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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Nebraska Business Hall of Fame

Nebraska Business Hall of Fame

Nebraska Hall Of Fame

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business established the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame in 1992 to recognize Nebraska business leaders whose contributions to Nebraska’s economy and business environment is deserving of public acclaim. Each year, nominations for the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame are solicited from the general business community, statewide associations and academia. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce is proud to salute the accomplishments of the individuals, who have been chosen by their peers for induction into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame.

Click on a year to view more information on past inductees


Sid Dinsdale
Lance Fritz
Hornady Family


Mildred Brown
Jim Clifton & Jane Miller
Ralph & Beverly Holzfaster Family
Anthony O. Messineo Jr.
Wilfred H. "Dick" Tegtmeier


Mike McCarthy
John Sampson
Gloria Thesenvitz


Bill & Elaine Biggs
Howard Hawks
Tom Henning


Richard R. "Dick" Bell
William W. "Bill" Marshall III
Roland A. Temme


Talton “Tal” Anderson
Jerry Huse
Barry L. Kennedy
Philip S. Mullin
Louis Rotella Jr.


John L. Hughes
J. Paul McIntosh
Joe Ricketts
Thomas C. Smith


Phillip C. Nelson
Tonn M. Ostergard
William “Willy” Theisen
Frank Zybach


Maurice “Moe” Beardmore
Tom Henning
Owen Palm


JoAnn Martin
Earl May
Richard Reinke
Michael Yanney


Deryl Hamann
Max and Eric Brown
John Doherty
Donald Everett, Sr.


Marc LeBaron
Dr. Lee Simmons
S.N. "Bud" Wolbach
Paul Younes


John Gottschalk
Hal Lainson
Bob and Cynthia Milligan
Eldon Roth


Clayton Andrews
Leo A. Daly III
D. William "Bill" Smith
Harold and George Wimmer


Abe Baker
C.G. "Kelly" Holthus
John P. Nelson
Joe Hampton


Willard H. Waldo
J. Gates Minnink
Donald Smeal
Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon


James P. Abel
Fred Bosselman
Jack Vetter


Dr. Wayne Ryan
Dale C. Tinstman
Robert, and Gary Kelley
George Russell


Bill Kubly
Robert "Bobby" Gottsch
Bruce Lauritzen
Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas


Jan Thayer
Lawrence J. Arth
William A. Fitzgerald
E.H. "Shoey" Shoemaker


Walter, Mike, and Gib Behlen
Donald O. Clifton
Henry H. "Hod" Kosman
Richard K. Davidson


Thomas C. Woods, Jr.
Roy Dinsdale
Roy A. Smith


Edwin E. Perkins
C.L. Werner
J. Robert Duncan
Hugh, and Richard Hunt


Joe R. Seacrest
Charles Durham
Margaret Robinson
Paul Mohr


Fred Hawkins, Sr.
Charles Sand
Harriet Petersen Fort
Dale LeBaron
Jack Swartz


B. Keith Heuermann
A.F. "Tony" Raimondo
Peter Kiewit
James Stuart


Willis Strauss
Nathan J. Gold
Herman Cain
Kenneth L. Morrison


Ernst Lied
Alice Dittman
Rose Blumkin
Virgil Froehlich


Warren Buffett


George P. Abel
Harold Warp
Daniel W. Gardner
Walter Scott, Jr.


Duane W. Acklie
Richard and James Cabela
V.J. Skutt


Kenneth L. Wortman
Clifton K. Hillegass
Robert L. Peterson


Thomas Creigh, Jr.
Dr. Lewis Harris
Robert B. Daugherty
Earl T. Luff
Edwin J. Loutzenheiser, Jr.
Harry P. Seward, Jr.
Robert B. Harris
Virgil R. Eihusen
Charles M. Harper
Burnham Yates


Sid Dinsdale - Pinnacle Bancorp, Inc., Lincoln

Sid Dinsdale is chairman of Pinnacle Bancorp, Inc., a family-owned business that owns 100% of four bank charters: Pinnacle Bank Nebraska, Bank of Colorado, Pinnacle Bank Texas and Pinnacle Bank Wyoming. He grew up in Palmer, NE, a town of 425 people, and grew up working in the family feedlot, hay fields and irrigation operations.

After graduating from Palmer High School, Dinsdale attended Hastings College then transferred to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he graduated with a degree in Finance. He later attended the Graduate School of Baking at the University of Colorado and completed the Presidents Program at Harvard University.

He is a member of the Omaha Business Hall of Fame and UNL Business School Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Dawn, were named “Aksarben’s Most Honored Citizens” in 2022. Additionally, Dinsdale has been a governor of Aksarben and served on the boards of Midlands Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Humane Society, STRATCOM Consultation Committee and the University of Nebraska Foundation, amongst others. He currently serves on the Methodist Health System board, Ameritas Life Insurance board and the boards of the banks and holding company.

Lance Fritz – Union Pacific, Omaha

Lance Fritz is the former Union Pacific chairman, president and chief executive officer. He stepped into these roles in 2015, when he was also elected to the corporation’s board of directors. Fritz began his Union Pacific career in July 2000 as vice president and general manager – energy in the company’s marketing and sales department. Union Pacific was founded in 1862 and operates North America’s premier railroad franchise, covering 23 states in the western two-thirds of the U.S.

He serves as a member of the board of directors of Parker-Hannifin Corporation, Business Roundtable, The Business Council, Nebraska Medicine, Omaha Zoological Society, STRATCOM Consultation Committee and the Association of American Railroads. He also serves on the Georgia Institute of Technology President’s Advisory Board.

Fritz graduated from Bucknell University and earned a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University.

Hornady Family – Hornady Manufacturing Company, Grand Island

The Hornady Family started Hornady Manufacturing Company in Grand Island in 1949 with the idea of creating “accurate, deadly, dependable bullets.” Although Joyce Hornady’s bankers didn’t have much faith in a bullet company, Joyce’s faith in his own company was all he needed. Just nine years later, Hornady Manufacturing’s growth called for a new facility to keep up with increased production.

Over the years, the entire Hornady family has been integral to the remarkable growth and success of the company. In 1970, Joyce’s son, Steve, joined the company, followed by his wife, Marval, in 1972. Steve assumed leadership of the company after a tragic plane crash caused the loss of Joyce Hornady in 1981. Marval stepped in as chairman of the board and Joyce’s daughter, Margaret, and her husband, Don, left their careers at Polaroid to become vice president and chief engineer. This marked the beginning of a remarkable transformation, turning the company into a family business. Years later, in 2006, Jason Hornady, Steve’s son, returned to the company as director of sales. Jason is currently vice president. Hornady Manufacturing was a small start-up in Grand Island that became the largest independently owned maker of bullets, ammunition and tools in the world.

Both Jason and his father, Steve, have served on several boards and are currently involved with the NRA, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturer’s Institute (SAAMI) and National Shooting Sports Foundation. Steve was recognized by the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence as the 2005 Shooting Industry Man of the Year and in 2013, he was recognized by the NRA as the Golden Bullseye Pioneer Award recipient. In 2019, Hornady Manufacturing was named Ammunition Manufacturer of the Year for the ninth time by the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers.


Mildred Brown - The Omaha Star

Mildred D. “Millie” Brown was the owner, publisher and editor of the Omaha Star, the nation’s longest-operating black-owned newspaper run by a woman.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, she attended Miles Memorial Teachers College and taught grade school. She married Dr. S. Edward Gilbert and the couple moved to Chicago, Des Moines, Iowa, and then to Sioux City, Iowa. It was in Sioux City that Brown began her career in journalism when she founded the Silent Messenger.

In 1937, the couple moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and Brown was hired to sell advertising for the Omaha Guide. After 18 months, she started her own newspaper and adopted the motto: “Dedicated to the service of the people that no good cause shall lack a champion and that evil shall not go unopposed.”

Gilbert and Brown divorced in 1943. She continued to steer the Omaha Star through racial segregation, the civil rights movement in the 1960s and racial unrest in Omaha in the late ’60s and early '70s. She provided the community with news and commentary for more than 50 years.

For decades, Brown – who always wore a fresh corsage – ran the paper from the historic Omaha Star building in the Near North Side neighborhood. Today, the Omaha Star is the only remaining African American newspaper in Omaha and the only one still printed in Nebraska. The Star featured positive news about the black community, celebrating family stories, role models and accomplishments. The Star won national respect by reporting the community’s perspectives on local and national news.

Readers were encouraged to vote and run for office. As publisher, Brown used pressure to persuade advertisers to accept blacks in more positions. Her coverage of civil rights and riots in the 1960s earned her commendations from President Lyndon Johnson.

Mildred Brown died in 1989. Her niece, Dr. Marguerita Washington took over leadership until her own death in 2016. In 2019, the newspaper assets were purchased by the Mildred D. Brown Memorial Study Center. The paper continues today as a biweekly print and digital subscription publication with a circulation of approximately 30,000 and is distributed to 48 states.

Jim Clifton – Gallup, Washington, D.C.

Jim Clifton is the chairman of Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm. Clifton served as the organization's CEO from 1988 until 2022. Under his leadership, Gallup expanded from a predominantly U.S.-based company to a worldwide organization with 30 offices in 20 countries and regions.

Clifton is the creator of The Gallup Path, a metric-based economic model that establishes the linkages among human nature in the workplace, customer engagement and business outcomes. This model is used in performance management systems in more than 500 companies worldwide. Another of his innovations, the Gallup World Poll, gives the world's 7 billion citizens a voice on virtually all key global issues.

In 2015, the Clifton Foundation and Gallup announced a $30 million gift to the University of Nebraska to establish the Don Clifton Strengths Institute. The gift supports the early identification and accelerated development of thousands of gifted entrepreneurs and future business builders.

Clifton is also the author of Wall Street Journal best seller, “Wellbeing at Work.” Released in 2021, the book explores how to build resilient and thriving teams in organizations. He is also author of the No. 1 Wall Street Journal best seller “It's the Manager,” the bestseller “Born to Build” and “The Coming Jobs War,” as well as many articles on global leadership. His blog appears regularly in the influencer section of LinkedIn and on's Chairman's Blog.

He serves on several boards, including the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, is chairman emeritus of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and chairman of the Dr. N. Joyce Payne Center for Social Justice. He received honorary degrees from Medgar Evers, Jackson State and Bellevue Universities. He is also a distinguished visiting professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University.

Clifton lives and works in Washington, D.C.

Jane Miller – Gallup, Omaha

Jane Miller is the retired president and chief operating officer of Gallup. In her role, she oversaw worldwide operations, ensuring all systems, resources and – most importantly – people were in place and aligned to achieve the goals of the organization across all client servicing and market direct functions.

Miller is committed to creating strong communities that begin with strong businesses and workplaces. Her community leadership includes the following director and trustee roles: Peter Kiewit Foundation, TeamMates Mentoring board of directors, Kiewit Luminarium board of directors, Omaha Zoological Society, Board of Directors Nebraska Medicine and University of Nebraska Foundation.

She is also a recipient of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Women in Leadership Award and was inducted into the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame.

Past community leadership positions include Commercial Federal Bank board of directors and compensation chair, Creighton University board of directors, Children’s Hospital board of directors and board vice-chair, Business Ethics Alliance board of directors and board chair, and the Knights of Aksarben board of directors and board chair.

Miller earned her bachelor's degree in business education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1984.

Ralph Holzfaster – Holzfaster Farms, Paxton

Ralph Holzfaster

Ralph and Beverly Holzfaster

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Ralph Holzfaster was born in North Platte, Nebraska, in 1930. He received his private pilot’s license and driver’s license on the same day at the age of 16. After graduation from Paxton High School, he attended Regis University in Denver before entering the armed services as an Air Force pilot in 1951. He served in the Air Force until 1954. After his service in the Korean War, he was appointed as a missile launch officer at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In 1956, he returned to the homestead established by his parents, Frank and Clara Holzfaster, eleven miles south of Paxton. In a matter of months, he met a Paxton school teacher, Beverly Long. They married in 1959 and had five children, Timothy, Patrick, Francis Jon, Michael and Amy.

Holzfaster’s early ag career included a seven-year stint of custom harvesting throughout the Midwest and proving new stubble mulch practices on dry land wheat. This led to farming with Morrison-Quirk in British Columbia, Canada. In 1969, Holzfaster embraced the center pivot irrigation technology with a successful Lindsay Manufacturing dealership in Ogallala, Nebraska.

His commitment to agriculture, economic development and the promotion of ethanol included an appointment on the Nebraska Ethanol Authority & Development Board and Omaha Chamber Ag Committee, as well as an elected board member for the Nebraska Public Power District from 1980-2004. Additionally, he served on the Keith County Economic Development Board and foundation, Mid Plains Community College Foundation, Nature Conservancy and Platte River Advisory Committee. Holzfaster serves on the board of the Mid America Bio Energy Corporation and MAAP Wheatland Ethanol LLC. He also worked with Natural Fibers Corporation to promote alternative crop production.

In 2013, the Holzfaster family co-hosted the Cattleman’s Ball charity event to raise funds to support the UNMC/Eppley Cancer Center.

Their children continue the family’s commitment to agriculture and economic development through housing development and tourism in Paxton with Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge, managing the center pivot operation in Ogallala and serving on the Dry Bean Commission, Nebraska Corn Board and the National Corn Growers while supporting the farming operations.

He has received numerous awards including the Aksarben Court of Honor, Nebraska Land Foundation’s Wagon Master Award and the UNL College of Business Alumni Association Business Leadership Award.

Anthony Messineo – Valentino's, Lincoln

Anthony “Tony” Messineo graduated from Pius X High School and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 1963, he married his wife, Carmen, and together they raised three children, Debbie, Michael and Anthony. They are also the proud grandparents of seven grandchildren.

His career began as general manager of his uncle’s restaurant – Tony & Luigi’s. In 1971, he was approached by Val and Zena Weiler about purchasing a pizza business that they had started near UNL’s East Campus. Messineo and his brother, Ron, trained with them and in 1972 purchased Valentino’s. A year later, their cousin Mike Alesio joined the partnership.

The original Valentino’s location only seated sixty, but the take-out pizza business boomed. They soon opened a second location at 70th and Van Dorn. The first franchise store opened in 1976 and a new location in Omaha opened in 1978. In the mid-80’s, Valentino’s introduced buffet dining and entered into more franchise agreements to expand the concept. Next came carryout and delivery, express lunch and family value packs.

In 1994, Valentino’s entered into an agreement with UNL to be the official pizza of the Huskers, where they now sell over 22,000 pizza slices during a single game. Premier Catering also offers catering service in the skyboxes.

Valentino’s employs more than 500 people at 40 locations across Nebraska. They ship frozen pizza nationally and internationally and offer bottled sauces and frozen pizza in grocery stores across the state.

Tony is an active philanthropist contributing his time and talents to charities including Cedar’s Home for Children, Catholic Social Services, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lincoln Public Schools’ High Five program, TeamMates, Rotary International and more.

He served on the Wesleyan Board of Governors, Malone Center board and Nebraska Restaurant Association. He was vice president of the Lincoln/Lancaster County Board of Health and chaired the Pius X Endowment Drive.

Tony was named Restauranteur of the Year (twice), Rotarian of the Year and Nebraskan of the Year by Rotary International. He was also recognized with the Benemerenti Award from Pope Benedict XVI and the Board of Health-Regional Directors Award, in addition to being inducted into the Omaha Hospitality Hall of Fame.

Wilfred H. Tegtmeier – Exmark Manufacturing

Wilfred H. “Dick” Tegtmeier was born in 1938 in Odell, Nebraska, and graduated from Hollenberg High School in Hollenberg, Kansas. In 1961, he moved to Beatrice, Nebraska. Tegtmeier was a pioneer in the lawn mower industry, turning sketches drawn in his basement into two successful businesses. Because of his entrepreneurship, Beatrice became known as the unofficial “Lawnmower Capital of the World”, employing more than 600 Nebraskans in three separate manufacturing facilities.

He started working with Kees Manufacturing in Beatrice in the 1970’s, where he designed a line of lawn mowers. He left Kees in 1983 and, along with partners, started Exmark Manufacturing. Exmark began with sketches in the founders’ homes before a prototype was made and displayed at trade shows. Exmark became one of the first businesses to locate in Beatrice’s Industrial Park.

Known for making bold business decisions, Tegtmeier left Exmark in 1988 when he formed a new mower company, Encore Manufacturing. The Beatrice Daily Sun quoted Tegtmeier saying, “When we started Exmark, people said, ‘You’re crazy’. When we started Encore, they said, ‘you have to be a complete idiot.’” At the time Tegtmeier made that comment, Encore’s business had grown 640% since its first year, and the building needed expansion in 1993. Encore employed 42 people at its peak, but after 23 years, a harsh economy took its toll on the business. He sold Encore Manufacturing to the China-based World Lawn Power Equipment, on the condition that the factory continue operating in Beatrice. Exmark is now a division of the Toro Company and continues to serve as a strong driver to Beatrice’s economy.

Tegtmeier was an active member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Beatrice Optimists, Gage County Economic Development and the Nebraska Diplomats. He participated in trade missions promoting Nebraska, along with elected representatives and Nebraska industry leaders.

Together with his wife, Rosalie, they had a son, Douglas, and daughter, Julie. Dick died in 2013 in Beatrice.


Mike McCarthy - McCarthy Capital, Omaha

Mike McCarthy is the founder of McCarthy Capital, a private equity firm headquartered in Omaha since its founding in 1986. After graduating from St. John’s University (Minnesota) in 1973, McCarthy returned to his hometown in western Iowa to start a small construction firm, eventually expanding into developing real estate and investing in operating businesses. After moving to Omaha with his wife, Nancy, and four children, he and his co-founder, Rich Jarvis, opened an investment bank focused on funding small businesses.

McCarthy also began a long career of community involvement, serving on boards like the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Omaha Community Foundation, United Way of the Midlands, the Omaha Zoological Society, Creighton University and other nonprofit organizations. He serves as a board member of Lasting Hope Recovery Center and chair of the Heritage Services board of directors. He continues as an active chairman of Bridges Trust while serving on the boards of Peter Kiewit Sons’, Inc., Union Pacific Corporation, Election Systems & Software and McCarthy Group, LLC.

Mike and Nancy were honored as 2012 United Way Citizens of the Year, and he was inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame in 2006.

John Sampson - Sampson Construction, Lincoln

John Sampson was born in Hastings, Nebraska, and moved to Lincoln with his parents and five siblings at an early age. A Lincoln High School graduate, he earned his bachelor's degree in construction management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1972. After graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, April Crossgrove and began working in the family business with his parents and brothers. At that time, Sampson Construction built custom homes and a few small commercial projects, and business was conducted on the dining room table of the Sampson home.

In 1995, Sampson became president of the business and the company began to grow rapidly under his leadership, a result of the risk he took on larger, more complicated projects. He incorporated innovative technologies and practices to grow and provide leading-edge services to clients while preserving the Nebraska value that “business is done with a handshake and a promise” instilled in him by his parents. In his time as president, Sampson Construction’s portfolio of work has been comprised of large commercial projects including hospitals, schools, retail stores, worship spaces, manufacturing facilities, sporting venues and commercial office buildings. The company has five offices in Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado, projects in 16 states and proudly employs more than 350 full-time employees.

Sampson received the 2013 Burnham Yates Citizenship Award from the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. He generously supports higher education and healthcare organizations, among many others. In 2010, he donated labor and materials to the City of Lincoln to modernize Sherman Field to ensure kids across the city could have top-tier facilities in which to play baseball and softball. He also donated more than 28 acres of land to Bryan Health to build the April Sampson Cancer Center, a world-class cancer treatment center.

As Sampson Construction celebrates 70 years of business, he remains a visionary leader and mentor to his family’s business and an avid champion and supporter of his employees. A big proponent of family first, the company has employed numerous families and their relatives under his leadership. He and his late wife have one daughter, Cori Vokoun, and her husband, Dan Vokoun. Sampson and his wife Toni Thorson live in Lincoln.

Gloria Thesenvitz - Nova-Tech, Inc., Grand Island

Gloria Thesenvitz is founder and chairman of the board of Nova-Tech, Inc., a nationally recognized company providing custom aseptic fill manufacturing services and private label IV fluids to the animal health industry throughout the United States and Canada.

Grounded in her rural Nebraska roots and following her graduation from Wood River High School, Thesenvitz achieved her dream of being a wife, mother and farmer. Throughout the next 18 years, she farmed and spent those early formative years with her four children. When that relationship and career choice dissolved, she utilized her knowledge of growing and marketing cattle to examine alternative agriculture crops.

