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University Mourns Passing of Longtime Supporter Bill Scott

by Melissa Lee, NU System
University Mourns Passing of Longtime Supporter Bill Scott
John Scott (from left) and his father, Bill Scott, play together as part of the Polonairs, a polka band based out of Omaha. Bill, a long-time supporter of the university, died Feb. 27. He was 93.

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Bill Scott, '53, who with his wife, Ruth, '51, was one of the most transformative donors in the history of the University of Nebraska, died Feb. 27. He was 93.

The Scotts, both natives of Ashland and University of Nebraska alumni, have been deeply rooted and invested in the Cornhusker State and the Omaha community. With a focus on supporting education and children through their foundation, the Scotts have contributed greatly to the city’s and state’s progress, health and vitality in a quiet but exceptional way.

“Bill Scott loved the state of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, and the university loved him right back,” said Chancellor Rodney D. Bennett. “Along with his wife, Ruth, the Scotts impacted generations of UNL students through their support of numerous projects and initiatives. UNL shares in mourning Bill’s passing with all those who loved and cared for him.”

The Scotts’ generosity benefited students, faculty and programs across the University of Nebraska system. Examples at UNL include the College of Nursing facility; Barbara Hibner Soccer Stadium; Gnotobiotic Mouse Facility; Nebraska Food for Health Center; and the Cherish Nebraska exhibition at Morrill Hall.

In 2009, they received the Regents Medal, the most prestigious honor awarded by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Scott at a university event just last week. He and Ruth were as warm, funny, down-to-earth and generous as everyone had told me they would be. I’ll always remember Bill closing the event by pulling out his trumpet and playing ‘There is No Place Like Nebraska’ while the chancellors and I sang along,” said Chris Kabourek, interim NU president. “The Scotts are the true embodiment of great Nebraska philanthropy. While they never wanted attention or credit for any of it, it would be impossible to overstate the impact their generosity has had on the lives of students and Nebraskans. The University of Nebraska is a stronger, more accessible, more impactful institution for the leadership and vision of Ruth and Bill.”

Bill, a 1953 graduate of the College of Business, joined the Buffett Partnership in 1959 and Berkshire Hathaway in 1970, where he remained until the early 1990s. Ruth, who earned her bachelor’s degree from UNL in education, became a teacher and founded the Omaha Bridge Studio.

Other impacts by the Scotts across the NU system include: the Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza at University of Nebraska Medical Center; UNMC Student Life Center redevelopment and expansion; Munroe-Meyer Institute; Frederick F. Paustian Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center; leadership gift for the Health Science Education Complex at University of Nebraska Kearney; leadership gift for the Douglas A. Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex (or what Bill Scott has affectionately named “The Doug”); Dreamers Pathway Scholarship and Project Achieve to support first-generation students, students with limited incomes and students with disabilities at University of Nebraska at Omaha; John and Jan Christensen Concert Hall in the redeveloped Strauss Performing Arts Center; Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center; and the Biomechanics Research Facility and its expansion.

“Bill Scott was truly one of a kind. He was a treasure to Nebraska and its university — a man who gave generously touching so many projects and programs at the University of Nebraska through his many thoughtful investments,” said Brian Hastings, president and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation. “He gave simply to help others and to make Nebraska a great place to live and raise a family, and he did it all without ever wanting to be in the spotlight. We are all better for having known Bill. He will be deeply missed.”

Published: March 4, 2024