The Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation of Chicago is making a major gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create four endowed student scholarship funds and to expand and permanently endow 14 existing scholarship funds. The scholarships will benefit students across the University of Nebraska System who meet the criteria of each.
An additional gift of $755,000 from the Meier Foundation will support construction of a new television studio and newsroom at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
A 1941 UNL alumnus, the late Donald “Don” Meier used estate planning to direct assets from his charitable foundation to provide significant support for the University of Nebraska. During their lives, Meier and his late wife, Lorena, gave regularly to the university and established 14 student scholarship funds, the first one being created in 1999.
The Meier Foundation has committed to transfer assets to the University of Nebraska Foundation over the next several years to fulfill the Meiers’ wishes of helping young people achieve their educational goals.
“Don and Lorena Meier cared deeply about Don’s alma mater and assisting students in achieving their own career success and enjoyment,” said David Shoub, president of the Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation. “Over the next 25 years, the foundation plans to provide an estimated $10 million in support of student scholarships to fulfill the charitable wishes of Don and Lorena. We’re pleased to be carrying forth their aspirations in making a University of Nebraska education possible for more promising students for generations to come.”
University of Nebraska at Kearney students in the College of Business and Technology and College of Education, as well as pre-medicine students, are eligible for the scholarship funds if they meet specific criteria.
The Gene Koepke Scholarship is an endowed fund that supports UNK students studying in either the Department of Management or Department of Marketing who are graduates of a Nebraska high school and have demonstrated high scholastic ability.
The Priscilla (Meier) Harding Scholarship is an endowed fund that supports education majors in the UNK College of Education and UNL College of Education and Human Sciences, with first preference given to graduates of Garden County High School and second preference given to graduates of high schools in Buffalo or Box Butte counties.
Both renewable scholarships are awarded at a minimum of $1,000 per academic year.
The Dr. Woodrow W. Meier Scholarship is an endowed fund that supports pre-medicine students enrolled at any NU campus. It’s awarded based on the same criteria as the Priscilla (Meier) Harding Scholarship.
The Meiers had distinguished media careers that included the production of award-winning national network television shows, the most popular and longest-running being Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” and “Zoo Parade.”
“Wild Kingdom” was an Emmy-winning wildlife documentary program starring Marlin Perkins that aired from 1963 to 1971 on NBC, after which it entered syndication. Episodes of the program are currently aired on RFD-TV, with new and updated content across many of its digital properties.
Meier also produced “Zoo Parade,” a 1950s NBC program featuring animals from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. Prior to producing these programs, he served as an NBC producer for several local programs and events, including television broadcasts of Chicago Cubs and White Sox baseball games.
Meier’s interest in supporting student scholarships was influenced by his own experience at the University of Nebraska. During his lifetime, he considered different ways to support the university but was especially drawn to opportunities for scholarships or other projects that directly benefit students.
“I had no other dream than to go to the University of Nebraska,” he told the university in 2008 in announcing his plans for significant support of student scholarships.
Meier’s dream did not come easy. He worked off and on during college, sometimes taking up to a year off to work or return home to Oshkosh, where he had a job as a high school librarian. He completed his college education in six years.
“I remember my own struggles to complete my college education,” he once said. “In those days, back in the 1930s, they didn’t have a lot of scholarships. I just remember how tough it was for me to make it. It became apparent to me as I pursued my own career that the main thing is not only the support, but it’s important to get kids into college, and I agree with my wife who says that all students should seek to expand their potential by seeking full development of their talent.”
Lorena Meier died June 22, 2018, at age 100, and Don Meier died July 13, 2019, at age 104.