Utilizing tenacity and entrepreneurship, she founded Nova-Tech in 1988. The first product line, animal serums, are nutritional elements for the growth of cells invitro. Applying a pragmatic philosophy, she surrounded herself with knowledgeable people. Maintaining Nova-Tech CGMP Compliance in the manufacture of injectable fluid therapy products provided Nova-Tech the pathway to be where it is today. Under her leadership, the company focused on staying current with technological advancements and marketplace trends which set the stage for Nova-Tech to be an integrated asset to their customer.

In 2011, the site transfer of manufacturing into a new plant located in the Platte Valley Industrial Tract in Grand Island laid the foundation for three additions and brought significant growth through increased production and technical capabilities. Nova-Tech has a national reputation as a trusted source with a willingness to respond to changing industry needs.

Thesenvitz's honors include an invitation to present at the Pharmaceutical Technical Exchange Association Semi-Annual meeting in Kansas City, the Governor’s Bio Science Award and the Grand Island Independent Woman of the Year. A strong advocate for education, quality jobs, women entrepreneurs and rural Nebraska, she reinvested her talents, time and resources and served on multiple community and state boards. She serves as a governor’s appointee to the EPSCoR/IDeA Committee whose mission is to build the state's research capacity and competitiveness, invest in workforce development and foster public-private partnerships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


Bill & Elaine Biggs - LI-COR BioSciences, Lincoln

In the late 1960s, a recent University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) electrical engineering graduate was hired to design instrumentation for a UNL agricultural research project. The instruments Bill Biggs and his university colleagues developed would eventually revolutionize the technology used for plant science research worldwide.

Biggs earned his master’s degree in 1969 and spent two years at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. His work on imaging systems for satellites fueled a desire to start a scientific instrument company incorporating optics with electronics.

In 1971, Bill and Elaine Biggs and his colleagues from the original university project formally launched the company that would become LI-COR Biosciences. They started with two products, 400 square feet of borrowed workspace and the help of a part-time employee.

While launching a new company was not easy, he believes the best thing that happened to him was a total “burnout” he experienced in 1976 after years of working seven days a week. The burnout led to a nine-year bout with depression. During that time, he became a born-again Christian and focusing seriously on his faith led to his recovery.

Until 1981, Elaine worked full time doing everything from keeping the books to helping assemble and ship products. Today, she remains on the board serving as corporate secretary.

LI-COR is a leading provider of technology for measuring global climate change and an innovator in the areas of genetic and cancer research. The majority of the company’s 300 employees work on LI-COR’s 24-acre campus in Lincoln, Nebraska. There are also offices in Germany and the United Kingdom with representatives worldwide.

The success of the company reflects Bill’s philosophy of applying solid engineering and science with innovative thinking to create groundbreaking technology. LI-COR products are in use on every continent and on the International Space Station.

Bill’s deep Christian foundation led him to pray with some LI-COR team members for company direction. Through prayer, LI-COR went into new fields such as DNA sequencing and protein analysis leading to the development of near-infrared fluorescent dyes that have medical applications. One product has shown in clinical trials to kill cancer cells when illuminated with near-infrared light.

Bill and Elaine were married in 1960. They have two children, Greg (June) Biggs, and Lori (Pat) Humphrey, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Howard L. Hawks - Tenaska, Omaha

Howard L. Hawks founded and serves as chairman of the board for Omaha-based Tenaska, one of the leading independent energy companies in the United States. Established in 1987, Tenaska has a reputation for high ethical standards and expertise in natural gas and electric power marketing, energy management, development and acquisition of energy assets, operation of generating facilities and much more. Forbes magazine consistently ranks Tenaska among the 50 largest private U.S. companies.

Tenaska’s corporate culture remains rooted in its founding principles: a strong work ethic with the highest standards of excellence; a commitment to pursue value for customers and partners; and relationships built on trust, mutual respect and fair and ethical dealing.

Born in Carleton in 1935, Hawks never lost sight of his Nebraska roots. The very name Tenaska comes from a combination of the words Nebraska, tenacity, (perfect) ten and a few others. Tenaska’s corporate headquarters remains in Omaha, even as its footprint of regional offices, plant locations and development activities grew across North America and even around the globe.

Hawks has 50 years of executive management experience in the energy and automotive industries. Prior to forming Tenaska, he served as an executive for 21 years at InterNorth, Inc., and as president of three of the Omaha company’s subsidiary groups. He began his career at General Motors.

A firm believer in giving back to one’s community, Hawks has a long and treasured history with the University of Nebraska. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1957 and his MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1971. He served 18 years on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents (2002-20) and was the board’s chairman in 2005 and 2014. His other notable gifts to the university include contributions to an endowed chair in business ethics and leadership in Nebraska’s College of Business, housed in Howard L. Hawks Hall; an endowed chair in cancer prevention and population science at the University of Nebraska Medical Center; Hawks Field at Haymarket Park; and the Hawks Championship Center.

He also served 12 years on the Creighton University Board of Directors.

Hawks is the founder of The Hawks Foundation, a key vehicle for charitable giving that his wife, Rhonda, leads as president. The Hawks Foundation provides hundreds of need-based scholarships to students. He also co-founded Lasting Hope Recovery Center, a psychiatric facility that treats mental illness.

He has led numerous civic activities in Omaha and served as a member of several influential boards, including Ak-Sar-Ben Future Trust, Heritage Services, Joslyn Art Museum and the Omaha Zoo Foundation.

Tom Henning - Cash-Wa, Kearney

Tom Henning was born and raised in Kearney, Nebraska. He graduated from Kearney High School, attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) (previously known as Kearney State College), and then earned his bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL). Except for time away to attend UNL and his military service, he has lived his entire life in the Kearney area.

Employed by Cash-Wa Distributing Co. since graduation, Henning served as president and CEO of the company since 1987. Cash-Wa, a foodservice and convenience store distributor with 880 employees, covers all or part of 11 states with distribution centers in Aberdeen, South Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; and Kearney.

His activities encompass his church and organizations in the Kearney community; various advisory groups, boards, and committees within the University of Nebraska system; state-wide organizations in Nebraska; and national trade organizations for the industry that Cash-Wa is part of. His community leadership includes the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, Buffalo County Economic Development Council, American Wholesale Marketers Association, International Foodservice Distribution Association and UniPro Foodservice Cooperative.

Henning also served on the local hospital board, Mosaic (formerly Bethphage Mission), Kearney Area Community Foundation, First National Bank in Kearney and the University of Nebraska Foundation Board.

He serves on the State of Nebraska Revenue Forecasting Board, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board, Omaha Branch of the Federal Reserve Board of Kansas City, Merryman Performing Arts Board, and is board chairman of the One Nebraska Coalition. He also serves on the President’s Advisory Board at the University of Nebraska, the Dean’s Advisory Board at UNK’s School of Business and Technology, and is a member of the board of counselors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Henning and his wife, Mary, have two children, Chadwick Henning and Michelle Harter, who live in Kearney along with their six grandchildren. Chad and Michelle are both employed at Cash-Wa. His oldest grandson Logan Harter attends UNL.

He spends his time away from work on the family’s cattle ranch in Custer County where he has raised cattle and quarter horses since the early 1980s. He enjoys golf, hunting, playing the piano, being a family man and being a Grandpa!


Richard R. "Dick" Bell - HDR, Omaha

Richard R. Bell

Richard R. "Dick" Bell

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Richard R. "Dick" Bell graduated from South Dakota State University in 1971 with a bachelor's and master’s degree in Civil Engineering. After graduation, he was active in the Department of Environmental Health Engineering in the U.S. Army, and began working for HDR Engineering Inc. in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1974. He specialized in solid waste management projects, conducting studies on collections, waste quantities, markets and feasibility of energy and resource recovery from solid waste. His expertise in the waste-to-energy segment of the business was instrumental in HDR becoming a leader in the field. In 1996, he led an employee buyback of the company from Bouygues SA, returning the firm to employee ownership. Bell served as the president of HDR Techserv starting in 1985 and became CEO of HDR Engineering in 1989.

In his 36 years with HDR, Bell held numerous leadership positions highlighted by his role as CEO from 1996 to 2011. Under his guidance, the number of HDR offices more than tripled, the number of employees more than doubled and the company revenues grew by more than 150 percent. He was responsible for directing all HDR operations and ensuring the appropriate resources were available for each project. He was personally involved in major projects and client relationships, providing design review and supporting project managers in performance of team tasks. Bell had extensive experience in engineering design, project planning, management, coordination and client liaison. He was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year in Iowa and Nebraska in 2002.

As the former chairman and chief executive officer of HDR, Bell carries extensive knowledge of the issues affecting HDR still today. He has a unique understanding of the industry and brings pragmatic business judgment to the board of directors, where he served as an outside director since his retirement in 2011. As part of his duties on the HDR Board of Directors, he is the chair of the Compensation Committee.

He led numerous civic activities in Omaha, and served as a member of several influential boards, including Heritage Services, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, The Durham Museum, the Omaha Performing Arts Society, and the University of Nebraska Peter Kiewit Institute and Durham School of Architectural Engineering & Construction.

William W. "Bill" Marshall III - Five Points Bank, Grand Island

William W. Marshall III

William W. "Bill" Marshall III

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William W. "Bill" Marshall III was born in Niobrara, Nebraska, in 1944. After moving to Grand Island in 1959, Marshall excelled both academically and athletically at Grand Island Senior High. He played football, excelled on the basketball court, earning “All-Class,” “All-State” honors, and threw the shot put and discus for Grand Island Senior High’s 1962 State Champion Track and Field Team. After high school, he graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1966 and the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1969.

After practicing law in Omaha, Bill’s father, William W. Marshall Jr., persuaded him to help start a bank in Grand Island, and in September of 1971, Five Points Bank opened. Under Bill’s direction and guidance, the bank enjoyed tremendous growth and success. Today, Five Points Bank has evolved into the sixth largest Nebraska-based bank holding company with over 1.6 billion in total assets. Not only has the bank grown in assets, but it has expanded its presence with locations in Hastings, Kearney, Omaha, LaVista, Lincoln and Sumner.

Marshall’s mantra was, “You have to pay rent for the space you take.” He lived out this mantra through his involvement and financial support of various projects and causes. He helped to raise funds for the building of the Heartland Event Center, College Park and the movement of the Nebraska State Fair from Lincoln to Grand Island. Locally, he served as president of the Industrial Foundation, the College Park Board of Directors and the Grand Island Community Foundation. In 2004, he served as chairman of the Heartland United Way Annual Fund Drive. He also served on the Grand Island School Board and on the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. On a state-wide basis, Marshall served as president of the Nebraska Bankers Association and as a member of the Nebraska State Board of Education. Most recently, he served on the Hastings College Board of Trustees and on the Nebraska State Fair Board.

In recognition for his dedication to community efforts, Marshall was named the Grand Island Daily Independent “2013 Man of the Year”. In 2015, he was inducted into Grand Island Senior High School’s “Hall of Honor”. Posthumously, he received the “Dick Good Award” from the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, and most recently, was the named honoree at the Grand Island Community Foundation’s Annual Legacy Event.

Bill was married to his wife, Sharon, for 45 years. They had two daughters, Kara and Kristen, and six grandchildren, Katherine, Carolyn, Kate, Tommy, Will and Jack.

Roland A. Temme - TMCO, Inc., Lincoln

Roland Temme was asked to set up a manufacturing facility in Rogers, Arkansas, to produce parts for Magnefax cassette tape duplication machines. He agreed to do this, but proposed to do the work in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a result, TMCO was founded in 1974 as a one-man machining operation in an 842 sq. ft. shack on 6th and J Streets.

Temme began with a vision to turn his ‘Total Machining Company’ into a ‘Total Manufacturing Company’ and strategically grew in employees and new capabilities. TMCO acquired National Mfg. in 1985 and founded Metal + Art in 1997, a department which specializes in custom decorative metal work. Over the years, TMCO grew to acquire the latest technology in metal manufacturing with diverse capabilities including machining, sheet metal and tube fabrication, water jet, welding, powder coating, and assembly. Currently, TMCO has grown to more than 200 employees and 300,000 sq. ft. of production space. Temme has been recognized for his commitment to providing employment opportunities to immigrants and refugees. As a result, TMCO boasts an integrated, multicultural workforce; 40 percent of which is made up of employees from 18 different countries.

Temme serves on the Board of Trustees of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo and Junior Achievement and is a member of the United Way Tocqueville Society. He has shaped the community by building many iconic pieces in Lincoln such as the Sunken Gardens dome, Lincoln Children’s Zoo letter blocks, and the district markers which guide visitors to the Haymarket from the Lincoln Airport. Temme has been recognized with many honors and awards including the Lincoln Center Kiwanis Distinguished Service Award in 2018, Doctor of Laws honoris causa from Concordia University, the Douglas E. Parrott Faith in Action Award from Lutheran Family Services in 2016, and Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Manufacturer of the Year in 2015.

Originally from Wayne, Nebraska, Temme earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1969. He lives with his wife, Hiroko, in Lincoln. They have two children, David and Diane.


Talton “Tal” Anderson - Baxter Auto Group, Omaha

Talton “Tal” Anderson

Talton “Tal” Anderson

Watch Video on Talton “Tal” Anderson

Talton “Tal” Anderson grew up on a farm outside Stanton, Iowa. His father died suddenly when Tal was 11 years old. By the time he was 13 years old, Tal was supporting himself and his mother by working for the local butcher.

At 18 years old, Tal took a bus to Omaha to attend the University of Omaha on a partial athletic scholarship. He got a part-time job pumping gas at a Benson Texaco station owned by Johnny Baxter Chrysler Plymouth. Two years later, he began selling cars and was promoted to New Car Sales Manager, effectively putting his education on hold.

That same year, Chrysler Corporation awarded Anderson a new Plymouth Valiant and 200 silver dollars for winning a sales contest. He requested to buy into the dealership and Mr. Baxter agreed.

Over the next 24 years, Anderson expanded his ownership in the dealership, eventually buying out Mr. Baxter in 1984 after finishing his business degree at the University of Omaha. He expanded the business from one to nine dealerships.

Anderson became ill in 2008 and passed away in 2009, leaving a legacy of ambitious business practices and community involvement.

Today, under the direction of Tal’s daughter, Angie Quinn, and son, Mickey Anderson, Baxter Auto Group operates 20 dealerships and two body shops – employing more than 1,900 people in Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.

He co-founded Omaha’s chapter of the Children’s Scholarship Fund to help inner-city students attend private schools, as well as establishing scholarships at Creighton Prep and Marian high schools and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He served on various boards including the Boys Town National Research Hospital, the Archbishop’s Committee for Development and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

He and his wife, Mary Joy, have three children: Lisa, Mickey and Angie.

Jerry Huse – Norfolk Daily News, Norfolk

Jerry Huse was the fourth generation of the Huse family to serve as owner and publisher of the Norfolk Daily News. He joined the newspaper full-time in 1950 after serving in the U.S. Navy and graduating from the University of Minnesota, where he majored in business and journalism. He became publisher of the Norfolk Daily News in 1956 when he was 29 years old, the youngest publisher in the state at the time.

Huse believed a locally-owned newspaper should be considered a trusteeship on behalf of the community and the area it serves. To that end, Huse and the Daily News have been a catalyst in the success of many community service and economic development projects.

He was a founder and served for more than 50 years as president of the Greater Norfolk Corporation, which is the industrial land corporation of the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce. He played a significant role in bringing new industry to Norfolk and was a major donor in numerous community fund drives, including the Elkhorn Valley Museum & Research Center and the Norfolk Arts Center. Huse also was general chairman of the new Norfolk Family YMCA building project in 1979 and headed efforts to raise more than $4 million for the YMCA tennis center. He was president of the Norfolk Country Club in 1964, playing a significant role in enlarging the course and building a new clubhouse.

Huse was honored for his civic leadership and community service on numerous occasions. He was selected for the 2000 Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor, the highest award given by the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation.

His work as a publisher was recognized statewide when he was named the Nebraska Press Association’s Master Editor-Publisher in 1997. He served nine years on the board of the Nebraska Press Association, including as president in 1991. He also served as a board member and officer of the Nebraska Press Association Foundation. In 2004, Huse was inducted into the Nebraska Newspaper Hall of Fame. He was honored in 2006 by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications for outstanding service to the newspaper industry.

Huse passed away in June 2018 at the age of 91. At the time of his death, he was president of the Daily News after serving as its publisher from 1956 until 2013.

He and his wife, Karla, have two children, Bill and his wife, Ann, and Beth Olsen and her husband, Brad, as well as nine grandchildren.

Barry L. Kennedy – Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Lincoln

Barry L. Kennedy, CAE, IOM, served as president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry from January 1987 to June 2018.

In 1992, he was designated a CAE (Certified Association Executive) by the American Society of Association Executives. The CAE is the professional standard among associations that can be earned by a combination of experience, course study and the passing of a comprehensive test on all aspects of association management.

Kennedy served as the Nebraska Chamber’s chief executive officer, preparing the budget, representing the chamber at various meetings and speaking at numerous state and local events. He also served as one of the chamber’s registered lobbyists. During his time at the chamber, the operating budget more than tripled and membership grew to an all-time high.

He was awarded the Nebraska Diplomats Association’s highest award, Ambassador Plenipotentiary, in 2009.

Prior to his work with the state chamber, Kennedy worked as a political consultant managing several successful statewide campaigns. He spent 10 years as a livestock buyer for major meat packers and had his own farming operation.

Kennedy’s Junior Chamber of Commerce career included serving as charter president of the Syracuse Nebraska Jaycees; state president of the Nebraska Jaycees; national president of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce; and international president of JCI. Major accomplishments during this time included the M. Keith Upson Memorial Award as one of the top 10 district directors in the nation and leading the U.S. Jaycees to their highest membership ever, a record that still stands today. The Nebraska Jaycee Family of the Year Award is named for the Kennedys.

A Vietnam veteran, he served through the Tet Offensive of 1968 and received several commendations as a squad leader. He is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion and was an all-state post commander for VFW.

Married to Diane, the Kennedys have two children and five grandchildren.

Philip S. Mullin – Garner Industries, Lincoln

Philip S. Mullin was born and raised in Valentine. After high school, Mullin moved to Lincoln and attended Nebraska Wesleyan University. While at Wesleyan he worked part-time, running a punch press at a small tool and die company, Garner Industries.

After graduating with a degree in business, he entered the management training program at Sears & Roebuck. After two years, he realized working in a corporation was not what he had envisioned for his career. Mullin wanted to work for a business where he could engage with customers on a personal level, similar to his father’s International Harvester dealership. It was with this inspiration in mind that he resigned from Sears and went to work at Garner.

His return to Garner in 1968 was the beginning of a 50-year career. Early on, Mullin became instrumental in turning the small company into a regional supplier of tooling, dies and machined parts for manufacturers throughout the Midwest. Soon he was leading the sales, marketing and personnel departments within the company. At the same time, he held an interest in the technology of computerized manufacturing. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Garner invested in technology and built a reputation for precision workmanship. In 1984, the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized Garner as the Nebraska Small Business of the Year.

In 1992, Mullin bought Garner and would lead the company through more than 25 years of historic growth. Investing in new services, including injection molding, the company expanded to supporting manufacturers nationwide. The company rapidly grew its BinMaster brand of level sensors for measuring bulk materials, exporting to more than 50 countries and serving customers in the agricultural, plastics and cement markets. In 2001, the company moved into a new manufacturing facility. That same year, Mullin was recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Business Administration. In 2017, Garner again expanded their facilities and its 140 employees were recognized as the Nebraska Manufacturer of the Year by the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Mullins has been active in supporting his community throughout his career. He has served on many boards including recent leadership positions with United Way and Food Bank of Lincoln. He has also served on the board of directors of the Nebraska Chamber and the National Association of Manufacturers.

He is married to Linda Robinson Rutz. They have five grown children and 14 grandchildren.

Louis Rotella Jr. – Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Inc., Omaha

Louis Rotella Jr. serves as the CEO and president of Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Inc., a family business and tradition that started more than 100 years ago.

Lou Jr. was born on July 4, 1949, in Omaha, Nebraska, to parents Louis Sr. and Helen Rotella. He grew up in the predominantly Italian community of Saint Ann’s / Columbus Park area of 24th and Pierce Street.

Lou Jr. learned the importance of work at an early age and spent most of his free time learning the family business. His responsibilities grew as he grew and by the age of 16, Lou Jr. knew all facets of the family business.

While attending Omaha University (now the University of Nebraska at Omaha), Lou Jr. worked full-time and was a fortunate member of the National Champion Wrestling team. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in Business Administration, with a major in Business Management.

