduated with a civil engineering degree from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1928. In 1935, he earned the titles of secretary and general manager of The Lincoln Steel Works Company. In 1947, the company offered stock to employees and Luff purchased majority interest in the company. He served as president until 1972 and became chairman of the board of Lincoln/Northland, Inc. until his retirement in 1984.
Luff served as director of the First National Bank & Trust Co. in Lincoln and a member of the advisory board for the Commercial Federal Savings and Loan Association. He served as president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in 1953 and chairman of the Association Industries of Nebraska (a forerunner of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry) in 1944-45 and in 1957-59. Luff helped found the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, serving as chairman from 1963 to 1965.
Named Nebraska Business and Industry Man of the Year in 1959, he received the Nebraska Diplomat of the Year Award in 1981 and was the first recipient of the Private Enterprise Award from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He organized a series of meetings in Nebraska about ethics in business in 1977 and 1978, and served as chairman of the Governor's Task Force for Government Improvements from 1980 to 1982.
Luff and his wife, Florence, had two children: Earleen and Lyall E. Luff.
Edwin J. Loutzenheiser, Jr.
Edwin J. Loutzenheiser, Jr.
Edwin J. Loutzenheiser Jr. – Great Plains Container Inc.
Edwin J. Loutzenheiser Jr. served as chairman and CEO of Great Plains Container, Inc. of Hastings, Nebraska. Great Plains, founded by Loutzenheiser in July of 1956, manufactures folding cartons and corrugated boxes. After 30 years, the company employed more than 165 people in a 165,000-square-foot modern plant operation. Over the past four decades, Loutzenheiser, a Gothenburg, Nebraska native, formed at least 11 successful companies.
He earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago and both his master’s and doctorate degrees from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. He served as an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve in World War II.
Loutzenheiser's numerous civic activities include the Hastings Board of Public Works, district governor of Rotary International, president and secretary of the Hastings Rotary Club, president of the Nebraska Diplomats, chairman of the board of governors for Central Community College and chairman of the board of trustees of the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. He served as chairman of the board of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1988.
Loutzenheiser and his wife, Cora, had two children: William and Richard, and also raised four foster daughters.
Harry P. Seward, Jr.
Harry P. Seward, Jr.
Harry P. Seward Jr. – Bankers Life Nebraska
After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, Harry P. Seward Jr. moved to Nebraska to work for Bankers Life Nebraska in 1940. During his 42-year tenure with the company, he worked in several capacities. He served as president in 1969, was named president and chief executive officer in 1973 and elected chairman of the board in 1977.
A native of Missouri, Seward graduated from the University of Missouri in 1939. He earned his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 1960. He served as president of the Lincoln Community Council, a trustee of Westminster Presbyterian Church and president of the Bryan Memorial Hospital Board of Directors. He also served on the Cornhusker Council of Boy Scouts and the Lincoln Foundation. Selected to the board of directors of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1969, he served as chairman in 1972.
Seward and his wife, Franny, had two children: Anne Cordell and Harry P. Seward III.
Robert B. Harris
Robert B. Harris
Robert B. Harris – Harris Laboratories
Robert B. Harris began working at Harris Laboratories when he was 10-years-old, helping clean the glassware and equipment at his father's laboratories. Through the years, Harris held numerous positions with the company including vice president in 1969 and vice chairman in 1974. Since 1977, he served as chairman of the board at Harris, helping expand the company to include research facilities in Nebraska, Arizona and Northern Ireland, and sales offices in the United States, Europe and Japan.
A graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he served on the University of Nebraska Foundation, the Nebraska Wesleyan University Board of Governors and as a trustee of the Nebraska Independent College Foundation.
Named an Outstanding Young Nebraskan in 1978, Harris was recognized as the 1988 Nebraska Small Business Person of the Year by the United States Small Business Administration. He was chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1987, marking the only time in the organization's history where a father and son have both served as chairman. He and his wife, Marilyn L. Harris, Ph.D., had three children: Matt, Ted and Emily.
Virgil R. Eihusen
Virgil R. Eihusen
Virgil R. Eihusen – Chief Industries Inc.
Virgil R. Eihusen, president and chairman of Chief Industries, Inc., started his construction business with one employee in 1952. The principal activity in the beginning involved the construction of single family homes in Grand Island, Nebraska. The business expanded to include the construction of commercial and industrial buildings and farm structures. In 1961, the company started its first manufacturing facility, making steel grain storage tanks for farm and commercial use. Eihusen became head of the company which includes five major divisions operating in eight states and England, employing more than 1,000 people.
Eihusen served on the board of directors of Overland National Bank and the Nebraska Private Industry Council. He served as director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Nebraska Independent College Foundation, and chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1976 and the Nebraska Diplomats in 1982. He served on the Grand Island City Council and the U.S. Small Business Administration named him the Small Businessman of the Year in 1968. In 1973, he received the Diplomat of the Year award from the Nebraska Department of Economics Development for promoting industrial growth in Nebraska. He also served as chairman of the Nebraska Economic Development Commission and of the Economics Development Council for the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Eihusen and his wife, Patty, had three children: daughters Libby and Terri and one son, Bob.
Charles M. Harper
Charles M. Harper – ConAgra
Charles M. “Mike” Harper earned his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1949 and a master of business administration from the University of Chicago in 1950. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. After earning his MBA, Harper worked at General Motors, in methods engineering for five years. In 1955, he joined the Pillsbury Company for 20 years.
In October 1974, Harper joined ConAgra as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Elected a director in September 1975, he served as president and chief executive officer beginning in March 1976. In September 1981, Harper became the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer. During his 16 years at the company, Harper and his management team engineered the company's strong rebound from sizeable losses and a precarious financial position in 1974 to today's position of strength and leadership across the food chain. Under his leadership, ConAgra's sales increased from $600 million to more than $20 billion.
Harper served on the board of directors of Creighton University and the board of governors of Joslyn Art Museum. He served as chairman of the board of governors of Ak-Sar-Ben and was council president of the Mid-America Council for Boy Scouts of America in 1983. He also served as chairman of the board of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in 1979.
Harper is married to his wife, Josie.
Burnham Yates – First National Bank of Lincoln
Burnham Yates graduated from Lincoln High School in 1928 and earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1933. He started his business career with First Boston Corp., serving in the company's New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. In 1937, he joined the investment-banking firm of Weeden & Co. and remained in the firm's Chicago office until joining the Navy in 1942. During World War II, he served in the Pacific and earned the Bronze Star. After being discharged from the Navy, he joined the First National Bank of Lincoln in 1945. Yates was elected chairman of the board in 1969 and remained in that position until he retired in 1976. He retired from the board in 1982, but continued to maintain an office in the FirsTier Bank Building.
During Yates’ long and distinguished business career, he actively supported economic development in Nebraska. He served as the president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Lincoln Chamber Industrial Development Corporation. He was chairman of the advisory committee of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, and proved to be instrumental in the growth and development of First National Lincoln.
Yates and his wife, Mary, had three children: sons Silas Burnham Yates Jr. of East Lansing, Michigan and Willard W. Yates of Alexandria, Virginia, and one daughter, Sharon Ewers of Phoenix, Arizona.