Frank Uryasz III, ’83 & ’88, believes in giving back to match the gifts received as a four-generation Husker family. His work building a drug-free environment for athletes, along with creating the Uryasz Family Foundation with his wife, Ann (Jeffrey) Uryasz, ’83, testify to the Nebraska pioneering spirit of creating something where nothing stood before.
“My grandmother, Pauline Coad, and my father, Clesson Robert Jeffrey, were both UNL graduates,” said Ann. “After Frank and I met and graduated in 1983, I felt so proud we were the third generation. Little did I realize at the time all our children (Justine [Uryasz] Richard, ’10; Timothy Uryasz, ’11; and Claire Uryasz, ’15) would attend UNL. Now, four generations have attended, and we hope to continue with the fifth.”
Their family tradition of attending Nebraska makes supporting their alma mater a big focus. It underscores their values to give back to the school that supported them.
“Our family has been blessed in so many ways and we believe to whom much is given much will be required,” said Frank, who grew up in Omaha and earned his MBA in 1988. “The University of Nebraska offered its MBA program on Offutt Air Force Base. I was on staff at Bellevue College, but I didn’t want to work in higher education long term, and having an MBA would broaden my options.”
Frank revamped his career by reaching back to his undergraduate days with Dr. Ursula Walsh at the Nebraska Department of Athletics. Walsh, a nationally recognized education innovator who later became director of research at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), asked Frank to interview for a new position in sports science. In this job, he applied his business acumen along with his biological science major he earned at Nebraska.
“The association approved a nationwide postseason drug-testing program, and it was an opportunity to build something from nothing. The position scratched my entrepreneurial itch, integrated my background in science and provided an opportunity to live in another city,” said Frank, who moved with Ann to Kansas City, where the NCAA was headquartered at the time.
For the next 13 years, Frank blazed a trail in drug testing as its use proliferated in the sports world. The impact of Frank’s work leveled the playing field for many, in addition to curbing the harmful effects of drug use for untold numbers of athletes.
“I’m most proud of the work done to develop the drug testing program. There were many challenges along the way, but studies showed that testing was a very effective deterrent to the use of performance-enhancing and other drugs,” said Frank.
In 1999, Frank made the bold move to leave the NCAA and begin a new entrepreneurial direction based on his experiences in drug testing. His vision as a lifelong learner put him in a position to make a broader impact on athletes around the world.
“I was enrolled in an entrepreneurial program at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. Advisers in that program guided me to take what I developed in sports drug testing and build a business from that. Due to problems in the Olympic testing program, there was a movement to externalize operation of these sports drug testing programs for purposes of transparency, efficiency and fairness,” said Frank.
Frank soon launched The National Center for Drug Free Sport. He positioned his new venture to be an independent, third-party operator of sports drug testing programs, and the NCAA became his first client.
“Drug Free Sport, now called Drug Free Sport International, has grown to be the leading company in the world of sports anti-doping,” said Frank. “After the NCAA took the lead, professional leagues including the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, PGA Tour, NASCAR and many others signed on to the Drug Free Sport model. After I sold the company in 2017, it continued to grow and was recently selected to serve as the enforcement agency for testing in the horse racing industry.”
In 2017, Frank and Ann made another significant move focused on helping others. They created a foundation to help others throughout the world.
“Ann and I started the Uryasz Family Foundation in 2017 after we sold Drug Free Sport,” said Frank, who serves as president of the foundation. “The foundation complements the philanthropy Ann and I currently undertake and after we die, it will continue to support education, the arts, pediatric-cancer research and public safety.”
For Ann, support education has been a lifelong commitment. After graduating from Nebraska, she initially worked at Immaculate Conception, a small Catholic school in Omaha with one school room for each grade.
“I was so proud when they offered me $9,600 a year,” said Ann, who went on to teach 21 years in Catholic schools in Omaha and Kansas City. “I thought that was a ton of money.”
Just as the Uryasz family continues to build traditions at Nebraska with each passing generation, so too does family connections at Drug Free Sport International continue to grow. Frank and Ann’s son, Tim, who graduated from Nebraska Business with a degree in business administration, now works at the organization as director of quality assurance.
“My mother ensured I was set up with everything I needed at Nebraska and followed up with me regularly,” said Tim. “It helped having a ton of family in Omaha. I joined the same fraternity as my father (Chi Phi) and my sister, Justine, was a great resource when I came to Lincoln.”
Tim also worked with Nebraska Athletics and in Major League Baseball helping evaluate procedures in the United States, Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. He later earned certifications in internal and external auditing and risk assessment to ensure successful interactions with clients at Drug Free Sport International.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work abroad while with Drug Free Sport International. As someone who has traveled domestically the past seven years, it has always been fun to go abroad and see aspects of not only business but life,” said Tim.
The Uryasz family also traveled abroad to Ireland to attend the opening Nebraska football game in Ireland this season. Like many Husker families, bonding over sporting events continues to keep the Big Red spirit alive no matter where they go.
“One of my favorite memories were the football games,” said Ann. “I never felt so proud and involved in supporting my school. Those were the best times. We still love being together to cheer on our Huskers.”