Having learned the art of baking and business principles from his father, Louis Sr., whom he worked ‘side by side’ with for many decades, Lou Jr. was instrumental in expanding Rotella’s into the nationwide marketplace.

Today, Lou Jr. is recognized as an industry leader, who has received numerous honors including the Omaha Golden Spike and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as an induction into the university’s Lucas Society for Business Administration.

Under the leadership of Lou Jr., Rotella’s Italian Bakery has also earned numerous industry awards and distinctions and was most recently inducted into the Sarpy County Business Hall of Fame.

Lou Jr is married to Kathi. Together they have three children, Lou III, Joseph and John. While their son Joseph is a physician in Arizona, both Lou III and John have joined the family business. Lou Jr. and Kathi also have six grandchildren, of which, the eldest two are beginning to learn the family trade.


John L. Hughes - Hughes Brothers, Inc., Seward

John Hughes, president of Hughes Brothers, Inc., Seward, is part of the third generation of the Hughes family to work at Hughes Brothers, a manufacturing company started in Seward, Nebraska, in 1921. Along with his brother Ted, executive vice-president and plant superintendent, and his cousin Tim, vice president of sales, the three Hughes’ together own 100 percent of the Hughes Brothers stock, split evenly between them. John has been president of the company since 1995.

The four original Hughes Brothers inherited a house-building company from their father, John M. Hughes, after his passing from the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Their burgeoning wood inventory came in handy when a storm passed through the Seward area in 1921, knocking down power lines. Being good friends with the owner of the local power company, Ben H. Hughes, the driving force behind the company, and his brothers were able to build the necessary wood components to get the power lines operable again.

Over the next decade, the company transformed from building houses to building parts for the electric utility industry. The company continued to grow, with a brief but interesting hiatus during World War II making components for the war effort, adding capabilities and product offerings along the way. The company employs more than 270 people and makes over 50,000 finished products for the worldwide utility industry consisting of over 900,000 different pieces and parts comprised of wood, steel and fiberglass. Since the third generation has taken over management of the company, the business has almost doubled its manufacturing footprint to nearly 600,000 square feet under roof on the 42-acre campus on the northwestern edge of Seward.

Hughes earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of NebraskaLincoln in 1992. He has served on numerous local boards, including Seward Memorial Health Care Systems, Seward Library Foundation, Seward Community Scholarship Committee, Seward County Chamber & Development Partnership, Concordia University’s Finance Committee, and has held nearly every office imaginable at his home church Holy Savior Lutheran in Lincoln.

He and his wife, Jana, have three children: Lena, Anna and Hank. They reside on an acreage in the hills of Garland.

J. Paul McIntosh – Entrepreneur, Norfolk

J. Paul McIntosh was raised on a farm near Pilger, Nebraska. He served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army with the Special 396th Military Police Battalion. After his discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to return to the University of Nebraska, where he graduated cum laude in 1950 with dual degrees in natural science and vocational agriculture education. He became a teacher-trainer for the University of Nebraska Vocational Agriculture program and planned to continue with his master’s degree.

McIntosh’s desire to improve farmer livelihood interrupted his studies. He started McIntosh Fertilizer, co-owned several swine and sheep operations and had a commercial painting company. He served as the vocational agriculture instructor in Eagle and Newman Grove Public Schools and as the junior high social studies and science teacher in Norfolk before settling into the role of Norfolk Public Schools senior high science and guidance director for many years.

His involvement in the fertilizer industry continued to grow and expanded to include all types of farm fertilizers and chemicals, as well as farm management and a daily radio agricultural advice program. He developed College View, Inc., a 75-acre housing development in Norfolk; Meadow Ridge, a 138-acre, 900-unit LMI Housing Development, and The Meadows Retirement Center, Inc.

McIntosh’s community activities earned many honors and awards including the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce Betterment, Nebraska Entrepreneur of the Year, City of Norfolk Edward I. Vrzal Outstanding Citizen, and the State of Nebraska declared December 1, 2009, as “J. Paul McIntosh Day”. He and his wife, Eleanor, established the McIntosh Challenge Endowment scholarships at Northeast Community College, which is currently over $1,500,000. He served as an advocate for improvements in agriculture, housing, mental health and education, and had a passion for encouraging those who needed encouraging.

Joe Ricketts – TD Ameritrade, Omaha

Joe Ricketts spent more than 35 years helping to build and run the world's largest online brokerage. Today, he has returned to his roots, focusing on a variety of entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures.

A pioneer in the use of technology to revolutionize the financial services sector, as well as an international leader in developing new services for the self-directed investor, Rickets founded the company now known as TD Ameritrade, the largest online brokerage and a recognized national leader in securities trading and clearing.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in economics from Creighton University in 1968, Ricketts began his professional career first as an investment advisor with Ricketts & Co., then a registered representative with Dean Witter, and later a branch manager at Dun & Bradstreet. In 1975, he co-founded First Omaha Securities, a retail securities brokerage firm in Omaha, Nebraska. Under Ricketts' leadership, First Omaha Securities was among the first companies to recognize the potential of the discount securities market. The company grew quickly and, through the use of innovative technology and marketing, evolved into TD Ameritrade, which today manages hundreds of billions of dollars in client assets and leads its competitors with hundreds of thousands of trades per day.

Ricketts served as chief executive officer of Ameritrade Holding Corp. from 1982 to 2001 and chairman from 1982 to 2008. Since 2008, he has devoted himself to a variety of early stage ventures, including The American Film Company, High Plains Bison, The Lodge at Jackson Fork, Opportunity Education Foundation and Ending Spending.

A native of Nebraska, Ricketts now lives in Little Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He and his wife of more than 40 years have four children and 13 grandchildren.

Thomas C. Smith – D.A. Davidson & Co., Lincoln

Tom Smith started his career in the financial services industry in 1968 with First Mid America. In 1983, First Mid America merged with Paine Webber, and he became a senior vice president.

In 1985, Smith and Tom Hayes started Smith Hayes Financial Services. Starting with three employees, they grew to over 100 staff with offices in Lincoln, Omaha and Columbus. They became involved in public finance, started their own mutual fund and acquired the retail business of Kirk Patrick Pettis.

In 2016, Smith Hayes merged with D.A. Davidson & Co. They manage over $40 billion in investments, including $10 billion from the Nebraska offices. Smith was appointed vice chairman of the Davidson Wealth Management Division and serves on the board of directors.

Smith has served as a trustee and past chair of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, trustee for the University of Nebraska Foundation, past chairman and trustee of Nebraska Independent College Foundation, board member and past chairman of the Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation, and director of the Foundation for Educational Services. He is the chair of the Lincoln Community Foundation and the South of Downtown Community Development Organization and immediate past chair of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

A graduate of Hastings High School, Smith attended the University of NebraskaLincoln and earned a bachelor’s degree in business. He is married to Lisa M. Smith and has four grown daughters and 13 grandchildren.


Phillip C. Nelson – Hamilton Telecommunications

Phillip C. Nelson joined his father, Earl Nelson, at Hamilton in 1967. As president, he guided its growth from a small, local telephone company into a leading telecommunications and information technology company with several diverse business lines. Today Nelson continues to be active in the company as chairman of the board.

Nelson significantly led Hamilton to be among many firsts in the telecommunications industry. He served as a leader in the early development of cable television services in rural communities. In the 1980s, he helped lead the way for cellular telephone development in rural Nebraska as the first president of the newly formed Nebraska Cellular, the predecessor rural network to the Verizon cellular network. Hamilton also served as one of the first companies in the state to open customer service call centers in rural Nebraska in the late 1980s. The call center business, coupled with Nelson’s telecommunications expertise, led to the formation of Hamilton Relay in 1991.

Hamilton Relay provides telecommunications relay services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in all 50 states. In the 1990s, Hamilton began providing broadband services and in 2010, joined with several other telecommunications companies to form a network of diverse statewide fiber rings for high-speed data transport and broadband deployment. During Nelson’s tenure, Hamilton’s employment grew from less than 50 in 1967 to more than 1,000 employees operating in Nebraska and nationwide.

Nelson served as an active community leader recruiting new businesses and jobs to the Aurora, Nebraska, area. He participated as an officer and director of national telecom industry organizations, including the U.S. Telephone Association. He also served on the board of directors for Aurora Memorial Hospital, Pinnacle Bank Corp., the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, Aurora Development Corporation, Edgerton Explorit Center and Central Community College Foundation.

Nelson graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He and his wife, Lora, have two children: John and Jim, both involved with Hamilton Telecommunications.

Tonn M. Ostergard – Crete Carrier Corporation

Tonn M. Ostergard serves as president and chief executive officer of Crete Carrier Corporation, a privately owned Lincoln, Nebraska-based transportation and logistics company. Crete Carrier, along with the temperature controlled division Shaffer Trucking and flat-bed subsidiary Hunt Transportation employ more than 6,000 associates with 19 terminal locations across the United States operating 5,600 power units and 13,000 trailers. Prior to joining Crete Carrier, he spent five years in public accounting working the KPMG firm.

He served as chairman for the Nebraska Trucking Association from 1995 to 1996 and participates as a member and director of the American Trucking Association and Truckload Carriers Association.

In addition to his industry related positions, Ostergard serves on the board of directors of Union Bank and Trust Company, Ameritas Mutual Holding Company and NEBCO, Inc. His civic responsibilities include chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation, board member of the Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation, former chairman and board member of St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, former chair of the board of directors of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, a former director and president of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Alumni Association, alumnus of Leadership Lincoln and former board member of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce. Ostergard received the College of Business Alumni Leadership Award in 1991 and the University of Nebraska Young Alumnus Award in 1994. He also served as a member and officer of the Young President’s Organization.

Ostergard earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1981, and graduated from Harvard Business School Management Program in 1991.

He and his wife, Holly, have two children: Halley and Winston.

William “Willy” Theisen – Business Ventures, LLC

William “Willy” Theisen

William “Willy” Theisen

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William “Willy” Theisen always strived to provide quality product ingredients, a fun atmosphere and great hospitable energy to create an overall positive experience in all of his restaurants. He began by opening a popular beer garden called Wild Willy’s which led to the founding of Godfather’s Pizza, soon becoming the fastest growing pizza chain in America. Within a year, Theisen began franchising in Columbus, Nebraska, then expanding across the state, the Midwest and nationwide. At its peak, Godfather's had nearly 900 locations in 40-plus states.

After selling Godfather's Pizza in 1983, he bought and sold GB Foods, a Mexican food chain restaurant in southern California. Theisen served as chairman and CEO of the company while developing the core business as well a revolutionary dual-concept strategy with other branded restaurants and frozen food businesses. Then, he became Famous Dave's first pure franchisee. After he sold that franchise in 2008, he developed Pitch, Theisen's most refined dining model as of yet. Theisen’s latest business venture is a new restaurant concept called Paragon, which opened in August of 2016 in Dundee, Nebraska.

Business Ventures, LLC owned and operated restaurants for more than 40 years and has been directly responsible for the hiring of more than 24,000 full-time and part-time individuals. Theisen continues to open and operate restaurants with the same business integrity philosophy.

Frank Zybach – Zybach Self-Propelled Sprinkling Apparatus

Frank Zybach, born in 1894 in Oregon to Swiss immigrant parents, moved to Columbus, Nebraska, where his father was a blacksmith. In his teens, Zybach invented and patented a driverless tractor which plowed concentric circles in ever-decreasing size from the outside to the middle. He also worked on an automatic transmissions for tractors and trucks but failed to perfect the idea.

In the 1940s, Zybach worked a tenant farmer in Colorado where he attended an irrigation demonstration. Within a year of seeing the demonstration, he built the first center pivot irrigation system. The system pivoted around the wellhead that supplied the water and used the power of the water to move itself. Frank applied for a patent on his Zybach Self-Propelled Sprinkling Apparatus in July 1949 and received the patent in 1952.

Zybach partnered with A.E. Trowbridge of Columbus, Nebraska, who provided the capital necessary to begin manufacturing the new center pivot irrigation system and in the first two years of production, 10 systems were sold. In September 1954, Zybach and Trowbridge agreed to license their center pivot irrigation patent to Omaha businessman Robert Daugherty. They received a five percent royalty on every machine Valley Manufacturing produced until the patent expired in 1969.

In 1973, Zybach received the first Pioneer Irrigation Award ever presented by the Nebraska Water Conference Committee and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Zybach and wife, Elizabeth, had two daughters: Angeline and Frances. Zybach died in 1980 in Columbus.


Maurice “Moe” Beardmore – Chevrolet

Maurice “Moe” Beardmore

Maurice “Moe” Beardmore

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Born in Glasco, Kansas, Maurice “Moe” Beardmore graduated from the University of Kansas and served with the U.S. Navy during World War II. A third generation car dealer, Beardmore began his automotive career in 1948 as general manager of his family’s dealership, Meade Beardmore Motor Company, in Mankato, Kansas.

In 1954, Beardmore started his first Chevrolet dealership in Oxford, Nebraska. In 1958, he moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, where he owned and operated Beardmore Chevrolet until 1967. After moving to the Omaha, Nebraska, area he purchased the former Fishko Chevrolet in Papillion, Nebraska, and renamed it Beardmore Suburban Chevrolet. The company moved to its current location in 1971 and has since operated as Beardmore Chevrolet in Bellevue, Nebraska.

Beardmore worked in the automobile business in Nebraska for nearly 40 years. He served as president of the Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association, trustee for Bellevue University and as a member of the SAC Museum Board of Directors among other community organizations. His numerous awards included Time magazine Quality Dealer Award, Boss of the Year while in Beatrice and Outstanding Service Award from the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce.

Tom Henning – Assurity Life Insurance Company

Tom Henning serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer for Assurity Life Insurance Company. A graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University, he holds chartered life underwriter, chartered financial consultant and chartered financial analyst designations. Henning, a former banker, served as president and CEO of the Overland National Bank in Grand Island, Nebraska, in the 1980s, and president and COO of the National Bank of Commerce in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Active in a variety of industry groups, Henning’s service includes the board of directors of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), chair of the ACLI Political Action Committee board and ACLI Forum 500. He also received the ACLI Distinguished Service Award and served as president of the Nebraska Insurance Federation.

Outside of industry, Henning actively participates in many civic organizations including the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, University of Nebraska Foundation, Lincoln Chamber Economic Development Corporation, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development and the steering committee of Lincoln’s Vision 2015 group. He continues to serve on the Foundation’s investment committee and its donor advisory board as well as the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Innovation Campus Governing Board.

Henning received the 2015 Lincoln Chamber’s Burnham Yates Citizenship Award. He also served as a board member for Nelnet, Lincoln Industries and Great Western Bancorp, Inc.

He and his wife, Candy, also operate Henning Farms which is devoted to developing wildlife habitat. They have two daughters: Maddie and Cassie.

Owen Palm – 21st Century Equipment

21st Century Equipment began in 1996 by purchasing the Alliance, Nebraska, John Deere dealership. The founding members of the LLC were Owen Palm and his wife, Karen, his brother Eric Palm and Bridgeport, Nebraska, agri-businessmen Pete and Nick Lapaseotes. Today they still work as partners and through various mergers and acquisitions, added additional members to their ownership group. They now own 17 John Deere agricultural dealerships in western Nebraska, northeast Colorado and Wyoming, creating one of the largest John Deere dealerships in the United States. Palm served as president and chief executive officer since the company’s inception.

He grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota before attending the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, majoring in geological engineering. While in school, he met Karen Niedan, from Hershey, Nebraska, who eventually became his wife.

In 1979, after completing a four-year stint in the U.S. Army, Palm began an eight-year career with oilfield services giant, Schlumberger, Ltd. In 1987, Owen resigned from his senior management position in Houston, Texas, and he and his family moved to Gering, Nebraska, in search of an agriculture job. He began a new career with The Western Sugar Company in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

In 2000, as Western Sugar transitioned from stock ownership to a grower-owned cooperative, Palm left the sugar business to become fully engaged in 21st Century Equipment, a two store operation at the time. The company grew to employ 425 people and operate in five states as an industry leader in precision farming. The company actively participates in the export of late-model John Deere equipment to Ukraine and other parts of eastern Europe.

For several years, Palm involved himself in organizations across the state including Ak-Sar-Ben, Platte Institute for Economic Research, Nebraska Natural Resources Commission and Nebraska Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. He serves as vice-chairman of the board of directors of Hershey State Bank. In addition to serving on numerous local committees, he is a trustee on both the Chadron State College Foundation and the South Dakota School of Mines Foundation Boards.


JoAnn M. Martin – Ameritas Life Corporation

JoAnn M. Martin joined Ameritas Life Insurance Corporation in 1984 as a manager in the audit department and rose to chair, president and chief executive officer of the company in 2008. A year later, Martin became president and chief executive officer of Ameritas Mutual Holding Company. Her leadership included Ameritas becoming one of the strongest companies in the insurance industry, including achieving a record asset and capital position. Martin championed a series of strategic accomplishments, including the merger of the insurance companies that were solely owned subsidiaries into two entities: Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. and Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. of New York.

Martin grew up on a farm near Plainview, Nebraska, and graduated from Plainview High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and master’s degree in business administration from Colorado State University. She also serves as a certified public accountant.

Martin actively served on numerous boards of directors including Nebraska Innovation Campus Development Corporation, National Research Corporation, University of Nebraska Foundation and Lincoln Vision 2015.

Earl May – Earl May Nursery and Garden Center and KMA radio

Born in 1888 near Hayes Center, Nebraska, Earl May used his entrepreneurial spirit to earn money for college and after graduation became a high school principal. In 1911, he entered law school at the University of Michigan and earned money in the summers as a door-to-door salesman for the D.M. Ferry Seed Company. He eventually transferred back to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and married Gertrude Welch, whose father worked in the seed and nursery business. May joined the family business in Shenandoah, Iowa and with the financial backing of E.S. Welch, he founded Earl May Nursery and Garden Center in 1919.

He took advantage of the new technology radio offered at the time, greatly impacting the growth and success of the company. First operating out of a radio station in Omaha, Nebraska, he received a license to operate his own station in Shenandoah (KMA) in 1925. Using telephone lines to connect to the WOAW transmitter 60 miles away in Omaha, the May studio acted as the longest remote radio connection of the day.

May passed away in 1946, but his foresight proved to be instrumental in the company's entry into television beginning with the origination of KMTV in Omaha in 1949. His family manages the Earl May Nursery and Garden Center and KMA radio.

Richard F. Reinke – Reinke Manufacturing

Nearly half a century ago, a small-town businessman and inventor Richard F. Reinke introduced his first center-pivot irrigation system. A self-taught engineer and draftsman, he began inventing at a young age in his father’s machine shop. He formed Reinke Manufacturing Company, Inc., on his family farm near Deshler, Nebraska, in 1954. He introduced the world’s first reversible, electric gear driven center pivot system that ran on rubber tires.

This same system also featured a bow-string truss design, a major innovation that allowed the water pipe to ride much higher off the ground. Reinke serves as one of the oldest and largest irrigation system manufacturers in the world. Many of his innovations became standard in the industry.

Reinke continued to work and innovate until his death in 2003 at the age of 80.

Michael B. Yanney – Burlington Capital Group

Michael “Mike” B. Yanney served as chairman emeritus of the board of The Burlington Capital Group LLC, formerly America First Companies, which manages public investment funds. From 1977 to 1984, Yanney engaged in the ownership and management of commercial banks. He served as a director and member of the executive committee of FirsTier Financial, Inc. from 1985 until he resigned in 1991. He conducted business in the former Soviet Union and 14 other countries since 1976. Yanney also served on the East West Institute joint U.S./Russia delegation in 2007.

Yanney served as a member of the board of directors for America First Tax Exempt Fund, Tetrad and Core Bank Holding Co. He also participated as a member of the board of Level 3 Communications, Inc., Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, Freddie Mac Advisory Board, Durham Resources, Inc., Freedom Communications, Inc., Forest Oil Corporation, MFS Communications, Inc., PKS Information Services, Inc., Omaha Steaks, MFA and Streck Inc.


Deryl F. Hamann – Baird Holm LLC

Deryl F. Hamann serves as a member of the corporate and tax sections of Baird Holm LLC. He regularly represents clients regarding estate planning, taxation, banking law and corporate law matters.

Hamann received his juris doctor, cum laude, from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Law. He serves as a member and a former president of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation and the Nebraska Association of Bank Attorneys. Hamann also participates as a member of the American Bar Association, and a member and past president of the Omaha Estate Planning Council. He also acted as an investor and owner in numerous banks in the region.

A fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Hamann previously served as chairman of the Bethpage Foundation, Inc., and Bellevue University. Hamann serves as a director of Bellevue University and the Bellevue University Foundation.

