October 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Diane Duren remembers the desert days of Downtown Omaha.

“I was here when there was not much happening, even after work and on weekends,” says Duren, who’s either studied or worked in the area for nearly 40 years, today as an executive vice president at Union Pacific.

Now, Downtown is dynamic.

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That’s thanks in large measure to the work of Omaha’s Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, the nonprofit that runs CenturyLink Center Omaha, TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, and the now closed Omaha Civic Auditorium. According to a recent economic study, the CenturyLink Center Omaha has generated nearly $5 billion in economic benefit for Omaha.

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As the newest member of the MECA board of directors, Duren wants to spread the good word.

“I’ve spent 10 years watching the growth and development,” Duren says. “Seeing what MECA has done…has been truly amazing. It’s made downtown more vibrant.

“The MECA Authority itself, I think, is doing a lot of things very, very well. I don’t always think that we are telling the story as well as we should. We need to tell the story very broadly and the public needs to understand what’s happening and what we’re doing.”

The biggest MECA-related story earlier this year wasn’t exactly good press. The MECA board voted to extend board-member terms from five to seven years. That would have lengthened the stay of existing board member Jim Vokal. Instead, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, who asserted the board didn’t have the authority to change member terms, appointed Duren to replace Vokal. That was a way, Duren says, of getting some “diversity of thought” onto the board.

A Creighton graduate, Duren joined Union Pacific in 1985 after starting her professional career with Deloitte, Haskins & Sells in Omaha. She’s held a variety of roles with the railroad, working for departments including finance, marketing and sales, and agricultural products.

The Omaha City Council voted unanimously to support Duren’s nomination. The MECA board conceded, and in May, Duren joined the
five-member board.

Duren is no stranger to board play. Among her main responsibilities at Union Pacific as corporate board secretary is facilitating the railroad giant’s board meetings. She also oversees Union Pacific’s human resources department, its strategic planning and administration of resources such as its heritage fleet and planes (yes, Union Pacific still owns trains).

“It’s not a 40-hour workweek,” she says. “My iPad is on all night long.”

When it’s not on, she’s spending time with her husband, Drew Collier, and their four sons, ages 20 to 29. When extended family comes over, Duren does all the cooking, often for two dozen or more people. To get away, she and Drew head for snowshoeing, skiing, fishing, and other outdoor pastimes in Sun Valley, Idaho, where they own a home.

But Omaha is home base.

“The things that have impressed me is really the sense of community that’s here, the philanthropic work that’s done,” says Duren, who is extensively involved in the community, serving organizations including the WCA, Arthritis Foundation, Girl Scouts, American Red Cross, and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. “If you look across any city in America, you don’t see that kind of giving back.”

Duren is just starting to tell the story.

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