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Presidential Chair Established for Clifton Strengths Institute

Joan Heiser Endowed Presidential Chair Honors 1980 Nebraska Business Alum
Presidential Chair Established for Clifton Strengths Institute
The Diabetes Care Foundation pledged $2 million to honor its executive director Joan Heiser (left), '80, as the namesake of an endowed presidential chair for the Clifton Strengths Institute. The institute's director, Timothy Hodges (right), will be the inaugural recipient.

The Diabetes Care Foundation pledged $2 million to support a University of Nebraska–Lincoln institute that coaches business students to identify and maximize their strengths to become high-achieving leaders and entrepreneurs.

The Joan Heiser Endowed Presidential Chair for the Clifton Strengths Institute will be named in honor of Joan Heiser of Omaha, executive director of the Diabetes Care Foundation. The foundation invests in priorities identified by its board of directors, which includes diabetes care, education and research, as well as other initiatives. Heiser is a 1980 graduate of the College of Business.

“My own time in the College of Business served as a springboard for my future career,” she said. “When I visited the Clifton Strengths Institute, I was astonished to learn all that this program offered to help exceptional students grow and develop as leaders. The Diabetes Care Foundation is pleased to support the Clifton Strengths Institute as it looks for new opportunities to help people learn about and develop their natural talents.”  

The Clifton Strengths Institute in the College of Business was established in 2015, based on the strengths-based psychology developed by Don Clifton, a four-time University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate. His passion was centered on the question, “What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?”

About the Joan Heiser Endowed Presidential Chair

The Joan Heiser Endowed Presidential Chair will be awarded in perpetuity to the executive director of the college’s Clifton Strengths Institute. Timothy Hodges, who has been executive director since 2019, will be the inaugural recipient.

“The success of the College of Business depends on attracting and retaining top faculty,” said Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean and professor of finance. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with the Diabetes Care Foundation to reward an excellent faculty member who is leading one of the most unique programs on campus.”

Hodges, who spent 20 years as a research consultant at Gallup Inc., is a Gallup-certified CliftonStrengths coach and an assistant professor of practice in management. He will receive an annual salary stipend and discretionary income to support research, student programming and innovative approaches to leadership, entrepreneurship and social responsibility.

“The Clifton Strengths Institute exists to build student self-awareness and confidence through engaging in key experiences that help our students achieve success in college and throughout their careers,” Hodges said. “We have high expectations and offer the support needed to help our students accomplish big goals. Our students and young alumni are already making a difference as they lead teams, build businesses and make an impact in their communities. This transformational gift will provide ongoing support for the faculty, staff and students as we grow our mission and impact into the future.”

Clifton was a popular educational psychology instructor and researcher at Nebraska from 1950 to 1969. While at the university, Clifton began to experiment with strengths. He was chairman of Selection Research Inc. and later chairman of Gallup.

His research led to CliftonStrengths, an online assessment released in 1999 that has been used by people worldwide. The tool has been embraced by businesses and organizations to help employees focus on what they do best and maximize their potential within teams. Clifton was recognized with a Presidential Commendation from the American Psychological Association as the father of strengths-based psychology and the grandfather of positive psychology.

The university’s Clifton Strengths Institute also houses the Clifton Builders Program, which offers a major or minor in management. Selected students exhibit high leadership and entrepreneurial potential.

About Joan Heiser

Diabetes Education Center was formed in 1984 to provide classes for people with diabetes in Nebraska and western Iowa. After patients began to ask for help in obtaining supplies and equipment, a for-profit corporation, the Diabetes Supply Center of the Midlands, was established in 1991, with Heiser as one of the founders. After the business was sold, the Diabetes Care Foundation was established with proceeds from the sale.

The Diabetes Care Foundation has invested in numerous philanthropic initiatives. In 2022, the foundation pledged $5 million to support the launch of a statewide diabetes care and education program led by the University of Nebraska Medical Center and its primary clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine.

The gift announced today was made as part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future, which began in 2018. The campaign is a historic effort to engage at least 150,000 benefactors to give $3 billion to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at

About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. During the most recent fiscal year, 58,072 donors supported the University of Nebraska, and a record $354.5 million in new funds was committed to aid UNK, UNL, UNO, NCTA and UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine. The foundation raises more than $7 for every $1 spent. Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future is its current campaign with a goal to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at

Published: September 27, 2023