In 2011, he was designated by Best Lawyers in America as the Corporate Lawyer of the Year in Omaha, Nebraska.

Max and Eric Brown – KRVN Radio

Max Brown

Max Brown

Eric Brown

Eric Brown

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Max Brown, a pioneer in broadcast journalism, founded a network of radio stations serving Nebraska agriculture. He served as part of a group of leaders from Nebraska farm organizations who started the Nebraska Rural Radio Association, which put KRVN on the air February 1, 1951. The association’s Rural Radio Network subsequently grew to six stations.

More than 4,200 Nebraska farm and ranch families own the association. Brown served as executive secretary of the association and general manager of its radio stations until he retired in 1979.

Eric Brown began his broadcasting career in 1962 as a part-time rock-and-roll disk jockey at KRVN while attending Lexington High School. He earned degrees from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of Missouri before teaching at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.

In 1979, Eric moved to Lexington, Nebraska and rejoined KRVN AM/FM as a general manager when Max retired. In 1984, the Nebraska Rural Radio Association purchased KNEB AM/FM in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and in 1996 added KTIC AM/ KWPN FM in West Point, Nebraska, to form the Nebraska Rural Radio Network.

Eric retired in 2012 as general manager of the Nebraska Rural Radio Association, but remains active with their foundation.

John Doherty – NUCOR Steel

John Doherty, one of the founders of NUCOR Steel, was instrumental in designing and building the NUCOR steel mill northeast of Norfolk, Nebraska. As a general manager from 1973 to 1995, he set annual production records and helped write the company’s history as a modern American success story.

At the mill, Doherty often worked seven days a week. Past co-workers said he would be either in his office working with the door always open, or out on the mill floor in the heat and the smoke with his crew of nearly 400 employees.

An engineer and draftsman by training, he gave up his position as a general manager in 1995 and worked for two years as the NUCOR vice president of engineering and consulting. He retired from the company in 1997 and operated a steel mill engineering consulting company for several years.

Donald Everett Sr. – Runza National

Located in Lincoln, Nebraska, near Pioneers Park, the first Runza drive inn opened in 1949 serving the original Runza sandwiches. The famous hot sandwich was created by Sally Everett and her brother, Alex Brening. Donald Everett Sr. began working at Runza in 1964. By the time Donald Everett Sr. completed his work with the business, the Runza became a household name and a Nebraska tradition.

Everett oversaw the expansion of the business from a sandwich shack into a booming chain almost synonymous with the Nebraska experience. In 1966, as the second Runza location opened in Lincoln, Everett purchased the trade name and with his mother’s blessing incorporated Runza Restaurants.

In 1994, Everett was named state Restaurateur of the Year. Runza celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009 and expanded to more than 80 locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa and Kansas.


Marc LeBaron – Lincoln Industries

Marc LeBaron began working for his father, Nebraska Business Hall of Fame member Dale LeBaron, when the company resided in their house. Deciding to stay with the firm, LeBaron led Lincoln Industries to become the nation’s leading supplier in high-performance metal finishing. With more than 500 employees, the company operates 24 hours a day and has obtained YS 16949 and ISO 14001 certifications. Lincoln Industries serves as the largest, most diverse privately-held metal finishing operation in North America.

Outside of the industry, LeBaron contributes to his community, state and nation. He sits on the U.S. Bank advisory board and the board of directors for Assurity, Inc., Ballantyne of Omaha, TEK Industries, Bryan Medical Center, Nebraska State Chamber, University of Nebraska–Lincoln NUtech Ventures, International Sculpture Center and many other non-profit organizations. He received the College of Business Business Excellence Award and is one of two Nebraskans to receive Junior Achievement’s Gold Award.

Passionate about wellness, LeBaron initiated the company’s wellness program 20 years ago. Today the company’s wellness program serves as a benchmark for companies across the nation.

He and his wife, Kathy, have two children: Katie and Kassy.

Dr. Lee Simmons – Henry Doorly Zoo

Dr. Lee Simmons joined Omaha’s Zoo in 1966 as staff veterinarian, soon becoming associate director. Named director of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in 1970, the zoo opened many cutting-edge, world-class exhibits including the Lied Jungle, Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night, Hubbard Gorilla Valley and the Berniece Grewock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion.

Named among the top five zoos in North America, Henry Doorly Zoo grew to more than 250 full-time and 300 part-time employees and a budget of $22 million. The zoo serves as a leader in conservation, research and preservation of endangered species. Field work in Madagascar by the staff led to the discovery of 20 new lemur species. Notable accomplishments by Henry Doorly Zoo include an artificially inseminated guar calf, an in-vitro fertilized guar calf, an artificially inseminated tiger cub and an in-vitro tiger cub.

As chairman of the Omaha Zoo Foundation, Simmons continues to provide support for the zoo’s strategic master plan and its extensive research and conservation programs. He raised $160 million for buildings, research and conservation. Simmons built a reputation for finishing projects on time and within budget and grew attendance and memberships to be among the best in the nation.

Simmons and his wife, Marie, have three children: Lee, Heather and Heidi.

S.N. “Bud” Wolbach – First National Bank of Grand Island

S.N. Wolbach

S.N. “Bud” Wolbach

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S.N. “Bud” Wolbach’s grandfather began the First National Bank of Grand Island, and Wolbach served as president and chairman of the board of The First National Bank of Grand Island from 1956 to 1982. During this time, the bank grew from $20 million to almost $150 million.

As an aeronautical engineer, Wolbach worked throughout World War II for the Beechcraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, on designing future aircrafts. During this time, he served as director of the Omaha Federal Reserve Bank, director of the Equitable Building and Loan Association, president of NETS Inc. (Nebraska Electronic Transfer System) and the board of directors of Search Inc. He also owned, managed and expanded cattle operations in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming. This venture grew from 5,000 acres to 27,000 acres. Wolbach served on numerous civic boards and received many awards for his contribution to Nebraska.

As a well-known community and civic booster, he served on the Hall County Museum Board for the Stuhr Museum. When Leo Stuhr unexpectedly passed away, Wolbach stepped into his role as president and served for 37 years. He secured 200 acres of land for the present location of Stuhr Museum. Under Wolbach’s leadership, the Stuhr grew to be rated among the top ten outdoor historical museums in the U.S.

Wolbach and his wife, Gloria, had two children: Gloria and William.

Paul Younes – Younes Hospitality

Paul Younes came to the United States from Israel on a soccer scholarship at York College. After transferring to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, he earned a degree in business administration and helped support himself as a dishwasher at a local hotel restaurant. He became manager of the hotel and began his career in the hospitality business.

In 1977, he leased the Captain’s Table Restaurant in the Kearney Ramada Inn (now the Holiday Inn). Over the years, he bought out the owners and became the sole owner of Younes Hospitality, which owns nine hotels throughout Nebraska. In addition, he determined Kearney needed a new convention center and privately financed the Younes Convention Center which opened in 2010.

Younes dedicated much of his time and energy to Kearney, Nebraska, serving on the Kearney Area Chamber Board, Buffalo County Heart Association, UNK Foundation, Optimist Club and Kearney Catholic High School Foundation. In 2009, he was named the Friend of Kearney for his charitable and volunteer efforts, as well as his commitment to the lodging and tourism industry.

Younes and his wife, Linda, have two children: J. Paul and Maggie.


John Gottschalk – Omaha World Herald Co.

A native of Rushville, Nebraska, John Gottschalk was born into a newspaper family. Both his grandfather and father owned newspapers, and he learned from them and others the lessons of stewardship to his community. At the age of 23, he purchased the Sidney Telegraph. He also served as mayor of Sidney, making him the youngest mayor in Nebraska. He sold his company and joined the Omaha World-Herald in 1975 as an assistant to the president.

When Gottschalk retired as a publisher and chief executive officer in 2008, the enterprise included of 26 companies comprising 40 print titles, plus direct marketing, advertising and high tech companies. The company’s operations reside in eight states with more than 2,500 employees. He served as a key figure in the $2 billion resurgence of downtown Omaha and the Omaha riverfront with his decision to build the company’s Freedom Center and purchased another downtown building as the Omaha World-Herald headquarters.

Gottschalk served as national vice president of the Boy Scouts of America, chairman of the USO Foundation and a member of the boards Joslyn Art Museum, Henry Doorly Zoo, Creighton University, Kiewit Institute, Omaha Symphony and Nebraska Games and Parks Foundation. He and his wife, Carmen, have two daughters. They also served as volunteer foster parents for dozens of children through the Child Saving Institute and operate a charitable foundation.

Harry “Hal” Ackley Lainson Jr. – Dutton-Lainson Co.

Nebraska native Harry “Hal” Ackley Lainson Jr. helped develop one of the country’s leading manufacturing companies, a firm that played a prominent production role during World War II. Starting out delivering invoices on his bicycle for his father, Lainson spent more than 70 years with Dutton-Lainson Co. The company began in 1886 as a maker of harnesses and horse collars. It gradually expanded into marine, agricultural, industrial and automotive products.

He graduated from Hastings College, and studied business at Northwestern University and architecture at Iowa State University. Lainson began as advertising manager in 1934 and became general manager in 1937.

As general manager, Lainson began attending state and national meetings, including those of Associated Industries of Nebraska, forerunner of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He served as a member of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board most of his life and as president of Associated Industries of Nebraska in 1948. He served as the chairman of Hastings College Board of Trustees for 27 years, and a founder and trustee of the Nebraska Independent College Foundation. He also participated as a member of the first advisory board of the Nebraska Hospital Association and the first board of Economic Development for the State of Nebraska.

Lainson and his wife, Gretchen, had two daughters: Margaret and Mary.

Bob and Cynthia Milligan – MI Industries, University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business

Bob and Cynthia Milligan

Bob and Cynthia Milligan

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Bob and Cynthia Milligan first met at a church function in Lincoln, Nebraska. After she graduated from the University of Kansas and he graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, they married and attended George Washington University to earn their law degrees. Both began careers in Washington, D.C., Bob at the White House and Cynthia with a large law firm.

In her law career, Cynthia acted as the first woman to become a partner with a large, prominent Washington law firm. She served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Law. After being a partner of a Lincoln law firm, she served as director of banking and finance for the state of Nebraska. From 1991 to 1998, she became president and chief executive officer of Cynthia Milligan and Associates, a consulting firm for financial institutions. The longest serving director of Wells Fargo Bank, she also served as a director for Gallup, Ameritas/Calvert Funds, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Raven Industries and Colonial Williamsburg. She was named the eighth and first woman dean of the College of Business of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, serving from 1998 to 2010.

Bob founded a company in Virginia that he moved to Lincoln in 1980. Utilizing Nebraska meat and grain products, he built MI Industries into an international company. As founder and chairman, he grew the firm into a leading producer of nutritional pet products and the largest producer of fresh frozen pet food in North America, as well as in Asia and Europe. MI Industries maintains four operations in Lincoln, as well as production in California, Kansas, Missouri and Texas. The company also maintains production in Asia and South America.

He served as the international president of CBMC, a Christian marketplace ministry active in 90 nations around the globe, and on the boards of Prison Fellowship Ministries, LI-COR Scientific Products, Cornhusker Council and National Advisory Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In 2007, he became the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the first and only Nebraskan to serve in the position.

Bob and Cynthia have five children.

Eldon N. Roth – Dakota Dunes, BPI Technology, Inc.

Founder and president of BPI, Eldon N. Roth built the company into the dominant player in its niche – lean meat added to ground beef, particularly when making hamburger patties for quick service restaurants. Roth left his native South Dakota as a teen and lived and worked in California until he was 45. Self-taught, he learned about refrigeration and freezing technology in a San Francisco ice cream factory where he began as a janitor.

Two company slogans are prominent at BPI. “We know how to do things because we do things,” and “Communicate and Cooperate.” Both provide BPI an edge in allowing employees the ability to re-think and look outside the box to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. The BPI facilities serve as models of cleanliness and technology.

He and his wife, Regina, together with their children, Jennifer and Nick, continue to lead BPI. Recognized throughout the food industry for their food-safety innovations and commitment to making the highest-quality lean beef, BPI maintains a Midwestern work ethic that stresses safety and quality in everything they do. The company looks to expand into new beef products and Roth experiments at his restaurant, Eldon’s, in Sioux City, Iowa.


Clayton Andrews – Andrews Van Lines

A.R. Andrews, father of Clayton Andrews, founded Andrews Van Lines in 1920. Then known as Andrews Transfer and Storage, the firm began delivering large packages from the train station to homes and businesses. Born the same year his father started the family business, Andrews enjoyed trucks at an early age.

In 1936, the Interstate Commerce Commission started granting certificates for motor carriers and the firm obtained a certificate to operate in 13 states. The company operated within this area until 1947 when it purchased a certificate adding 22 additional non-radial states, giving it access to the east coast. After serving in World War II, Andrews took over management of the firm. In 1954, the company’s name changed to Andrews Van and Storage, and he began expanding the organization into a larger van line. His dream of building his father’s organization into a nationwide van line became a reality. Andrews Vans Lines is a worldwide moving company operating between all 48 contiguous states, Alaska and Hawaii. In addition, the international division maintains representation in 21 foreign countries.

Later in his career, Andrews began active involvement with the Orphan Grain Train, a Christian volunteer network that shares personal and material resources with people in need in America and around the world. Grain Train volunteers donations of clothing, medical supplies, food and other aid to meet real needs. In 1992, Andrew’s pastor approached him with an idea to help people in Latvia in desperate need of spiritual, emotional and humanitarian aid after the breakup of the former Soviet Union. Together, they founded Orphan Grain Train.

Andrews has two children: Jean and Jane.

Leo A. Daly III – Leo A. Daly Company

Leo A. Daly III leads a team of more than 1,100 design professionals responsible for a broad array of architecture and engineering projects in the U.S. and abroad. His firm’s expertise in the U.S. ranges from securing facilities for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Strategic Air Command to contemporary structures including The Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Los Angeles, the North Terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. As leader of his firm, Daly provided visionary guidance for major building projects across the nation and around the world.

The creation of the National World War II Memorial serves as his most prized personal architectural achievement. When selected as architect, engineer and head of the design team, Daly took charge and guided his team through the numerous reviews and hearings essential to bringing the project to fruition.

Daly and his firm also created environmentally friendly buildings such as the Lied Library of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas and the Carl T. Curtis Midwest Regional Headquarters for the U.S. National Park Service in Omaha, Nebraska. The Carl T. Curtis building received gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the 2005 U.S. Department of the Interior’s Environmental Achievement Award and the 2005 GSA Environmental Award for Sustainable Design and Green Buildings.

Daly holds professional registration as an architect in 48 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Australia, Guam, United Kingdom and Germany. He received his architectural degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He holds professional memberships in the American Institute of Architects (fellow), Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Australian Institute of Architects (fellow), National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, Society of American Military Engineers and USO World Board of Governors.

D. William “Bill” Smith – Speedway Motors

D. William Smith

D. William “Bill” Smith

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After graduating from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1952 with a teaching degree, D. William “Bill” Smith followed his passion and opened one of the first speed shops in the Midwest. His passion for racing and cars began as a young man driving a used Model T in his Lincoln, Nebraska, neighborhood. He and his wife, Joyce, began in a 400-square-foot shop and supplemented the fledging business by racing on weekends, which eventually turned to building cars and hiring drivers, using the winnings to finance his growing business.

Smith and his family grew the shop into an international mail order company with several divisions meeting the needs of automotive and auto memorabilia enthusiasts worldwide. Speedway Motors is the world’s largest maker, distributor and retailer of auto products for the racing and street rod world.

Smith, while ever striving to cater to the needs of his customers, also continued his hobby as a collector. Over the years, he worked on an extensive collection of toy racers, pedal cars and exotic engines. He and Joyce founded the Smith Collection Museum in 1992. The museum not only preserves, interprets and displays items significant in racing and automotive history, but also presents a continuous chronology of automotive racing engine development.

Speedway’s commercial real estate division developed many projects throughout Lincoln, including renovated historic buildings in downtown Lincoln and the historic Haymarket District. Smith received numerous awards and honors including induction into eight halls of fame in the auto industry, as well as the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Smith and his wife have four children: Carson, Craig, Clay and Jason.

Harold and George Wimmer – Wimmer’s Meat Products

Harold Wimmer

Harold Wimmer

George Wimmer

George Wimmer

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Brothers Harold and George Wimmer continued the operation of the firm started by their father in 1934. As young men, the brothers helped their father when he established the business in Snyder, Nebraska, after moving the family from Milwaukee. Eventually, local grocery stores began asking to sell products locally and the firm’s meat formulas, old-world spice recipes and reputation for uncompromised quality were quickly recognized.

Soon the small butcher shop began wholesaling its products and after World War II, the brothers began active management of the company’s operations. In 1957, a fire at the Snyder facility prompted the brothers to relocate the business to its present location in West Point, Nebraska.

Harold led the marketing and sales part of the operation while George continued the wurst-making skills from his father. They modernized their facilities and encouraged their employees to learn all they could to continue the Wimmer’s way.

Wimmer’s Meat Products continues as a family-owned operation with the same personal attention to quality, service and product superiority. Over the years, the firm bought three other quality sausage brands: Bassett, Ambassador and Fairbury Brand Meats. The official hot dog of the Nebraska Conrhuskers, Wimmer’s sponsors Der Viener Schlinger at every home game.

The brothers always believed in giving back and installed a strong commitment to West Point and surrounding communities. Harold’s son, Dave, currently serves as the chairman of the board of Wimmer’s Meat Products.

George had two sons: Bill and George. Harold and his wife, Delores, had four children: Dave, Paul, Ruth and Mary.


Abe Baker – Baker’s Supermarkets

Abe Baker emigrated from Russia as a child and held a variety of jobs, including newspaper carrier and produce clerk, before becoming Omaha's favorite grocer. Baker and his wife, Helen, founded the grocery chain, Baker’s, just prior to the Great Depression with a store in Walnut, Iowa. The tiny store with six workers grew to employ more than 3,600 associates. He preached dedication to customer service and total quality management long before the phrases became the buzzwords of the 1990s. He led by example, working the sales floor, sacking groceries and visiting with customers at his many stores.

As the business grew, Baker realized controlling locations would be a key to future growth and began developing shopping centers. The firm acted as a pioneer in employee benefits and profit sharing also creating a scholarship program to help young employees further their education.

Baker had three children: Debbie, Jack and Bob.

C.G. “Kelly” Holthus – Cornerstone Bank

C.G. "Kelly" Holthus, serves as chairman, president and CEO of Cornerstone Bank, a multi-bank holding company formerly known as First National Bank of York, with a mission to meet the financial needs of central Nebraska. Surviving the pioneer days, the Great Depression and a bank robbery in 1933, the bank grew to 29 locations in 20 communities throughout central Nebraska.

Holthus attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking in 1970. He began his banking career in his hometown of Bertrand, Nebraska, before joining the York bank.

Holthus became the American Bankers Association (ABA) president in 1990 and also served as president of the Nebraska Bankers Association. He served as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1996. He served as treasurer of the York General Health Care Services, and a member of the board of directors of the York Community Foundation and University of Nebraska–Lincoln Technology Park. He previously served as president of the York Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the York City Council, Concordia Foundation, University of Nebraska Foundation and Nebraska Independent College Foundation.

Holthus also helped improve the York Area Senior Center and the York County Fairgrounds. To recognize his commitment to the community, Holthus Field House at York College was dedicated in 2003.

Kelly and his wife, Virginia, have four children.

John P. Nelson – Silverstone Group

After attending Carleton College and serving as a U.S. Naval officer, John P. Nelson joined his father at the Nelson Insurance Agency in 1965. The company has since changed its name and grown from a one-room office with three employees to more than 160 consultants, actuaries, administrators and registered investment representatives who serve clients throughout the United States.

Nelson serves as chairman after serving in the roles of sales manager, executive vice president and president of the company. With nearly 200 employees, SilverStone is an independent consulting, actuarial and insurance brokerage firm and an industry leader in risk management, property and casualty, human resource consulting, employee benefits and private client services. Nelson sees two key elements to the company's growth: a focus on acquiring companies and the recruiting of highly qualified technical associates to create a state-of-the-art company.

He served many Omaha and Council Bluffs organizations and boards, including the Iowa Western Community College Foundation, Doane College, Durham Western Heritage Museum, Great Western Bank and Growth Management Corporation and Boy Scouts of America Mid-America Council. In addition, he became the 2003 King of Ak-Sar-Ben and the 2002 United Way Citizen of the Year and was inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.

He and his wife, Anne, have three children.

