Tag Archives: Creighton University

A Timeline of Chinese in Omaha

March 2, 2018 by , and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Chinese migration to Omaha began, indirectly, during the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. The “Old Gold Mountain” (i.e., the Chinese term for California) attracted a flood of unskilled laborers known as coolies. Nationwide, the Chinese population grew by leaps and bounds: from 758 (in 1850) to 35,565 (in 1860) to 104,468 (in 1880), according to U.S. Census data on the country’s foreign-born population.

Facing open hostility in the goldfields, many went to work in agriculture, mining, fisheries, started laundry or restaurant businesses, or joined construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. The railway industry dispersed Chinese migrants throughout the American interior. With Union Pacific’s headquarters in Omaha, it’s likely that the railroad helped populate Omaha’s own early Chinatown. But documentation of Union Pacific’s role in attracting the city’s earliest Chinese residents remains scarce.

“We don’t have archival records of Union Pacific bringing Chinese labor to Omaha, but we’ve seen this pattern throughout cities and towns of the American West,” says Patricia LaBounty, curator of the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs. LaBounty spoke with Omaha Magazine while preparing a research presentation focused on the contribution of Chinese labor to Union Pacific.

Among the earliest documentation is an illustration of Chinese railroad laborers crossing the frozen Missouri River with Omaha’s sparse skyline in the background—including the old territorial capitol, now the site of Central High School (printed in the Jan. 22, 1870, edition of Harper’s Weekly). 

Mounting opposition to Chinese immigrant labor led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted immigration and banned citizenship. Many American Chinatowns dwindled and disappeared in subsequent years, with Chinese-American communities remaining staunchly Cantonese-speaking due to the early immigration from China’s southern regions. Post-World War II waves of Chinese immigrants predominantly spoke Mandarin, the language of mainland China and Taiwan.

The second wave of Chinese immigrants arriving in Omaha—and the U.S. in general—consisted of Chinese Nationalists and their families coming overseas after civil war split the Republic of China (Taiwan) from the communist People’s Republic of China.

A third wave of immigration followed normalization of U.S. diplomatic ties with Beijing during Richard Nixon’s presidency. This group included highly educated professionals, scientists, doctors, and students from the People’s Republic of China.

At the dawn of the 21st century, the number of students coming to U.S. universities (evident at the University of Nebraska system, Creighton, and Bellevue University) has steadily grown. Meanwhile, what could be considered a fourth wave of Chinese migration to North America has taken the form of wealthy Chinese looking to the U.S. for property and stock market investments.

May 10, 1869

Promontory, Utah—The driving of a ceremonial golden spike signals the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Chinese labor played a critical role in completing the eastbound Central Pacific that met with Union Pacific.

Jan. 22, 1870

Harper’s Weekly prints “Chinese Coolies Crossing the Missouri River” with Omaha pictured in the illustration. The article claims 250 Chinese laborers passed through Omaha to build a railroad in Texas.

Early documentation of Chinese labor passing through Omaha


The 1872/1873 Omaha City Directory lists Chinese laundries for the first time. There are two: “Yingalongjingjohn & Yingyang” between Farnam and Harney on 10th Street, and “Hong Lee” on Harney between 14th and 15th streets.

June 4, 1874

The Omaha Daily Bee reports on the burial of “Ting-a-ling” at Prospect Hill Cemetery, noted as the city’s first Chinese burial. His death is attributed to “too much ironing and ice cream.” The article explains that his remains will be exhumed after two years to be returned to China for final burial in accordance with traditional custom. The article also notes that the local Chinese population consists of 12 men and one woman.


Omaha has 14 Chinese residents.*


The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur.

May 6, 1892

The national Methodist Episcopal Conference is held in Omaha. A speaker condemns the Chinese Exclusion Act for jeopardizing U.S. missionary work in China, denounces the U.S. president and Congress, and argues “that the Chinese had the same right to be here as other foreigners, notably the Irish” (according to the New York Times on May 7, 1892).


