Helping Paint a Bright Future

Valery Wachter, a Burnett Society member and artist, has established a planned gift supporting studio arts majors at UNL.
Valery Wachter, a Burnett Society member and artist, has established a planned gift supporting studio arts majors at UNL.

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.”

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