Joe Hampton – Hampton Enterprises

In 1947 at the age of 22, Joe Hampton moved to Lincoln from Chadron, Nebraska, when a lack of funds forced him out of college and into the workforce as an apprentice electrician.

In his spare time, he began building a house for himself. Housing was short in those post-war years so he sold his brand new home just as soon as he finished it. Then he built another one and then another. In 1964, he made the leap from homebuilder to developer by purchasing land that became the city's first office park and residential community, Lincolnshire Square. The firm continued to build and develop commercial properties in Lincoln, including Williamsburg Village, Corporate Centre and Meadowlane Shopping Center.

Hampton continued to grow in size and scope, and built a solid reputation for quality craftsmanship and unique architectural detail. Today the company employs more than 60 people and participates in land development, commercial general contracting, construction management and real estate services, including property management and building maintenance.

An avid pilot, Hampton served on the Airport Authority Board from 1963 to 1977. He served two terms on the Lincoln City Council supporting pro-growth policies and expansion of the city's infrastructure for future development. He continues to be actively involved in state and civic development efforts.

He and his wife, Marge, have two children.


Willard Waldo – Waldo Farms

Willard Waldo

Willard H. Waldo

Willard Waldo, a graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, began his lifelong involvement with agriculture at a young age. After the Civil War, his family migrated to Nebraska to build a farming operation The company set a goal to have the best Duroc hog herd in the world and to either make the business profitable or quit farming altogether.

While working as a vocational agriculture instructor and county extension agent, Waldo established his own Duroc herd using selected Waldo-raised foundation stock. He strongly believed in using the principles of agricultural science to improve swine breeding stock. He put these principles into practice by being among the first to weigh pigs at birth to determine when they would reach market weight. He also developed a simple, but effective ear-notching system used to identify the pigs.

Over time, Waldo Farms established a tradition of using independent evaluators and industry-wide trials to measure the performance of Waldo Farms' pigs. Waldo’s son, Max, graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and became a full partner of Waldo Farms in 1960.

Over the years, Waldo worked with many Nebraska agricultural organizations, such as Livestock Breeders and Feeders, Farm Bureau, Sheep Breeders and Wheat Commission. He served as a state senator, and on numerous local and state civic and charitable organizations. He is well-known as a lifelong supporter of the Nebraska State Fair.

Waldo has two children.

J. Gates Minnick – DuTeau Chevrolet

J. Gates Minnick

J. Gates Minnick

J. Gates Minnick graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1954. Minnick's father-in-law, Al DuTeau, began the family car dealership in 1928 and Minnick began working at DuTeau Chevrolet in 1955, becoming president of the company in 1983. His love for the automobile industry and innate concern for customers helped Minnick and the DuTeau team grow significantly during his tenure.

Minnick served as a board member of the Lincoln Foundation, the University of Nebraska Foundation and Alumni Association, Bryan Memorial Hospital, the Downtown Lincoln Association and other significant industry boards. He also served on boards for civic and charitable organizations, such as Lincoln Electric System and the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

Minnick served as president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Nebraska New Car and Truck Dealers Association as well as chairman of the State Chamber in 1997. He also served two terms on the Lincoln City Council.

Minnick received many awards for his service, including the Time magazine Quality Dealer Award, the University of Nebraska Builder Award and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Man of the Year Award. In retirement, he continued to serve on the Lincoln Vision 2015 group.

He and his wife, Daisy, have four children.

Donald Smeal – Smeal Fire Apparatus Company

Donald Smeal

Donald Smeal

Donald Smeal, part of the fourth generation of a family who settled on a homestead in Snyder, Nebraska, learned about mechanical objects and took particular interest in the steam engine tractor that was used to operate a saw mill. In high school, Smeal focused on math, physics and science while he continued with work on the farm, such as threshing, saw milling and silage cutting. He also served in World War II.

Upon returning to Snyder, Smeal bought farm machinery that allowed him to shell corn and bale hay for profit. In 1955, he purchased a repair shop to start a welding business. He designed and built a feed box with an auger system and a water well hoist, which became the basis of Smeal Manufacturing. In 1965, due to the success of his machines, he received the Nebraska Businessman of the Year Award.

Today Smeal Fire Apparatus Company serves as a major competitor in the fire and rescue industry. The company owns thousands of trucks and aerial ladders throughout North America and includes more than 340 employees.

Five of Smeal’s children work in the company, along with their spouses and children. Smeal never strayed from his roots and built his business with people who share his values and work ethic.

Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon

Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon

Alan, Fred, and Steve Simon

Five generations of the Simon family turned Omaha Steaks into a nationally recognized company. Beginning with a father and son who left Riga, Latvia, in 1898 to escape religious persecution, they found themselves in Omaha, Nebraska, working as butchers. In 1917, they founded their own company and dedicated themselves to processing and selling tender, grain-fed beef to restaurants and grocers in the area. Originally known as Table Supply Meat Company, the firm also supplied to the Union Pacific Railroad. The company's reputation quickly spread to the general public and the family began a mail order venture in 1952.

It began with a father and son, who left Riga, Latvia in 1898 to escape religious persecution. They found themselves in Omaha, Nebraska where they worked as butchers. In 1917, they founded their own company and were dedicated to processing and selling tender, grain-fed beef to restaurants and grocers in the area. Originally known as Table Supply Meat Company, the firm also supplied to the Union Pacific Railroad. The company's reputation quickly spread to the general public and the family began a mail order venture in 1952.

Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, three key innovations developed: direct parcel shipping, polystyrene shipping coolers and vacuum packaging, which allowed the firm to ship its products to a much larger audience more efficiently. In 1966, the company became Omaha Steaks International, Inc. and between 1975 and 1978, they began providing inbound and outbound customer phone service.

In 1990, Omaha Steaks became one of the first companies to join the technological wave of electronic marketing. They developed the website – – in 1995. Today customers can order from anywhere in the world.

The fourth generation of the Simon family: Alan, Fred and their late brother, Steve, instrumentally developed the concept of mail order steak. This concept helped the company grow to become a worldwide supplier of a variety of red meats, smoked meats, poultry, fish and other seafood, pastas, soups, desserts and gift baskets. Bruce and Todd Simon, the fifth generation, now play major roles in managing the company. All five generations contributed to the company's success in serving 1.5 million customers.


James P. Abel – NEBCO

James Abel

James P. Abel

James P. “Jim” Abel began working for NEBCO, Inc. in 1969 as a laborer in the company's concrete pipe plant. A family-owned business based in Lincoln, Nebraska, NEBCO involves the manufacturing concrete building materials, road construction, mining, railroading, farming and real estate development. Abel attended both the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Arizona State University, earning a degree in business.

He succeeded his father, business hall of fame member George P. Abel Jr., as president of the firm in 1985. Under Jim’s leadership, NEBCO expanded its concrete building material business through organic growth and acquisitions. NEBCO's real estate activities expanded to include commercial, residential and recreational developments. Most notable include the Landmark office buildings near the Nebraska State Capitol, Chalco Valley Business Park in Omaha, Nebraska, and Fallbrook, a 700-acre residential and commercial development in Lincoln, utilizing the features of new urbanism. The Abel family's love of golf led to the construction of Quarry Oaks Golf Club, voted by Golf Digest as the best affordable public golf course in America when it opened in 1997.

His passion for baseball led to the development of Haymarket Park, adjacent to Lincoln's historic Haymarket District. Built through a joint cooperation of NEBCO, the city of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Haymarket Park became home to the Lincoln Saltdogs and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln baseball and softball teams. Abel serves as chairman of the Lincoln Saltdogs franchise which began their inaugural season in 2001.

His activities within the community and state extend to membership on civic, philanthropic and professional boards including the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation, Nebraska Wesleyan University Board of Governors, University of Nebraska Foundation, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

The Abel Foundation continues his family's tradition of returning a measure of the company's success back to the communities where they operate. Abel actively participates in the foundation’s operations and serves as president. The Lied Center for Performing Arts, Abel Stadium on the Nebraska Wesleyan University campus, Folsom Children's Zoo, Mahoney State Park, Lincoln Children's Museum, University of Nebraska–Lincoln and United Way received Abel Foundation gifts.

Abel and his wife, Mary, have one son: Jack.

Fred Bosselman – Bosselman and Eaton Truck Stop

Fred Bosselman

Fred Bosselman

In 1948, a farmer and part-time truck driver, Fred, his wife, Maxine, and family members opened Bosselman and Eaton Truck Stop in Grand Island, Nebraska. Having been on the road, he saw the wretched conditions for drivers and began providing good service, good food and quality products for the transportation industry and traveling public.

The company expanded to 40 Pump and Pantry stores, eight Grandma Max's restaurants, five motels, 10 Boss Truck Shops and eight Bosselman Travel Centers. The company includes Bosselman Energy, a multi-state distributor of fuels, propane, ethanol and lube products; Bosselman Tank and Trailer, providing fuel transport trailer and bobtail truck sales, testing and repair; Petroleum Equipment Co., with complete services for the petroleum industry; Bosselman Carriers, a multi-state fuel transportation company; and Bosselman Contractors Services, providing construction and environmental services, condominiums and farming.

Bosselman’s sons, Chuck and Fred Jr., oversee the retail operation and petroleum product and distribution operations. With the third generation of Bosselmans now entering the business, they are poised to enter the new millennium. Despite the growth of the company, Bosselman’s hands-on management style provided the vision for continued success.

Bosselman’s career involved many honors, including University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He served as president of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators and Fonner Park. His generosity to Grand Island ranged from contributions for the Stuhr Museum, College Park, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Crane Meadows Center and Fonner Park Civic Center.

Jack Vetter – Vetter Health Services

Jack Vetter

Jack Vetter

A Sandhills native and lifelong Nebraskan, Jack Vetter worked on a ranch as a blacksmith, completed a tour of duty with the U.S. Army and served as foreman of a feed and fertilizer plant before becoming administrator of a Valentine, Nebraska, nursing home in 1965. Over the next three years, he succeeded in improving the home's low occupancy rate. He was soon recruited by the Bethesda Foundation to be director of operations. During the next 10 years, he played a key role in the company's growth from seven facilities to 20 and tripled the bed count from 500 to 1,500.

With experience and tenure in long-term care, Vetter and his wife, Eldora, bought their first nursing home in 1975. Vetter Health Services (VHS) evolved as the management company. The company owns and manages 32 skilled nursing centers, three assisted living units, one retirement campus and a rehabilitation care center with locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Wyoming. They employ more than 3,000 team members with an annual payroll of $59 million. Collectively, these team members provide 784,000 days of resident care each year.

An active member of the Nebraska Health Care Association, Vetter also completed committee assignments and held regional and national leadership positions with the American Health Care Association. In 2001, he received the Friend of the AHCA Quality Award in appreciation of his dedication to and support of the AHCA Quality Award. He maintains a political presence and visits Lincoln and Washington, D.C., regularly to be a voice for the elderly and long-term care providers in the state and across the nation.

He and his wife own and manage the family farm outside of Bassett, Nebraska. Through the years, they purchased additional land in the area for their cow and calf operation, and to grow crops.

They developed the Vetter Foundation to receive personal contributions along with regular donations from the long-term care operation's profits and outside contributions to promote and assist them in philanthropic giving. In addition to providing ongoing education for people in long-term health care, the foundation supports local organizations including the Alzheimer's Association, Nebraska Special Olympics, Nebraska Operations Airlift and Assistance League of Nebraska. The foundation partners with Convoy of Hope to assist with disaster responses in the U.S. and around the world. The foundation also contributed land, libraries and computer labs to bible colleges in Ethiopia and Kenya, and promotes water well drilling in Africa to provide clean and safe drinking water in rural villages.

The Vetters have three children.


Dr. Wayne Ryan – Streck Laboratories

Dr. Wayne Ryan

Dr. Wayne Ryan

A native of Corning, Iowa, Dr. Wayne Ryan served in the U.S. Navy after completing high school. Following World War II, he earned degrees in chemistry and biochemistry from Creighton University and a doctorate degree in biochemistry from University of Missouri. Ryan founded Streck Laboratories in 1971 with two employees. It expanded to include more than 300 employees with 15,000 customers and generates $50 million in annual sales revenue.

Streck, whose products are sold throughout the U.S. and in 42 countries worldwide, recently completed a brand new $12 million, 114,000-square-foot facility in La Vista, Nebraska. Streck maintains 65 percent of the world market of hematology controls through a combination of Streck label, private label and patent licenses. Recently, the company developed preservatives that are added to blood collection tubes to prolong the life of samples, assisting in treatment of people infected with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Ryan divides his time among teaching, research and running the business. He gained 40 patents and authored or co-authored 80 published scientific works. His Platelet-Chex became the first hematology control on the market.

Ryan also received numerous awards and honors from local and national organizations. He widely supported area philanthropic causes, such as the Christian Urban Education Services, Creighton University and St. Augustine Mission at the Omaha-Winnebago Tribes Reservation.

He and his wife, Eileen, have four children.

Dale C. Tinstman – First Nebraska Securities

Dale C. Tinstman

Dale C. Tinstman

Born in Chester, Nebraska, Dale C. Tinstman admired his father's efforts in selling stock. He earned degrees at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in business and law, intending to become an investment banker. After service in World War II, he finished law school and began working in the financial industry. He started his own firm in 1960 to finance agricultural-related industries, which he felt was ignored by Wall Street.

The firm, First Nebraska Securities, Inc., acted as the only Nebraska member of the New York Stock Exchange. He proved to be instrumental in providing financing for food, grain, cattle, hogs and packing companies, including Iowa Beef Packers (IBP), an innovative packing company.

Serving as president of IBP, Tinstman played an important role in the early success of the company by establishing their headquarters in Nebraska. Founded in 1960, IBP revolutionized the beef industry by locating highly efficient slaughtering and processing facilities near the source of supply in the heart of the nation's rural cattle producing areas.

Tinstman actively involved himself with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, serving twice as chairman of the University of Nebraska Foundation. He was an original director of the Nebraska Technical Development Corporation and assisted in the establishment of the University's Technology Park. He participates in investments and venture capital projects for many Nebraska companies, including Gene Seek, Nature Technology and development of the Flat Iron Steak.

Dale and his wife, Jean, have three children.

Robert and Gary Kelley – Kelley Bean Company

Robert Kelley

Robert Kelley

Gary Kelley

Gary Kelley

Robert L. Kelley Sr. founded the Chester B. Brown Company in 1927. In 1969, his sons, Robert and Gary Kelley, opened the Kelley Bean Company and their father joined them in 1972.

The initial growth of the company was enhanced through mergers and acquisitions. In 1982, the brothers purchased and merged with the Chester B. Brown Company. The pattern of acquisitions continued and Kelley Bean Co. grew to become one of the largest originators and marketers of dry edible beans in the world. The company owns receiving and processing plants in Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. Kelley Bean's reputation for quality and service enabled them to expand their markets globally to every continent except Australia. The Kelleys pride themselves on their relationships with growers and dealers at home and abroad.

The company delivers quality at every level of bean production through the Kelley Bean Vertical Integration system of research, production, processing and distribution, culminating with the end consumer. Their mission is to understand and deliver superior value with absolute integrity.

The brothers maintain a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the North Platte Valley area, headquartering their six-state operation with 28 plants.

Gary and wife, Patty, have two children. Robert and his wife, Rossel, also have two children.

George F. Russell – Millard Lumber and Grain Company

George Russell

George Russell

A native of Belden, Nebraska, George F. Russell graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and served in the U.S. Navy. He and a partner founded Millard Lumber and Grain Company in 1948, initially catering to a rural farming community of fewer than 400. Millard Lumber provided a center for the farmers to sell grain, buy coal and purchase lumber.

Russell shifted the focus of the business towards building materials and products that supplied both professional contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners. Millard Lumber was an early manufacturer of roof trusses, pre-manufactured wall sections and pre-hung doors, staying at the forefront of advanced building techniques.

Today Russell's son, Rick, and his management team run the family-owned business along with more than 300 associates at their Omaha, Waverly and Des Moines locations. While Millard Lumber experienced tremendous growth, the mission remains unchanged: to provide basic building materials and continually add project lines and services that provide quality and efficiency on the job.

Russell also served on the board of two banks, various business organizations and as a member of the Millard City Council. He served as president or chairman of a number of civic and business organizations, including the National Lumber & Building Materials Association, Bellevue College, Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry and several other associations. He was inducted into the Millard Education Foundation's Hall of Fame and an elementary school in the district was named after him.


Bill Kubly – Landscapes Unlimited

Bill Kubly

Bill Kubly

Bill Kubly founded Landscapes Unlimited (LU) in 1976, following five years of work for a local golf course construction company. With that experience and his landscape architect degree from the University of Wisconsin, Kubly formed his one-man operation. Equipped with a truck, pipe wrench and pipe cutter, he began handling small irrigation projects for local golf courses.

Soon Kubly started to broaden his capabilities. He worked with many different golf course architects helping take their conceptual designs into striking realities. From its modest beginning in 1976, the company employs more than 1,000 professionals during its peak season.

For the past 28 years, Kubly's philosophy and vision remained unchanged. LU builds more than 35 golf courses per year from coast to coast, working with designers and architects on renovation and new development construction projects. LU completes projects ranging from $50,000 to $50 million.

In 2000, Kubly received the National Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. He also served as president of the Golf Course Builders Association of America from 1996 to 1999.

Kubly and his wife, Myrna, have two daughters.

Robert “Bobby” Gottsch – Gottsch Enterprises

Robert Gottsch

Robert "Bobby" Gottsch

Growing up on his family's farm in Elkhorn, Nebraska, Bobby Gottsch began his entrepreneurial career when he was six years old selling eggs from his uncle’s farm throughout the neighborhood. Following his father's footsteps in the agricultural business, he worked for his father's feed yard after high school graduation and later developed his family's interests into cattle feeding, ranching, farrow to finish pork production and farming.

Gottsch Enterprises includes a packing company, a mail-order steak business, commercial and residential real estate, a trucking firm, Indian Creek Golf Course in Elkhorn, and San Crisobal Farm, a rice farm in Argentina. Businesses also reside in Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.

Active in the Hastings, Nebraska, community, Gottsch serves as a member of the Nebraska Environmental Quality Council and Hastings College Board of Trustees. Gottsch also served on the Omaha Federal Reserve Bank Board of Directors from 1997 to 2002.

Gottsch and his wife, Cindy, have five children.

Bruce Lauritzen – First National of Nebraska, Lauritzen Corporation

Bruce Lauritzen

Bruce Lauritzen

Bruce Lauritzen works as chairman of First National Bank of Omaha, its holding company, First National of Nebraska and Lauritzen Corporation. He serves as chairman of more than a dozen other banks and bank holding companies operating in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and Texas. The combined organizations include more than $16 billion in assets and 7,500 employees in 31 states.

His family has been involved in Omaha's growth and development since 1854, when Thomas Davis, one of the bank's first shareholders, helped start the bank. During most of the past century, the Davis and Lauritzen families became synonymous with the leadership and growth of First National Bank.

Lauritzen promoted Omaha's downtown redevelopment by bringing to fruition the riverfront area and new skyline highlighted by the 40-story First National headquarters, the state's tallest building.

Lauritzen serves as president of the Omaha Development Council and Foundation, Royal Danish Consulate for the State of Nebraska, member of the Chief Executives Organization, Financial Services Round Table and the STRATCOM consultation committee. He also serves as chairman of Clarkson Regional Health Services, treasurer of the Nebraska Medical Center and a director of Ak-Sar-Ben, Creighton University, Joslyn Art Museum, Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation, Omaha Symphony Association, Strategic Air and Space Museum, and Visa U.S.A. The Omaha Business Hall of Fame inducted him as a member in 2004.

He and his wife, Kimball, have three children.

Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas – Douglas Manufacturing Corporation

Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas

Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas

Elizabeth Jane Robb Douglas, the inventor of the collapsible voting booth, founded Douglas Manufacturing Corporation in 1910. When she began designing ballot boxes, her first order came from Los Angeles County as they were impressed with the collapsible voting booth.

Douglas possessed a flair for innovation and designed a number of items ahead of their time. The business had several patent applications which were never applied for, such as retractable Pullman car steps, a gasoline pump shut-off valve and a mail cart for mail delivery.

Now owned by the fourth generation, Douglas Manufacturing acts as a major supplier of auxiliary supplies to makers of voting systems. The company began making metal storage containers in 1970 when former IBM employees sought a company to make boxes for their data storage business. Located in Crete, Nebraska, the business survived three fires and a flood.


Jan Thayer – Excel Development Group

Jan Thayer

Jan Thayer

Jan Thayer, born and raised on a farm near Wolbach, Nebraska, graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and devoted her career to health care for the elderly.

