Loyalty to UNK the First Step on a Fundraising Journey

Burnett Society members Chad and Jen Rutar have established an endowed scholarship and planned gift to benefit the Bleeding Blue Heart Scholarship, which supports students in the UNK College of Business & Technology.

By Ed Rider

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. For University of Nebraska at Kearney alumni Jen Bamsey Rutar and Chad Rutar, their journey to giving back began with the co-founding of the Loper Gridiron Club with friends Zach Mader and Mat Cope.

“The Gridiron Club was the window through which we climbed into fundraising and service,” said Jen, a 1996 UNK graduate. “We have such loyalty to UNK that we wanted to do more, so more students could enjoy the kind of experience we had.”

The Rutars, of Elkhorn, Nebraska, are Burnett Society members and serve on the UNK steering committee for the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future, which kicked off Nov. 18. They have served as trustees of the University of Nebraska Foundation since 2018, and Chad, a 1997 UNK graduate, is a past president of the UNK Alumni Association.

Jen, who grew up in South Dakota and graduated from high school in Ralston, Nebraska, met Pender, Nebraska, native Chad in a marketing class during her senior year at UNK. She built a successful career in marketing before taking “early retirement” to raise the couple’s daughters, Joe and Savannah. Chad played for the Lopers football team while earning his degree in finance. He works as a financial advisor and shareholder of Renaissance Financial in Omaha.

UNK holds such a special spot in Jen and Chad’s history that when they began to endow a scholarship, they named it the Bleeding Blue Heart Scholarship. The Rutars are in the process of endowing that scholarship to benefit students in the UNK College of Business & Technology and have also established a planned gift through the University of Nebraska Foundation to benefit the scholarship.

“It’s kind of a reverse-engineered goal to be able to make a gift in the same amount (as the planned gift) by the time we retire,” Chad said. “It’s our quiet little goal.”

Neither Jen nor Chad grew up in affluent families, so they sincerely understand the value of an education.

“Education is a great equalizer. It is the bedrock that will mold you for the rest of your life,” Jen said. “We have a strong passion to help others … it is the greatest gift. We found our connection, our voice at UNK. It’s just our vision to pay it forward.”

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