Archives for November 30, 2023

Helping Paint a Bright Future

By Susan Houston Klaus

When Valery Wachter came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the mid-1970s to complete her education, she already had finished two years at the University of Northern Iowa, working toward a teaching degree.

This time, though, she was a nontraditional student. She was married with two children. Wachter wanted to pursue something that had always been a key interest of hers. She took a chance, she said, to earn a degree in art.

It would take eight years for Wachter, a Burnett Society member, to get two years of credit toward her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting. She planned her schedule to be home when her children got out of school. She patiently worked her way through prerequisites and waited for a particular course or instructor she needed to fulfill her requirements.

Wachter’s education included instruction by noted, respected artists that included Dan Howard, Jim Eisentrager and Keith Jacobshagen.

“I felt like I was getting the best of the best when I was in school,” Wachter said.

She nurtured an appreciation for photorealism, challenging herself to work with patterns of light and dark and indulging her love of color.

Wachter received her degree in 1983. Since then, she has built a career as a practicing artist with many one-person shows. Her work is in private collections around the country. She’s served on the board of the MEDICI (Most Esteemed Donors, Intellects, Colleagues and Individuals) friends group and on the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Alumni Board.

Wachter also is a co-founder of the Bryan Health Art Committee and is director of the Bryan Art Gallery. In 2017, her design “Nebraska Wildflowers” was chosen to be included in the public art project Nebraska by Heart, in celebration of Nebraska’s 150th anniversary.

Years after she graduated with her degree, Wachter still remembers how some students struggled with the cost of art supplies or other expenses. And while she felt fortunate to have the necessary funds, she often thought of her classmates.

“When I had some classes with students who were not able to do some things because they didn’t have the money for it, I wondered if they knew that there was a way to apply for funds or support,” she said.

Today, Wachter has established a planned gift through retirement plan assets for studio arts majors in the College of Fine and Performing Arts. She said the goal of her gift is to help students who may not qualify for a major, well-known scholarship but who still need help financially to stay in school and pursue art.

“I know that paying back student loans is quite a burden these days,” Wachter said, “and if you don’t have to apply for a student loan or go into debt for a certain amount, that would be wonderful.”

Providing a Living Legacy

By Susan Houston Klaus

Editor’s note: Before this story was published, Dana Falter’s wife, Pat, sadly passed away. The University of Nebraska Foundation extends its deepest condolences to Dana and his family.


As a kid in Creighton, Nebraska, Dana Falter learned a lot about hard work.

From his time on the football field and basketball court to his job on a dairy farm, getting up at 4 a.m. and working until 5 p.m., he developed a deep-seated work ethic and discipline.

Today, Falter, a Burnett Society member, and his brothers are honoring their hometown with a scholarship fund for business and technology students who attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

The third of eight children, Falter says Creighton, a community of about 1,200 in the northeast part of the state, was a good place to grow up.

“It was a close-knit community, so we had things we could do from the early ages on,” he said.

“For our family, it was really all about sports, which taught us a lot about teamwork. In Creighton, you know, you played every sport. And we did a lot of things together as a family. With eight kids, we could do a lot of things together.”

Sports opened doors. After a year at what later became Norfolk Community College in Norfolk, Falter set his sights on playing football for what was then known as Kearney State College. But after an injury, he learned he wouldn’t be ready for the upcoming season. So, he decided to heal and go out for basketball. He played basketball for three years as a Loper.

Falter was the first in his family to graduate from what’s now UNK. His three brothers also earned their degrees there.

Falter credits the discipline, drive and work ethic he developed in high school for his successful career. He’s been with Union Bank & Trust in Lincoln since 2005, for part of that time as an executive vice president of the wholesale lending area; previously, he spent 15 years with FirsTier Bank (later First Bank and U.S. Bank).

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2017, Falter has been working as a consultant for the organization while also mentoring employees and sitting on the bank’s executive committee.

Living with his new health status, Falter said, “I just decided it was time to slow down.”

But he is still driven to do good for the community of UNK, which taught him so much on and off the court.

Falter, with the support of his three brothers, Rod, Shannon and Todd, is funding the Falter “4” UNK Scholarship. The fund benefits the Creighton, Nebraska, community, as well as others in Knox County. Qualified students must be enrolled in the College of Business and Technology and meet the scholarship requirements.

The fund, which awarded its first scholarship in 2021, supports four students every year. Falter has also made a planned gift through retirement plan assets with the help of the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Falter says he and his brothers wanted to leave a legacy that acknowledges the impact that Kearney  — not only the college but also the campus community, the town and the people  — has had on them.

“I think all of us had great experiences there, not only in our education, but also developing relationships or participating in sports,” he said. “We fell in love with the community. It was just the right size for our family, and it was a steppingstone for all of us.”