She developed Riverside Lodge in Grand Island, Nebraska, serving as executive director. She also founded and served as CEO of Excel Development Group, which developed, managed and owned retirement facilities in three states with more than 400 employees.

Thayer received many awards including the American Health Care Association Chairman’s Award in 2011, the organization’s highest national honor. She was also named Grand Island Independent’s Woman of the Year in 1988 and University of Nebraska Businesswoman of the Year in 1990 and Entrepreneur of the Year in 1992. Riverside Lodge received the American Health Care Association National Quality Award in 2011.

After receiving the Clarence Swanson Award, the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame inducted Thayer into the group in 2013. Located in the east side of Memorial Stadium, the Thayer Family Brain Research Lab dedicates time to the research of concussions.

Lawrence J. Arth – Ameritas Life Insurance Corp.

Lawrence Arth

Lawrence Arth

Lawrence J. Arth became president and chief operating officer of Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. in 1988, the same year the firm changed its name from Bankers Life of Nebraska. He served the company for 36 years, beginning in the investment area.

Under his leadership, the firm grew to a major diversified financial services company, delivering products and services in life insurance and annuities, retirement plans, group dental and eye care, investments, banking and public finance.

A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Arth attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and served in the U.S. Navy before starting his career. His past community services and activities range from the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben to Junior Achievement and the Girl Scouts. A charter member of Leadership Lincoln, Arth received the group's Pillar of the Community honor, presented to people who have significantly strengthened and transformed Lincoln.

Ameritas functions as a key player in the state’s economic activity. In 2003, the Nebraska Diplomats awarded the company for its work in helping finance community growth and infrastructure.

Under his direction, Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. converted to a stock life insurance company, wholly owned by Ameritas Mutual Insurance Holding Company. The firm subsequently merged with Acacia Mutual Holding Corporation of Bethesda, Maryland, to form Ameritas Acacia Mutual Holding Company.

He and his wife, Mary, have three children.

William A. “Bill” Fitzgerald – Commercial Federal Savings and Loan

William Fitzgerald

William Fitzgerald

The forerunner to Commercial Federal started as a building and loan association in 1887. In 1974, Commercial Federal Savings and Loan named William A. "Bill" Fitzgerald as president – the third generation of Fitzgeralds working for the firm. He began working as a part-time teller and served many roles in the firm.

During his tenure, the company began building an interstate network of retail banking offices with purchases of thrift institutions in Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, bringing its philosophy of outstanding customer service and innovative products to an even broader range of customers.

Fitzgerald served as chairman of the board for Creighton University, his alma mater, and participates in many civic and professional duties.

Under his leadership, Commercial Federal provides corporate support to a wide range of nonprofit organizations relating to the company's major areas of concern: social services, education, arts and community development. They provide support in many ways, including operating fund support, capital drive donations, event sponsorships and in-kind donations.

Fitzgerald strongly believes in personal involvement. He and his wife, Barb, have three children.

E.H. “Shoey” Shoemaker – Milldale Ranch

E.H. Shoemaker

E.H. "Shoey" Shoemaker

Born on Long Island in New York, E.H. "Shoey" Shoemaker returned from World War II service intending to work for an insurance firm in Chicago. However, the father of his wife, Marie, asked him to run the Milldale Ranch, north of North Platte, Nebraska, believing his business experience would be valuable to the operation.

Marie's grandfather established the ranch in 1884. In fact, the first brand recorded under the new Nebraska law included the joined 7HL, by Milldale Land and Cattle Co. of Gandy. Shoemaker's Milldale Ranch still uses the brand today.

Shoey graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He learned about ranching from some of the dedicated cowboys who worked the ranch – from branding and calving to riding and roping. He involved himself in the operations of the ranch, which covers about 55-square-miles in Logan County on the southern edge of the Sandhills.

In addition to his ranching duties, he actively involved himself in the community. He served as president of the North Platte Chamber of Commerce, vice president of the American National Cattlemen's Association and a trustee for the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. He worked to establish banking and insurance operations in the community. A popular and enthusiastic spokesman for ranching and the beef industry, he was inducted into the Nebraska Cattlemen's Hall of Fame in 2002.

He and his wife, Marie, have two daughters.


Walter, Mike and Gib Behlen – Behlen Manufacturing

Walter, Mike, and Gib Behlen

Walter, Mike, and Gib Behlen

Walter Behlen started Behlen Manufacturing in his backyard garage in 1936 in Columbus, Nebraska. Joined by his brothers H.P. “Mike” Behlen and G.E. “Gib” Behlen, the modest undertaking grew to an 800,000-square-foot plant located east of Columbus. The company grew steadily and developed a systems concept that was apparent in all of its activities. Among these innovations were the Behlen animal husbandry systems such as the Pork Factory and Beef Factory. Additional products included the Behlen Building System, Behlen hydraulic presses and Behlen grain-conditioning handling and storage systems.

The firm grew to a worldwide manufacturer before the Behlens sold the company in 1969 to the Wickes Corporation. Among the many contributions to Nebraska, they donated more than $500,000 to the Columbus Family YMCA and the Columbus Hospital, as well as contributing to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln through the Behlen Observatory and the Behlen Laboratory of Physics.

Donald O. Clifton – The Gallup Organization

Donald Clifton

Donald Clifton

For 19 years, Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D., served as a professor of educational psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In 1969, he founded Selection Research, Inc., which became a nationally recognized company in the fields of employee selection, management research and survey research. In 1988, Selection Research, Inc. acquired The Gallup Organization. Best known for The Gallup Poll, the company now is one of the world's largest management consulting firms with more than 40 offices in 20 countries. Gallup's core expertise includes measuring and understanding human nature and behavior. Gallup leverages this knowledge to develop research-based measurement tools, development programs and strategic advisory services that help organizations and individuals maximize their performance.

In demand as a speaker and seminar leader, Clifton published many articles in professional and trade journals. His mission involved selecting and developing the right people for the right jobs and letting people be heard through surveys and opinion polls.

Clifton served his community with participation on many local boards including the YMCA, Father Flanagan's Boys and Girls Town, the University of Nebraska Foundation and Rotary International. In 2002, the American Psychological Association presented Clifton with its Presidential Commendation for lifetime contributions.

Clifton and his wife, Shirley, had four children: Jim, Connie, Mary and Jane.

Henry H. “Hod” Kosman – First Bank Systems Inc.

Henry Kosman

Henry H. "Hod" Kosman

A third generation member of a banking family, Hod Kosman became president and chief executive officer of Scottsbluff National Bank in 1990. The bank merged with First Bank Systems Inc. and in 1996, the Kosman family sold their interest in First Bank and announced the opening of their own Platte Valley Bank and three financial institutions.

Kosman co-founded the Community and Economic Development committee, served as director of the Oregon Trail Community Foundation, a member of the U.S. Small Business Advisory Council and chair of the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce housing committee. He also served on the board of advisors for the Eppley Cancer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Trustees. Kosman received the University of Nebraska Alumnus of the Year from the Panhandle Alumni Chapter, the Star-Herald Citizen of the Year and the Scottsbluff-Gering Chamber of Commerce Trail Blazer Award.

Kosman grew up in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the Colorado School of Banking. He serves as chairman of Regional West Health Services, director of the Omaha Branch of the Federal Reserve Board and the Nebraska Information Technology Commission.

Kosman and his wife, Willa, have two children: Jennifer and Hunter.

Richard K. Davidson – Union Pacific Corporation

Richard Davidson

Richard K. Davidson

Chairman and chief executive officer of the Union Pacific Corporation, Dick Davidson began his railroad career as an 18-year-old brakeman-conductor with Missouri Pacific in 1960 as a college student. He served as a trainmaster and in various operating departments with the railroad.

He directed Union Pacific's merger with the Southern Pacific Railroad, making the UP one of the largest U.S. railroads. He received the 2002 Horatio Alger Award, given to individuals who share a belief in the American dream and overcame adversity through positive thinking, determination and hard work. He earned a degree from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, and actively involves himself in various civic endeavors in Omaha, Nebraska. Davidson served as a member of the board of directors of Grupo Ferroviario Mexicano and The Kroger Co.

A trustee and director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards Foundation, he was also chairman of the President's National Infrastructure Advisory Committee (NIAC) and represented NIAC on the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). In addition, Davidson served as a member of the U.S. Strategic Command Consultation Committee and the advisory roundtable for former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns. He also serves on the board of trustees of the Boy Scouts of America.

Davidson and his wife, Trish, have three children.


Thomas C. Woods Jr. – Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. (LT&T)

Thomas C. Woods, Jr.

Thomas C. Woods, Jr.

A pioneer in Nebraska telecommunications, Thomas Woods Jr., directed Lincoln Telephone and Telegraph Co. (LT&T) for 29 years. Under his direction, the company grew to one of the country's largest independent telephone companies and served as one of the first developers of cable television.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1943, Woods served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army. In 1947, he and his wife moved to Cleveland where he worked in a variety of positions at the Addressograph-Multigraph Company. In 1958, he returned to Lincoln and carried on the business and civic traditions established by his father and grandfather. During his tenure, LT&T served as the first phone company in the state to offer coast-to-coast direct distance dialing, provide 911 services, use electronic switching systems and deploy fiber-optic transmission facilities.

The Woods family served Nebraska through the Woods Charitable Fund, established by Woods’s grandparents in 1941. Woods served as chairman of the board from 1968 to 1990. The arts, social services and economic development programs all received support from both the company and the foundation under his leadership. He served on countless boards and committees, including the State Building Commission, the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Board and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Woods and his wife, Marjorie, have two children: Avery and Thomas III.

Roy Dinsdale – Pinnacle Bank

Roy Dinsdale

Roy Dinsdale

Roy Dinsdale, a 1948 graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, started his career with Dinsdale Bros, Inc., a farming and cattle operation based in Palmer, Nebraska. He also worked for the State Bank of Palmer. Over the years, the farming operation expanded in Nebraska and Colorado and the cattle operation, one of the largest in Nebraska, is also located in California, Colorado, Kentucky and Oklahoma.

The family's banking business, known as Pinnacle Bank, acquired assets of $3 billion and operations in Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Texas. The family-owned bank holding company started when a group of businessmen and farmers opened the bank in Palmer after the two banks in town closed in the 1930s. This group included Dinsdale’s father, George, a local cattle rancher and farmer. In 1958, Dinsdale and his brother, Jack, purchased a second bank.

Dinsdale contributed time and funds to various charitable organizations and community endeavors, proving particularly instrumental in helping rural hospitals and medical recruitment efforts. In addition, he contributed to agencies that help the disabled.

Roy and his wife, Gloria, have three children: Sid, Chris and Jane.

Roy A. Smith – H.P. Smith Ford, Old Mill Toyota

Roy A. Smith

Roy A. Smith

A longtime advocate for business in Nebraska, Roy A. Smith involved himself in the new car business most of his life. The son of a car dealer, Smith grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and later attended Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he developed a passion for campus political activities that he later used on the local, state and federal level. His father, Homer P. Smith, needed Smith to help run the family business.

While maintaining an active role in Omaha politics, Smith served as a steady and insistent voice for growth in Nebraska. He served the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry twice, once as president of the Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry (NACCI) in 1978-79 and as chairman of the Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry in 2000. He served as chairman of the Nebraska New Car Dealers Association and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

Smith received awards from United Way, Boy Scouts and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He earned an honorary degree from Bellevue University, as he worked tirelessly for the growth and development of that institution. Recognized for his advice and outspoken promotion of the Nebraska business community, he was inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame and a former King of Ak-Sar-Ben.

Smith and his wife, Macaela, have two children: David and Sandra.


Edwin Perkins – Kool-Aid

Edwin E. Perkins

Edwin Perkins

Edwin Perkins, a self-taught investor, chemist, printer, manufacturer, researcher and merchandiser, became an entrepreneur at a very young age in rural Nebraska during extremely difficult times. In 1900, he saw a magazine advertisement that read, “Be a manufacturer. Mixer's Guide tells how. Write today.” He sent for the materials and turned his mother's kitchen into an aroma-filled juvenile laboratory. At the age of 25, he created a small mail order business known as Perkins Products Company. Eventually he and his wife, Kitty, moved to Hastings and began experimenting with soft drink syrups.

Fruit Smack acted as his first major success but bottle breakage, leaks and shipping costs caused Perkins to borrow an idea from Jell-O. He began manufacturing a concentrated powder called Kool-Aid in 1927. Kool-Aid, designated as Nebraska's official soft drink, created such high demand that the Hastings plant reached full capacity and he moved his business to Chicago. Kool-Aid, one of the most popular drinks in the world, boasts more than 563 million gallons consumed each year.

By 1933, Perkins reduced the cost of an envelope of Kool-Aid from 10 cents to five cents. Perkins sold the company in 1953 to General Foods, merging with Kraft in 1989. He and Kitty generously donated proceeds of the company to the Perkins Foundation.

C.L. Werner – Werner Enterprises, Inc.

C.L. Werner

C.L. Werner

Chairman and chief executive officer at Werner Enterprises, Inc., C.L. Werner started the business in 1956 with one truck at the age of 19. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, seeking factory work, but discovered he would rather drive a truck. He bought a gas-powered Ford F800 truck and started subcontracting to haul cargo for other trucking companies. He also hauled the kind of low-end cargo exempt from regulatory restrictions, such as grain, watermelon, livestock feed and fence posts. Werner built the company one truck at a time, hauling in a five or six state region.

Werner Enterprises, a truckload motor carrier of general commodities in both interstate and intrastate commerce, exists among the five largest truckloads carriers in the United States and maintains its headquarters in Omaha. Werner completed its initial public offering in April 1986 with a fleet of 630 trucks. By the end of 2000, the fleet consisted of 7,700 tractors, more than 19,770 trailers, and more than 10,000 employees and independent contractors. The firm serves as the only carrier with approval from the Department of Transportation to use paperless logging, eliminating costly downtime for drivers, and adding more efficiency and productivity.

Another innovation involved the use of a training center simulator and computer-based training for Werner's drivers. Located in its Omaha headquarters, the state-of the-art simulator gives Werner’s drivers the best defensive driver-training program available.

Three of Werner’s four children work in the business. Gary serves as vice chairman, Gregory serves as president and Curtis serves as vice chairman of corporate development. Werner's daughter, Gail Werner-Robertson, served on the board of Werner Enterprises and owns several businesses. Werner and his wife, Linda, live in Omaha.

J. Robert Duncan – Duncan Aviation

J. Robert Duncan

J. Robert Duncan

Established by Robert Duncan’s father, Donald Duncan, in 1956 as a Beechcraft distributorship, Duncan Aviation grew into the largest family-owned aircraft support facility in North America. Robert Duncan earned his pilot's license at the age of 16 and began learning about business aviation. One of the first distributors of the new Learjet, Duncan continued to build the business and continually added employees.

As new business aircrafts entered the market and Duncan Aviation's customers purchased new models, the company invested in support capabilities for those models and continued its passion for service. Duncan became president of the company in 1968.

For nearly half a century, Duncan Aviation provided business aircraft operations with high standards and limited downtime to the best in turbine service, sales and support. The company believes in investing in facilities and people and in developing innovative products, services and processes to continually improve the corporate aviation industry. There are teams who specialize in aviation services and paint, overhaul, install, modify, inspect, troubleshoot, fuel and repair.

Duncan Aviation employees work to attain the highest customer satisfaction in any service industry, not just in the world of corporate aviation. In 1998, the company added service facilities in Battle Creek, Michigan, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, by purchasing a former competitor, Kal-Aero.

Duncan Aviation expanded significantly since the early days, with more than 1,900 employees located across the United States. Last year, Duncan was named one of the Top 100 Companies to Work For by Fortune magazine.

Duncan and his wife, Karen, have two children: Todd and Paige.

Hugh and Richard Hunt – HunTel Systems

Hugh, and Richard Hunt

Richard A. Hunt (left)
Hugh W. Hunt (right)

In 1912, E.C. Hunt's vision developed the foundation for HunTel Systems. Hunt's son, Emory, adopted his father's innovative style. He nurtured the young company through the middle of the 20th century before passing the torch to his two sons, Hugh and Richard. The brothers discovered by expanding the core business beyond local exchange telephone service, HunTel could better meet its own needs while offering more comprehensive services to its growing customer base.

After attending college and military service, both Hugh and Richard joined the firm in the early 1960s, working many positions before assuming management positions. Active participants in community and industry activities, they held many leadership positions. Recently honored by the Applied Information Management Institute, the Hunt brothers transitioned their telephone company into a family of diversified businesses on the technological forefront in the development of local cable television, the deployment of fiber-optic technology, local telecommunications services and data processing.

Headquartered in Blair, Nebraska, HunTel's products and services, which include 900 associates worldwide, also provide business forms, portable concrete mixing equipment, professional staff augmentation, communication engineering, energy billing, customer care software, software development and service bureau administration.

Hugh and his wife, Jane, have two children: Karen Aman and Bryce.

Richard and his wife, Janyce, have five children: David, Daniel, Nathan, Jay and Greg.


Joe R. Seacrest – Lincoln Journal

Joe R. Seacrest

Joe R. Seacrest

Born into a family of newspaper writers and editors, Joe R. Seacrest aided the growth and development of four daily newspapers in Nebraska. He believed newspaper publishers should maintain active roles in community affairs.

He started his career at the Lincoln Journal in 1946, working as a carrier, reporter, copy editor, editorial page editor and associate editor before becoming managing editor in 1958 and editor in 1962, a position he held until his retirement in 1986. Among the many issues he championed, Seacrest believed in good streets, good highways and good planning for roads. His influence branched beyond the Lincoln area. He passionately supported Nebraska's road system and the Game and Parks Commission Foundation.

He also helped organize Media of Nebraska to represent newspapers, radio and television interests on matter of First Amendment issues, open meetings and public records. His dedication to fostering freedom of the press earned him the Nebraska Press Association Master-Editor Publisher Award in 1984, and he became a member of the Nebraska Press Association Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1987.

Seacrest and his wife, Beatrice, have five children: Kent, Gary, Eric, Theodore and Shawn.

Charles Durham – HDR, Inc.

Charles Durham

Charles Durham

Charles Durham built HDR, Inc. as a nationwide architectural and engineering company. He also built other companies including Continental Care Center, two Illinois banks and one independent bank in Omaha and made many other investments in Nebraska businesses. Born in Chicago, Durham followed other family members into the engineering field, eventually obtaining three engineering degrees from Iowa State University.

After beginning with his wife's father's architectural firm, he built HDR into an international giant. HDR projects around the state include Nebraska Methodist Hospital, the Hastings Sewage Treatment Plant, the Omaha Federal Building and many of the Strategic Air Command/Offutt Air Force Base facilities. Durham served as the chairman of the Durham Resource, where he actively involved himself in the business and community.

A strong supporter of both the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he provided substantial time and funds to the Omaha community, such as the Durham Western Heritage Museum, Henry Doorly Zoo, Boy Scouts, the Carillon on the UNO campus and many others.

He and his wife, Marge, have four children: Sunny, Steve, Lynne and Debra.

Margaret Robinson – Norfolk Iron and Metal Co.

Margaret Robinson

Margaret Robinson

Margaret Robinson retired as chairman of the board of Norfolk Iron and Metal Co. in Norfolk, Nebraska. Robinson accepted a leadership role when her husband, Arnold, died unexpectedly in 1974. Under her leadership, Norfolk Iron and Metal grew from a small salvage and metal company to a regional leader in steel distribution with her son, Richard, as the third generation of leadership. Norfolk Iron grew to serve a 10-state area from three locations and a fleet of more than 100 trucks.

Under her leadership, the firm won the national Small Business of the Year Award in 1979, just five years after she started full-time duties at Norfolk Iron and Metal. She credits key employees and their talents for the firm's success.

A strong proponent of education at all levels, Robinson served on the Norfolk School Board for 14 years. She became the first woman elected to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents in 1982 and served until 1994.

Despite running a family business, raising a family and taking a leadership role in Nebraska's growth in higher education, Robinson engaged in local civic and charitable activities. She served on the board of the NEBRASKAland Foundation, Nebraska Council of Economic Education, the Norfolk Family YMCA and Governor's Conference on Small Business. In addition, she served for six years on the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors, one of the first women to do so.

Robinson had four children: Gwen, Barbara, Dianne and Richard.

Paul Mohr – Ideal Linen

Paul Mohr

Paul Mohr

Paul Mohr, one of the best hitters in the Cleveland Indians minor league organization in the late 1950s, looked forward to a promising career in professional baseball ahead of him. However, his father, who founded Ideal Laundry, needed assistance and so he moved back to Scottsbluff to learn the business.

Ideal Linen covers the Nebraska panhandle and eastern Wyoming, and expanded to include janitorial products and services, paper products, uniform supply services and commercial cleaning products. A business starting with one truck and 20 employees, now includes more than 30 delivery trucks and 120 employees.

A strong proponent of growth and development in western Nebraska, Mohr served on the State Highway Commission and numerous local organizations. He taught Sunday school and served on the board of the YMCA, local banks and was actively involved in the Scottsbluff Rotary Club, United Way and Centennial Celebration.

He and his wife, Beverly, have two children: Paul Jr. and Mindy.


Fred Hawkins Sr. – Hawkins Construction Company

Fred Hawkins, Sr.

Fred Hawkins, Sr.

In 1923, Fred Hawkins Sr. worked as a water boy for 25 cents a day as his father's construction company built Memorial Stadium. He later played varsity football in the stadium for the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and earned a degree in architectural engineering.

By the time he graduated, Hawkins worked as a general laborer, truck driver, heavy equipment operator, carpenter, ironworker and bricklayer, learning the business from the ground up. In 1960, he founded Hawkins Construction Company with his father. Among the major construction jobs completed by Hawkins Construction include the Omaha City-County Building, the Telephone Building at 13th and Douglas and 20th and Douglas, the Eppley Airfield terminal, parking garage and runways, the Kiewit Conference Center and the Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library and School of Law buildings at Creighton University.

Under Hawkins’s leadership, the company became one of the nation’s 400 largest buildings contractors and ranks among the top 200 equipment fleet owners in the U.S. Hawkins was named the University of Nebraska Entrepreneur of the Year in 1997.

Fred and his wife, Tish, have three children: Fred Jr., Kim and Susan.

Charles “Chuck” Sand – Sand Livestock Systems, Inc.

Charles Sand

Charles Sand

Charles "Chuck" Sand founded Sand Livestock Systems, Inc. in 1969 and revolutionized the pork industry throughout the world. Sand acts as the world's largest domestic and international builder of swine product facilities. In 1979, Sand became the first company to build modern swine productions systems in the People's Republic of China and added more than 23 additional units since that time.

Sand Livestock produces more than one million pigs worldwide each year. Locally, Sand employs more than 400 Nebraskans in his various companies and continues to expand his operations.

The son of a grocer in Lindsay, Nebraska, Sand began a small construction business in the mid-60s. After taking over a farm building dealership in Columbus, Nebraska, he began putting up the first of their swine confinements units.

Sand actively participated in economic development activities in the Columbus area and throughout Nebraska, and contributes generously to civic, religious and political organizations.

He and his wife, Carol, have three children: Mike, Michelle and Nicole.

Harriet Petersen Fort – Petersen Manufacturing

Harriet Peterson Fort

Harriet Petersen Fort

Harriet Petersen Fort co-founded, co-owned and served as a senior officer of Petersen Manufacturing. Along with her brothers, the family perfected their father's tool, the Vise Grip, into one of the best-known tools in the world.

Starting at his blacksmith shop in Dewitt, Nebraska, Bill Petersen invented and patented the unique wrench in 1924. Petersen Manufacturing, a partnership, was established in 1934 and the business took off.

Petersen Fort served as senior vice president in charge of finance and marketing, and developed sales internationally. Under her guidance, the company expanded into the international market with sales of approximately $30 million at the time of their acquisition by American Tool Company.

Dale LeBaron – Lincoln Plating Company

Dale LeBaron

Dale LeBaron

Dale LeBaron served as chairman of the board of Lincoln Plating Company, a firm he started and grew into one of the Midwest's leading finishing companies. Working in a heavy industry fought with potential waste issue and heavily regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, LeBaron advanced the firm ahead of current regulations that paid dividends down the road.

He believed totally in his business and constantly worked to improve Lincoln Plating. Today the firm acts as the exclusive furnisher for chromed Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts.

LeBaron received the Nebraska Small Businessman of the Year Award in 1981 and actively participated in numerous business organizations to promote small business. He held many leadership positions in both professional and civic organizations as well as being a foster parent to 35 children in his home. Always willing to help employees and his community, LeBaron hired or worked with nearly 500 parolees on work releases. A strong proponent of the free enterprise system, he supported programs to help train youth, such as Junior Achievement.

He and his wife, Joanne, have four children: Marc, Marcia, RoseMary and Mike.

Jack Swartz – Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry

Jack Swartz

Jack Swartz

In 1982, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors hired Jack Swartz as president. He previously served in a similar capacity in Kansas and brought new direction and growth to the Nebraska Association of Commerce and Industry (NACI). Swartz began his lifelong passion for horseracing as a jockey for his father's thoroughbreds. He worked briefly in his family’s grain business before becoming executive director of the Jaycees. He worked for the Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry for 13 years before coming to Nebraska in 1982.

Born in Dodge City, Jack began his lifelong passion for horseracing as a jockey for his father's thoroughbreds. He worked briefly in the family grain business before he began duties as executive director of the Jaycees. He worked 13 years for the Kansas Association of Commerce and Industry before coming to Nebraska in 1982.

Swartz’s organizational management skills flourished in the company. By incorporating a strong outreach to members via the statewide legislative forums and chamber conference calls during unicameral sessions, inaugurating a major annual meeting and legislative caucus for all members, representing the Nebraska business community before state and federal governments and employing a member-driven professional staff, Swartz helped bring the organization to the largest business association in the state. Attention to details and working closely with members and public officials paid long-term dividends. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry today is one of the most respected organizations in governmental affairs.

He and his wife, Nadine, have four children: Dana, Sean, Jay and Tim.


B. Keith Heuermann – B.K. Heuermann’s Exclusive Popping Corn

B. Keith Heuermann

B. Keith Heuermann

Born and raised on a dryland farm near Phillips, Nebraska, Keith Heuermann attended the College of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. While in college, he worked for Dr. Louis Camp, an accomplished breeder of hybrid seed corn. Heuermann saw the potential for hybrid seed on his father's Hamilton County farm, so he wrote home to ask for $12 to purchase the foundation seed. He began production in 1943. As Heuermann's successful hybrids increased, yields caught the neighbors' attention and he began producing hybrid seed for them.

As the demand for hybrid seed grew, Heuermann expanded production in 1956. He developed a single-cross hybrid bringing even more success. He started Prairie Valley Hybrids, which also developed sorghum, wheat and soybean hybrids. In 1978, he sold the business to Stauffer Chemical (now Novartis Seed, Inc.).

Keeping a strong interest in hybrid corn, Heuermann experimented with developing popping in 1982. Marketed nationally, B.K. Heuermann's Exclusive Popping Corn reaches as far as Argentina and when it appeared on the QVC Shopping Network, it sold out its first shipment.

Heuermann and his wife, Norma Faye, have four children.

A.F. “Tony” Raimondo – Behlen Manufacturing

A.F. Tony Raimondo

A.F. "Tony" Raimondo

The son of a Buffalo, New York steelworker, Tony Raimondo worked in manufacturing his entire adult life. A graduate of Michigan Technological University and the University of Rochester, he worked for General Motors, Moog and Sperry Corp. before moving to Nebraska in 1982 as general manager of Behlen Manufacturing, a family-owned agricultural supply company. He began a new, people-oriented program, which helped increase sales for grain bins.

The next year, the federal government ended the subsidization of grain storage, replacing those subsidies with the Payment-in-Kind (PIK) program that paid farmers to keep land idle. Behlen's business dropped 50 percent and the Wickes Corporation wanted to sell off the assets. Tony and his partners, Dick Casey, Bob Theilen and Steve McGill, began a leveraged buy-out of Behlen in 1984.

Having already decertified the union, Behlen began as a new company utilizing profits sharing, incentives and eliminating time clocks to grow the firm. Raimondo implemented changing products, exploring new markets, diversification and proceeding on a path of slow growth and steady profitability. By 1994, the turnaround was obvious with Behlen making more than $5 million in profits on $108 million in sales.

Raimondo served as chairman of the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors, the Nebraska Economics Development Commission, and director of the National Association of Manufacturers.

He and his wife, Jeanne, have four children.

Peter Kiewit – Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc.

Peter Kiewit

Peter Kiewit

Peter Kiewit's father, a Dutch immigrant bricklayer, founded Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc. in Omaha in 1884. Under Kiewit's leadership, the local construction company became one of the world's largest construction and mining enterprises. Assuming control in 1939, Kiewit guided his company as it built canals, dams and power plants for the Public Works Administration. War led to a switch to munitions plants and the beginning of interstate road construction. Eventually, the firm invested in coal mining and other business ventures Kiewit learned about during the contracting work.

A strong supporter of community activities and higher education, Kiewit gave or pledged $20 million to charitable and civic causes until his death in 1979. The Peter Kiewit Foundation is one of the largest charitable foundations in the country and the largest in Nebraska.

James Stuart – Stuart Investment Company

James Stuart

James Stuart

James Stuart attended Lincoln High and graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1940. Shortly after beginning his career, he served in World War II as an infantry company commander. He returned to Lincoln to begin building on the family business of his father and grandfather.

Stuart began his business career with Stuart Investment Company located in the Smart Building. Often called Lincoln’s first skyscraper, the Start Building was built by his father, Charles, in 1928. Stuart worked in property and casualty insurance, real estate development, radio broadcasting, outdoor signs and banking. He was a member of the board of directors of First Commerce Bancshares of Lincoln and National Bank of Commerce.

One of the original radio stations owned by Stuart was Lincoln's KFOR. In 1948, he originated Operation Santa Claus through KFOR, which still continues today. Stuart also gifted a portion of the Stuart Building to the University of Nebraska Foundation in 1977, with the remainder of the building gifted to the Lincoln Foundation in 1985.

He has been honored by and served on many civic charitable and educational organizations including, the Lincoln School Board, University of Nebraska Foundation, Nebraska Games and Parks Foundation, and Lincoln Foundation.

He and his wife, Helen, had three children.


Willis Strauss – InterNoth

Willis Strauss

Willis Strauss

Willis Strauss, a legend in Omaha business circles, possessed a management style and commitment to civic progress that inspired many Nebraskans. He retired as chairman of InterNorth (Northern Natural Gas Company) in 1984. After serving in World War II and obtaining an engineering degree from Iowa State University, Strauss moved back to his hometown of Omaha, beginning his career with the firm in 1948 as an engineering department clerk.

Promoted into many leadership positions, he became chairman, CEO and president in 1966. Under his leadership, the company increased its revenues from $308 million in 1966 to nearly $5 billion in 1983.

A strong supporter of community activities and higher education, Strauss served on the boards of Creighton University and Hastings College and the foundations at the University of Nebraska and Iowa State University. He served as the chairman of the citizens commission for the Study of Higher Education during Gov. Robert Kerrey's term. He and his wife, Janet, were honored by having the University of Nebraska at Omaha Performing Arts Center named after them.

A founding member of the Joslyn Art Museum Board of Governors, Straus was a governor of Ak-Sar-Ben and named the United Way Citizen of the Year in 1981. Post-retirement, he worked on economic development projects in Omaha such as the SAC Museum and University of Nebraska at Omaha Information Science and Technology Center.

He and Janet have two daughters.

Nathan Gold – Gold and Company

Nathan J. Gold

Nathan J. Gold

Born in Hampton, Iowa, in 1894, Nathan Gold moved with his family to Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1902. His father started a dry-good business and Gold attended Lincoln High School, Lincoln Business College and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, while also working for his father. The business, Gold and Company, grew to be Lincoln's retail landmark operating until 1964. Gold actively participated in the business and economic development for the city and state.

In 1962, Governor Frank Morrison appointed Gold as special council for the Nebraska Economic Development Division, where he traveled across the nation to spread Nebraska’s potential to other industries. Gold received Nebraska’s highest service honor, the Nebraska Builder Award, in 1966 for his work in establishment and operations of the Nebraska Resource Foundation. He served as one of the organizers of the Lincoln Community Chest and the Urban League Center.

Gold served on the board of directors and as president in 1959 for the Retail Merchants Association. He was nationally recognized by receiving the gold medal of the National Merchants Association, the highest award in the retail industry. He strongly supported youth activities and received many awards of appreciation for his longstanding efforts towards 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers of America and Future Homemakers of America.

Gold married Evelyn Baum in 1922 and lived in Lincoln until his death in 1970. They had two children: Louise Levitt and William Gold III.

Herman Cain – Pillsbury Co.

Herman Cain

Herman Cain

Raised in Atlanta as one of two sons of a chauffeur and domestic worker, Herman Cain attended Morehouse College and earned a graduate degree from Purdue University. After working for the Department of the Navy, he worked at Coca-Cola where his father, Luther Cain, was a chauffeur. Not long after, he joined the Pillsbury Co., and was named vice president of systems and service in a few years.

Pillsbury ran a fast-track program for its Burger King subsidiary. Cain signed on and dropped the prestige of having a vice president's title and salary to broil burgers so he could progress through management. By the time he was 40-years-old, Pillsbury approached Cain to become president of Godfather’s Pizza, an ailing subsidiary of the company, where he turned performance around in less than 18 months. Two years later, he and Ron Gartlan formed a partnership and bought Godfather’s Pizza.

As the volunteer chairman of the National Restaurant Association, he involved himself in debating the Clinton Health Care Plan. These efforts propelled him into his next challenge – president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association.

Cain and his wife, Gloria, have two children: Melanie and Vincent.

Kenneth L. Morrison – Morrison Enterprises

Kenneth L. Morrison

Kenneth L. Morrison

Kenneth L. Morrison, born in Roxbury, Kansas, traded farm commodities and developed agricultural properties at an early age. He attended McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas, and then moved to Hastings, Nebraska, in 1947.

Morrison and his family owned and operated Morrison Enterprises of Hastings, where he served as managing partner. He also acted as a pioneer in the dehydration, pelleting and marketing of alfalfa in Nebraska.

A worldwide company, Morrison Enterprises operates a fully integrated shrimp production business in Ecuador, as well as commercial fishing boat construction in Chile. The business includes grain storage and farmland in Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana for the production of cotton, soybeans and feed grains. The company also engages in large-scale livestock production and feeding with other Nebraska partners.

Morrison served as a trustee for the University of Nebraska Foundation and a member of the board of directors for Hastings College. He received the University of Nebraska Builder Award and the Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honors recognized him as a Leader of Business and Industry.

He and his wife, Marjorie, had one daughter, Susan Roberts, also actively involved in the family business.


Ernst Lied – Lied Performing Arts Center

Ernst Lied

Ernst Lied

Across Nebraska, a number of facilities bearing the name, Lied, serve as a testament to Ernst Lied, who made a fortune in real estate and began a charitable foundation with the money he made.

Lied followed his father's footsteps as an Omaha car dealer, utilizing World War II airplane parts contracts to stay in business when rationing nearly shut down his dealership. After the war, his Buick dealership prospered, becoming the third largest dealership in the nation. Another partnership began as well. Christian Hixon, who worked at Lied's dealership since 1944, became his secretary, assuming accounting duties.

In the 1950s, Lied identified the potential for land development in Las Vegas and determined that would be the next boom. He sold the car dealership, leased his Omaha property and moved to Las Vegas. Hixon joined as his assistant in 1960.

Lied had no living relatives and created his foundation trust in 1972, requiring the Lied Family name must be displayed on projects funded by the foundation and all foundation assets be given away by 2010.

Among the many gifts to Nebraska include the Henry Doorly Zoo Lied Jungle, the Lied Performance Center in Lincoln, the Lied Lodge and Conference Center in Nebraska City, and the IMAX Theater in Hastings.

Alice Dittman – Cornhusker Bank

Alice Dittman

Alice Dittman

The daughter of two bankers, Alice Dittman naturally succeeded in her position as chairman of the board of Cornhusker Bank of Lincoln. She earned a master’s degree in finance from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a degree from Harvard. She also graduated from the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin.

Her banking career began with her family’s bank, Farmers State Bank of Davey, Nebraska, where Dittman worked as a cashier. She also worked at banks in Central City, Nebraska, and Richmond, Missouri, before returning to Nebraska. In 1964, the Farmers State Bank moved to Lincoln, becoming Cornhusker Bank. Alice became president, CEO and secretary of Cornhusker Bank in 1975.

A strong believer in community involvement, Dittman and her employees actively participated in many Lincoln organizations ranging from PTAs, Girl Scout Council, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Bryan Memorial Hospital and University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She serves as a pioneer for Nebraska women in business, becoming the first female chair of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in 1988, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association in 1993 and first woman chairman of the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors in 1992.

She has three children: Dawn, John and Doug.

Rose Blumkin – Nebraska Furniture Mart

Rose Blumkin

Rose Blumkin

Rose Blumkin founded Nebraska Furniture Mart, one of the largest stores in the country. Referred to often as Mrs. B, Blumkin believed in three cardinal principles: sell cheap, tell the truth and give special attention to customers.

She began working in her mother's store in Russia when she was six years old. She married Isadore Blumkin and planned to immigrate to America. While Isadore left in 1914, Blumkin began her journey in 1917 in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

They moved to Omaha and after working in clothing stores and a second-hand furniture store, Blumkin opened the Nebraska Furniture Mart in 1937. Most of her family, whom she helped bring to America, joined her. Weathering fierce competition from other furniture stores and manufactures, lawsuits, a change in location and the 1975 Omaha tornado, her determination helped her succeed.

In 1983, Omaha investor Warren Buffett bought a majority of stock in the company. Without formal education or business training, she produced a business success.

Virgil Froehlich – Affiliated Foods

Virgil Froehlich

Virgil Froehlich

Virgil Froehlich started working for Affiliated Foods in Norfolk, Nebraska, the day after his high school graduation. Fifty years later and a lifetime of change in the food industry, Froehlich served as president and general manager of the company.

Affiliated Foods is a mammoth operation, serving 550 member grocers in the eight-state area and records an annual sales volume of $500 million. About 500 full and part-time employees work at the Norfolk warehouse facility where more than 20,000 varieties of foods and grocery items are shipped daily to retail stores.

Norfolk profited from Froehlich's success. He served on the city council, the planning commission, PTA, hospital board, the local chamber of commerce, the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board and many other community and state groups. He initiated the Affiliated Reclamation Center, which salvages food and other products, then sells at low prices to food banks and other pantries from Norfolk to Omaha, as well as provides meaningful employment to the area's mentally handicapped citizens.

He and his wife, Betty Jane, have 10 children.


Warren Buffett – Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett serves as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. The firm's business activities include underwriting of property and casualty insurance, candy productions and sales, newspaper publishing, retail home furnishings, sales of encyclopedias, sales of home cleaning units, manufacture and distribution of uniforms, retail jewelry, and manufacture, imports, and distribution of footwear.

Buffett acts as one of the most highly regarded businesspersons in the United States. He served as a director of Capital Cities/ABC, the Coca-Cola Company, the Gillette Company, Salomon Inc. and USAir Group, Inc. Berkshire Hathaway holds significant investments in each of these companies.

Widely read in the business and investment community for its sound advice, creativity and humor in explaining important investments principals, people highly anticipate Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, to Howard Buffett and Leila Stahl Buffett, he attended school in Omaha and Washington D.C. where his father served as a U.S. Congressman. He earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1951 and attended the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned a master’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1951.

He married Susan Thompson in 1952 and they have three children: Susan, Howard and Peter.


George Abel – NEBCO

George P. Abel

George P. Abel

George Abel, born in Boulder, Colorado, began a lifelong career in the construction business by helping his father, founder of one of the state's oldest paving companies, as a water boy on city paving projects.

Attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Abel participated as a student member of the Athletic Board of Control and received the Big Six Athletic Scholarship Award. One of the Nebraska's full-time football greats, Abel, a guard, won all Big Six honors and played in the Rose Bowl, the East-West Shrine Game and the College All-Star Game before joining the U.S. Army in 1942.

Upon his discharge, he assumed an active role in the Abel family business. Under his leadership, NEBCO became a broadly diversified company with interests in building materials, construction, banking, insurance, railroading, farming, ranching, warehousing and real estate. NEBCO is one of Nebraska's largest privately-owned employers with operations throughout the state.

Abel served the state in many capacities, such as president of the Nebraska Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, a trustee of the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation and as organizer and member of the executive committee of FirsTier Financial, Inc.

He and his wife, Elizabeth Nichols, had two sons, John and James, both involved in the family enterprises.

Harold Warp – Pioneer Village

Harold Warp

Harold Warp

Harold Warp founded Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, in 1948, when he bought his old schoolhouse. He wanted to collect items to tell the story of growth on the Great Plains and across the United States.