Three of the four brothers have a business or technology background, which is why they designated the fund to benefit those students.

Falter says he and his brothers want to show students in the Creighton community how broad the options are in those fields.

“We’re trying to educate people about that,” he said. “When you pursue a degree in the business and technology fields, there are a lot of things you can do with this scholarship.”

Even beyond the financial assistance students receive from the scholarship fund, Falter says he and his brothers want to make a personal connection.

He watches the dean’s list every semester and aims to send the Falter “4” students a note of congratulations. This past spring, the Falter brothers began what they hope will become an annual tradition: having lunch with the scholarship recipients.

“That’s just another way we can touch their lives,” Falter said. “We want to be available, not just financially but also intellectually, if they need us for questions, whether they’re in college or out of college.

“We want them to know that we’re here now and throughout their careers if they have questions, if they’ve got a hurdle to get over, or let’s say they’re getting out into their careers and they’re trying to decide `which job should I take?’ We’d like to be involved as much or as little as they want us to be.”

‘Prepared to Go Out Into the World’

Chase Glover Plants the Seeds for Future Ag Career at NCTA

By Connie White

Chase Glover didn’t think college was for him. He knew he wanted to work in agriculture, but he wasn’t big on school. So, he figured he would go straight into the workforce after graduating from high school in Grand Island, Nebraska.

His plans changed after his high school Future Farmers of America adviser suggested he check out the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA). He traveled to Curtis, Nebraska, and took a tour. What he saw on campus changed Glover’s mind about college and planted the seeds for his future career.

Support the Student Success and Activity Center at NCTA

“My love for NCTA has just grown so much over the past year and a half,” said Glover, who will graduate in May with an Associate of Science degree in agronomy. “I think it’s great that Nebraska has a school dedicated to straight-up agriculture and animal science.”

This fall, 232 students were enrolled in NCTA, a two-year college that is the rural arm of the University of Nebraska System. NCTA leaders seek to increase enrollment to 500 students over the next 10 years to address workforce needs in Nebraska’s agriculture sector. A key piece of that plan involves modernizing facilities on the historic campus in southwest Nebraska to aid in recruiting and retaining more students.

Omaha philanthropists Barbara and Wally Weitz have made a $6 million challenge gift toward a $12 million project to create the Student Success and Activity Center. The project will renovate and expand the student union, known as The Barn, originally built in 1917, to create a new student union on campus with technology-enabled study spaces, a place to hold social events and an accessible dining hall.

Fundraising is underway for the remaining $6 million, with work to begin after those commitments are in place.

Barbara Weitz has called NCTA a “too-well-kept secret south of North Platte.” The college — with the slogan “Small Campus. Big Impact.” — is ranked by Forbes Magazine as among the top 30 trade schools in the country.

NCTA Dean Larry Gossen, Ph.D., said Aggie graduates are in high demand. In surveys, 100% of graduates report being employed in their field of study or planning to go back to the family ranching or farming operation or to continue their education at another institution.

Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Nebraska, with nearly one in four jobs in the state related to the industry, and it accounts for more than one-fifth of the gross state product. But without the workforce to fill jobs in all aspects of the industry, the ag economy is at risk.

“Every field of agriculture is looking for NCTA graduates. There are shortages across the board in agronomy, animal science, ag sales, veterinary technology and irrigation technology,” Gossen said. “We have more job openings than we have graduates to fill them.”

At NCTA, Gossen said students receive hands-on, applicable instruction that prepares them to advance in ag industry jobs or to become a partner in their family operation.

“NCTA provides a skilled workforce to rural Nebraska,” he said. “Students enjoy small-town living, and many plan on returning to rural Nebraska to begin their careers.”

Glover said NCTA has opened doors and prepared him for the “real world” of agriculture. In his agronomy major, he engages in the latest plant and soil science while learning about water resource conservation and production techniques. To gain hands-on experience, he scouts crops in the agronomy farm lab on campus, looking for stressors on plants throughout their life cycle, from seeds in the ground to fully grown plants; crunches the numbers on the cost of inputs such as fertilizer; and learns about irrigation.

“I just like looking at the plants,” he said. “I know I sound like a crop nerd.”

Glover also is a member of NCTA’s award-winning crops judging team and president of the Farm Bureau Club. “I love working in small groups and one on one with my professors,” he said.

After he graduates, Glover plans to complete a second internship as a crop scout at Long Agronomics in Minden, Nebraska, where he spent last summer learning about crop diseases and their impact on plants.

“I didn’t really have a background in agronomy before coming to NCTA,” Glover said, “and now I feel like I’m prepared to go out into the world.