Warp, born and raised in a sod house near Minden, began inventing products as a teenager. With $800 in savings, he left for Chicago in 1924 with his patent for Flex-O-Glass, where he and his two brothers began production. He established a network of dealers, which grew to 3,000 across the country. A pioneer in advertising and aviation, Warp built his company's growth on advertising and he used his first airplane, a Curtiss JN-4D, to fly to dealers and distribute Flex-O-Glass samples from the air. A holder of more than 30 patents in plastics and a stall-speed indicator for airplanes, Warp's record as an inventor and businessman displayed a major influence on agricultural growth and in the development of the plastic industry.

Despite his factory location in Chicago and his worldwide travels, Warp still called Minden home. In 1979, Warp received the Haratio Alger Award by the late Norman Vincent Peale. Reserved for those who not only have a rag to riches story, the honor recognizes those who have used their success to enrich others.

Dan Gardner – M.G. Waldbaum Company

Daniel W. Gardner

Daniel W. Gardner

Dan Gardner, born in New York City, served in World War II and graduated from Syracuse University in 1948. On vacation in 1951, he visited Nebraska and Dr. Milton Waldbaum, who was just beginning his egg production business. Gardner moved to Wakefield, Nebraska, in 1952 to run the company, while Waldbaum began medical studies in Omaha.

Beginning with only 25 employees, the M.G. Waldbaum Company grew to employ nearly 900 people in Nebraska. Starting as a regional wholesaler of locally produced eggs, the company eventually produced their own eggs and developed egg products for the entire food industry. In addition to shell eggs, Waldbaum's manufactured more than 100 million pounds of egg products each year, including frozen, dried, liquid and hard-cooked for food services and industrial users.

Gardner's leadership in developing complete control of production served as a key component to the company. Waldbaum owned and operated five feed mills, pullet farms, laying farms and processing facilities in Wakefield and Bloomfield, Nebraska. Actively involved in the egg and poultry business, he served on the board of institutions such as the Poultry and Egg Institute of America, the Egg Clearinghouse, America Egg Board and the United Egg Producers Board, which named him Industry Man of the Year in 1985.

Gardner and his wife, Jeanne, and their children act as major public servants and philanthropists for Wakefield and northeastern Nebraska.

Walter Scott Jr. – Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc.

Walter Scott, Jr.

Walter Scott, Jr.

Walter Scott Jr. born in Omaha, Nebraska, graduated with an engineering degree from Colorado State University. He followed his father's footsteps as an engineer, beginning his career at Peter Kiewit Sons, Inc. in 1953.

Started more than a hundred years ago by a Dutch immigrant bricklayer, Peter Kiewit Sons expanded under the late Peter Kiewit Sr. into a giant construction firm building canals, dams and power plants for the Public Works Administration. Later, the company built munitions plants and interstate highways. Headquartered in Omaha, the company stays close to its core construction business, which produces 80 percent of the firm's revenues. Scott worked in many roles and became chairman of the company in 1979. Scott guided the company into outside investment in telecommunications and private financing of infrastructure projects, utilizing the talents of many long-term employees.

Scott and his wife, Suzanne, donate their time to Omaha and Nebraska, particularly the Henry Doorly Zoo and the Joslyn Art Museum. He served as president of the Mid-America Council of the Boy Scouts of America and as the director of Creighton University, the SAC Museum Memorial Society, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Boys Club Omaha, the University of Nebraska Foundation, Omaha Junior Achievement, United Way of Omaha, Hastings College and many other civic and philanthropic posts. He also received the University of Nebraska Builder's Award.

Scott and Suzanne have three children: Karen Dixon, Sandra Parker and Amy Walter Scott.


Duane Acklie – Crete Carrier Corporation

Duane W. Acklie

Duane W. Acklie

Duane Acklie founded Crete Carrier Corporation. He served as chairman of Shaffer Trucking, Inc.; Sunflower Carriers, Inc.; and HTL Truck Line, Inc.; and president of LRC, Inc. While under the same ownership, Crete Carrier and its sisters companies are independently operated and comprise one of the largest privately-held carrier networks in the United States.

A native of Madison, Nebraska, Acklie graduated from Norfolk Junior College before attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln where he earned a bachelor of science and law degree. He served as a U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Officer in Germany. After returning to the U.S., he practiced law becoming very involved in transportation law, which helped Crete Carriers determine its name in 1967. Five years later, he and his wife, Phyllis, purchased the company. Crete Carriers Corporation operates a state-of-the-art truck servicing facility, as well as all data processing and satellite communications to its rigs across the continent from its headquarters in Lincoln.

A member of many civic and state boards and organizations, Acklie served as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1988. He was also a commissioner of the Nebraska State Highway Commission.

The Acklies had three children: Dodie Nakajima, Laura Schumacher and Holly Ostergard.

Richard and James Cabela – Cabela’s

Richard, and James Cabela

James Cabela (left)
Richard N. Cabela (right)

Richard “Dick” and James “Jim” Cabela, avid outdoorsmen who loved hunting, fishing and camping, founded Cabela’s. While working in his father's Chappell furniture store in 1961, Dick decided to make a profit by selling fishing flies. Drafted on the kitchen table, a thriving mail order and retail sporting goods business with more than 1,000 employees began. In 1962, they realized their kitchen table business was growing fast enough to need full-time attention. Dick persuaded his younger brother, Jim, into leaving the banking business in Denver and joining the family enterprise.

Jim ran the day-to-day operations of the young company in Chappell, while Dick focused on developing business contracts on the road. Eventually, the company outgrew a number of locations in Chappell and the volume of the mail orders necessitated a move to a 50,000-square-foot John Deere building in Sidney, Nebraska. Within 10 years, they outgrew the Sidney building and moved to old Sioux Ordinance Depot west of Sidney. A second retail outlet was opened in Kearney in 1986. The Cabela brothers stressed a commitment to quality products, value, service and guaranteed customer satisfaction to outdoor enthusiasts throughout the world.

Dick and his wife, Mary, had nine children. Jim, who is passionate about the conservation and restoration of wildlife habitat, worked with youth to respect the environment.

V.J. Skutt – Mutual of Omaha

V.J. Skutt

V.J. Skutt

V.J. Skutt, born in Deadwood, South Dakota, entered Omaha on a cattle train to attend Creighton University. He joined the legal department at Mutual of Omaha in 1924 after earning a law degree at Creighton. Appointed to the legal counsel for the company's southwest division in Dallas in 1926, he became a director and executive vice president in 1947 and president in 1949. Named chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1953, Skutt served until his son, Thomas, succeeded him as CEO in 1986.

For 33 years, Skutt positioned Mutual of Omaha as one of the largest health insurance providers in the world. As president, annual sales hit $76 million and when he retired in 1987, premium sales exceeded $2.37 billion. To assure the highest standard of professional selling, Skutt established a unique training program for the company's sales.

Skutt served on many boards and committees throughout his career. He established the Mutual of Omaha Criss Award to recognize contributions in the fields of health, safety and/or the public welfare. His awards and honors include honorary degrees, Distinguished NEBRASKAlander in 1984, and founding president and former chairman of the Nebraska Chapter of National Wildlife Federation. The Omaha Archdiocese honored Skutt and his wife by naming the community's Catholic high school V.J. and Angela Skutt High School.


Ken Wortman – Wortman Enterprise

Kenneth L. Wortman

Kenneth L. Wortman

Ken Wortman, known for his skills as an entrepreneur and ambassador for his community and the state of Nebraska, served as president of Wortman Enterprise. He oversaw business operations of automobile dealerships, motels, residential and commercial construction company, and a petroleum marketing business.

Born in Neligh, Nebraska, he purchased Aurora Ford in 1948, combining natural business ability with an interest in mechanical things. This launched him into a diverse range of business interests.

Throughout his career, he participated in many civic affairs. Instrumental in ensuring quality health care facilities and service to his community, he worked diligently in establishing area vocational technical schools. A leader in industrial recruitment for his community and for the state, Wortman served as president of the Nebraska Diplomats, an organization which honored him as an Ambassador Plenipotentiary.

He and his wife, Marilyn, had two children: Jayne Mann and Brian Wortman.

Clifton K. Hillegass – CliffsNotes, Inc.

Clifton K. Hillegass

Clifton K. Hillegass

Clifton K. Hillegass founded CliffsNotes, Inc., a Lincoln-based publisher of literary study guide materials. Under his direction, the company established a reputation for excellence and success based on long-held business principles.

Born in Rising City, Nebraska, Hillegass carried newspapers and sold magazines to earn money for college. He graduated in 1937 from Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska, and received a graduate assistantship at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to pursue studies in physics and geology. An avid reader, Hillegass landed a job at Long's College Bookstore (now the Nebraska Bookstore) as a graduate student where he furthered his knowledge of the book business. After serving in the U.S. Army Corps as a meteorologist during World War II, he resumed working for the Nebraska Book Company in its wholesale division. He worked closely with their operations and getting to know their needs as retailers.

In 1958, working from the basement of his home, Hillegass established CliffsNotes, Inc. The company produced study guides, becoming a reference for countless students worldwide. There are CliffsNotes for more than 200 literary classics and are sold in approximately 7,000 retail outlets in the U.S. and abroad.

Cliff Hillegass and his wife, Mary, had five children: James, Linda, Diane Nolan, Kimberly M. Newton and Patrick J. Ebel.

Robert L. Peterson – IBP, Inc.

Robert L. Peterson

Robert L. Peterson

Robert L. Peterson, president and chief executive officer of IBP, Inc. of Dakota City, Nebraska, led his company through years of growth to become one of the largest and most successful companies in the meat packing industry.

Born in Hartington, Nebraska, Peterson lived in Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Active in the livestock and meat processing industry, he acted as one of IBP's original cattle buyers when the company began operations at its first plant in Denison, Iowa, in 1961.

During the 1960s, Peterson advanced through the management ranks before founding his own company, Madison Foods in Madison, Nebraska. He rejoined IBP in 1976, when Madison Foods was acquired by IBP through a stock transaction and named president of the company in 1977.

Under Peterson's leadership, IBP experienced tremendous growth. He led the company through significant expansion, adding new beef plants and pork facilities, increasing both employees and sales. The company served as the nation's largest producer of fresh beef, pork and related allied products.

Peterson received numerous honors during his career, including being named “Best Chief Executive in the Meat Industry” in 1981 by the Wall Street Transcript. In 1989, BEEF magazine selected him as one of 25 individuals who have made a major contribution to the beef cattle industry. He received the Ak-Sar-Ben Agricultural Achievement Award for his contributions to the beef industry, and the South Sioux Development Corporation of South Sioux City, Nebraska, named him Developer of the Year in 1984.

He and his wife, Ginny, had two children: Mark and Susan Peterson.


Thomas Creigh Jr. – KN Energy

Thomas Creigh, Jr.

Thomas Creigh, Jr.

Thomas Creigh Jr. of Hastings, Nebraska, served as chairman emeritus of the board of directors of KN Energy, Inc. Beginning his career with KN as a construction inspector in 1936, he served in a variety of capacities including assistant to the president, and chief engineer and vice president of transmissions and gas supply.

A Chicago native, he graduated from Wabash College in 1933. He served as a chairman of Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1966 and of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education in 1968. He served on the board of trustees of Hastings College and the University of Nebraska Foundation. He was also a member of the board of the Nebraska Art Collection, and Nebraska State Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Creigh and his wife, Dorothy, had four children: Mary Elizabeth Pfeil of Philadelphia; Thomas II and John, both of Hastings; and James of Washington, D.C.

Dr. Lewis Harris – Harris Laboratories

Dr. Lewis Harris

Dr. Lewis Harris

Dr. Lewis Harris began Harris Laboratories in the summer of 1933. Over the next 50 years, his business idea grew to one of the largest laboratories of its kind in the nation with more than 500 employees worldwide. It is also recognized as one of the industry's most respected scientific testing and research laboratories.

Harris played a major role in the growth of Lincoln's Norden Laboratories, where he served as president from 1959 to 1969. After the SmithKline Corporation acquired Norden, Harris joined the SmithKline management team, serving as chairman of the board for three years.

Harris served on numerous civic and charitable organizations including many years as a trustee to the University of Nebraska Foundation, with two Nebraska lecture series established in his name. He served as chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1969 to 1970. Harris continued to be actively involved at Harris Laboratories and served as chairman emeritus.

He and his wife, Toni, had two children: Ron, president of Harris Laboratories, and Bob, chairman of the board of Harris Laboratories.

Robert B. Daugherty – Valmont Industries

Robert B. Daugherty

Robert B. Daugherty

Robert B. Daugherty, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, served as chairman of the board of Valmont Industries, Inc., in Valley, Nebraska. A graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, he served as a captain of the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. After returning to civilian life in 1946, he co-founded Valley Manufacturing Company, a small manufacturer of farm elevators. He helped build Valmont into a major worldwide producer and supplier of outdoor lighting and traffic signal poles, electric transmission and substation structures, and communications towers. Valmont maintains approximately 39 percent of ValCom, Inc., a major distributor of microcomputer products and services, and is the leading producer of mechanized irrigation systems for worldwide agricultural markets.

Beyond his many achievements in the business sector, Daugherty involved himself in civic activities and philanthropy. He served as chairman of the ConAgra, Inc. executive committee and a director for KN Energy, Peter Kiewit Sons' Inc. and FirsTier Financial, Inc. Daugherty also was a member of the Peter Kiewit Foundation, a director of Creighton University and Clarkson Hospital, and a trustee of Hastings College. He served as chairman of the board of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1967.

Earl T. Luff – The Lincoln Steel Works Company

Earl T. Luff

Earl T. Luff

Earl T. Luff graduated with a civil engineering degree from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1928. In 1935, he earned the titles of secretary and general manager of The Lincoln Steel Works Company. In 1947, the company offered stock to employees and Luff purchased majority interest in the company. He served as president until 1972 and became chairman of the board of Lincoln/Northland, Inc. until his retirement in 1984.

Luff served as director of the First National Bank & Trust Co. in Lincoln and a member of the advisory board for the Commercial Federal Savings and Loan Association. He served as president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce in 1953 and chairman of the Association Industries of Nebraska (a forerunner of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry) in 1944-45 and in 1957-59. Luff helped found the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry, serving as chairman from 1963 to 1965.

Named Nebraska Business and Industry Man of the Year in 1959, he received the Nebraska Diplomat of the Year Award in 1981 and was the first recipient of the Private Enterprise Award from the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He organized a series of meetings in Nebraska about ethics in business in 1977 and 1978, and served as chairman of the Governor's Task Force for Government Improvements from 1980 to 1982.

Luff and his wife, Florence, had two children: Earleen and Lyall E. Luff.

Edwin J. Loutzenheiser Jr. – Great Plains Container Inc.

Edwin J. Loutzenheiser, Jr.

Edwin J. Loutzenheiser, Jr.

Edwin J. Loutzenheiser Jr. served as chairman and CEO of Great Plains Container, Inc. of Hastings, Nebraska. Great Plains, founded by Loutzenheiser in July of 1956, manufactures folding cartons and corrugated boxes. After 30 years, the company employed more than 165 people in a 165,000-square-foot modern plant operation. Over the past four decades, Loutzenheiser, a Gothenburg, Nebraska native, formed at least 11 successful companies.

He earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago and both his master’s and doctorate degrees from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. He served as an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve in World War II.

Loutzenheiser's numerous civic activities include the Hastings Board of Public Works, district governor of Rotary International, president and secretary of the Hastings Rotary Club, president of the Nebraska Diplomats, chairman of the board of governors for Central Community College and chairman of the board of trustees of the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. He served as chairman of the board of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1988.

Loutzenheiser and his wife, Cora, had two children: William and Richard, and also raised four foster daughters.

Harry P. Seward Jr. – Bankers Life Nebraska

Harry P. Seward, Jr.

Harry P. Seward, Jr.

After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, Harry P. Seward Jr. moved to Nebraska to work for Bankers Life Nebraska in 1940. During his 42-year tenure with the company, he worked in several capacities. He served as president in 1969, was named president and chief executive officer in 1973 and elected chairman of the board in 1977.

A native of Missouri, Seward graduated from the University of Missouri in 1939. He earned his Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation in 1960. He served as president of the Lincoln Community Council, a trustee of Westminster Presbyterian Church and president of the Bryan Memorial Hospital Board of Directors. He also served on the Cornhusker Council of Boy Scouts and the Lincoln Foundation. Selected to the board of directors of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1969, he served as chairman in 1972.

Seward and his wife, Franny, had two children: Anne Cordell and Harry P. Seward III.

Robert B. Harris – Harris Laboratories

Robert B. Harris

Robert B. Harris

Robert B. Harris began working at Harris Laboratories when he was 10-years-old, helping clean the glassware and equipment at his father's laboratories. Through the years, Harris held numerous positions with the company including vice president in 1969 and vice chairman in 1974. Since 1977, he served as chairman of the board at Harris, helping expand the company to include research facilities in Nebraska, Arizona and Northern Ireland, and sales offices in the United States, Europe and Japan.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, he served on the University of Nebraska Foundation, the Nebraska Wesleyan University Board of Governors and as a trustee of the Nebraska Independent College Foundation.

Named an Outstanding Young Nebraskan in 1978, Harris was recognized as the 1988 Nebraska Small Business Person of the Year by the United States Small Business Administration. He was chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1987, marking the only time in the organization's history where a father and son have both served as chairman. He and his wife, Marilyn L. Harris, Ph.D., had three children: Matt, Ted and Emily.

Virgil R. Eihusen – Chief Industries Inc.

Virgil R. Eihusen

Virgil R. Eihusen

Virgil R. Eihusen, president and chairman of Chief Industries, Inc., started his construction business with one employee in 1952. The principal activity in the beginning involved the construction of single family homes in Grand Island, Nebraska. The business expanded to include the construction of commercial and industrial buildings and farm structures. In 1961, the company started its first manufacturing facility, making steel grain storage tanks for farm and commercial use. Eihusen became head of the company which includes five major divisions operating in eight states and England, employing more than 1,000 people.

Eihusen served on the board of directors of Overland National Bank and the Nebraska Private Industry Council. He served as director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Nebraska Independent College Foundation, and chairman of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 1976 and the Nebraska Diplomats in 1982. He served on the Grand Island City Council and the U.S. Small Business Administration named him the Small Businessman of the Year in 1968. In 1973, he received the Diplomat of the Year award from the Nebraska Department of Economics Development for promoting industrial growth in Nebraska. He also served as chairman of the Nebraska Economic Development Commission and of the Economics Development Council for the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Eihusen and his wife, Patty, had three children: daughters Libby and Terri and one son, Bob.

Charles M. Harper – ConAgra

Charles M. Harper

Charles M. Harper

Charles M. “Mike” Harper earned his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1949 and a master of business administration from the University of Chicago in 1950. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. After earning his MBA, Harper worked at General Motors, in methods engineering for five years. In 1955, he joined the Pillsbury Company for 20 years.

In October 1974, Harper joined ConAgra as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Elected a director in September 1975, he served as president and chief executive officer beginning in March 1976. In September 1981, Harper became the chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer. During his 16 years at the company, Harper and his management team engineered the company's strong rebound from sizeable losses and a precarious financial position in 1974 to today's position of strength and leadership across the food chain. Under his leadership, ConAgra's sales increased from $600 million to more than $20 billion.

Harper served on the board of directors of Creighton University and the board of governors of Joslyn Art Museum. He served as chairman of the board of governors of Ak-Sar-Ben and was council president of the Mid-America Council for Boy Scouts of America in 1983. He also served as chairman of the board of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in 1979.

Harper is married to his wife, Josie.

Burnham Yates – First National Bank of Lincoln

Burnham Yates

Burnham Yates

Burnham Yates graduated from Lincoln High School in 1928 and earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford University in 1933. He started his business career with First Boston Corp., serving in the company's New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles offices. In 1937, he joined the investment-banking firm of Weeden & Co. and remained in the firm's Chicago office until joining the Navy in 1942. During World War II, he served in the Pacific and earned the Bronze Star. After being discharged from the Navy, he joined the First National Bank of Lincoln in 1945. Yates was elected chairman of the board in 1969 and remained in that position until he retired in 1976. He retired from the board in 1982, but continued to maintain an office in the FirsTier Bank Building.

During Yates’ long and distinguished business career, he actively supported economic development in Nebraska. He served as the president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Lincoln Chamber Industrial Development Corporation. He was chairman of the advisory committee of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, and proved to be instrumental in the growth and development of First National Lincoln.

Yates and his wife, Mary, had three children: sons Silas Burnham Yates Jr. of East Lansing, Michigan and Willard W. Yates of Alexandria, Virginia, and one daughter, Sharon Ewers of Phoenix, Arizona.