Omaha has 91* or 93 Chinese residents.**

Feb. 15, 1893

Dr. Gee Wo Chan goes to the Supreme Court of Nebraska for practicing medicine without a license. He will lose his case, but his traditional Chinese medicine practice continues. At the peak of his business, he operates storefront clinics in Omaha, Milwaukee, and Chicago. The Omaha Daily Bee frequently publishes full-page ads promoting that Dr. C. Gee Wo “the greatest doctor that China ever produced is in your city.” His 1892 marriage to a Caucasian woman in Chicago was reported in the Omaha Daily Bee. His life story will be featured in a free online book, Chinese Medicine in Post-Frontier America: A Tale of Three Chinese-American Doctors (published in 2016).

Dr. C. Gee Woh ad in June 7, 1891 Omaha Daily Bee

Aug. 31, 1894

An article in the Omaha Daily Bee covers a revolutionary meeting of 150 Chinese “from Denver, Cheyenne, Sioux City, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Kansas City, and other surrounding towns within a radius of 200 miles,” who meet to discuss overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. Chinese revolutionaries draw support from overseas Chinese communities around the world. Years later, China’s Revolution of 1911 will overturn the country’s last dynasty and set in motion the establishment of the Republic of China.


The 1895 Omaha City Directory lists at least 21 Chinese-owned laundries (featuring names that appear to be Chinese).

Oct. 23, 1898

The Omaha World-Herald reports that 438 men, women, and children—including artists, performers, and cooks—were brought to the United States from China to help with the Chinese village at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha. The expo allowed them to bypass the Chinese Exclusion Act restrictions. The newspaper alleges human trafficking and claims that women were sold into slavery or prostitution.


Omaha has 94* or 103 residents.**

Aug. 19, 1900

The Illustrated Bee publishes an article titled “Chinese in Omaha—Some Prominent Men,” which claims a Sunday school has offered English language education to Chinese youth since September 1885. Laundry is the chief occupation of local Chinese residents, and cleaners tuck “good luck mottoes” into fresh linens. Opium smoking is on the decline (allegedly the only crime in an otherwise “peaceable, quiet, and law-abiding” community). A sort of Chinese credit union offers loans to the immigrants at exorbitant rates. Joe Wah Lee is named as the community’s best English interpreter, the wealthiest local Chinese person, and the shrewd owner of Bon Ton Restaurant. Leo Mun, head of Quong Wah Co. is named the community’s most educated in Chinese but lacking in English skills.“Henry” Hong Sling is noted as affiliated with the community but based in Chicago where he is a railroad passenger agent.


Omaha has 53 Chinese residents.*

January 1912

Gin Chin opens the Mandarin Cafe at 1409 Douglas St.

Nov. 22, 1916

The Omaha World-Herald reports on the opening of a “new hall” for the Omaha Chinese Merchants Association at the first known site of the On Leong Tong (111 N. 12th St.). Leo Wing is president and Chue Fing Sue is secretary. The report claims there are 150 Chinese living in Omaha.

The former home of the On Leong Tong, photographed in 2018


Omaha has 126 Chinese residents.*

Sept. 16, 1920

Gin Chin opens the King Fong Cafe near 16th and Harney streets.

Photo from the September/October 2007 edition of Encounter Magazine


Omaha has 147 Chinese residents.*


Following the Stock Market Crash of 1929, a city directory is not printed in 1930. The 1931 Omaha City Directory lists at least eight Chinese laundromats remaining in Omaha (six are included under a “Chinese Laundry” category, two are listed as hand-laundries). Omaha has 147 Chinese residents.* “When the Depression came in, there was no more business,” says Jeanette Chin, wife of Carl Chin (Gin Chin’s son). “If families could save some money, they could go back (to China) and live like royalty.” She came to Omaha in 1942 from a prominent family in New York City’s Chinatown. Local Omaha papers claimed her 1942 marriage to Carl was the city’s “last arranged marriage.”

July 16, 1938

The Omaha World-Herald reports on firecrackers and festivities involved in the dedication of the relocated On Leong Tong at 1518 Cass St. The article notes that the tong is raising funds for China’s fight against Japan in the war effort.


Omaha has 69 Chinese residents (44 native-born and 25 foreign-born).***


The year after the Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed (1943) during World War II, Gen. Albert Wedemeyer takes command of U.S. forces in China, relieving Joseph Stillwell. Wedemeyer was born in Omaha in 1897. He was likely familiar with Omaha’s ethnic Chinese community as he attended Creighton Preparatory School (when the school was located near downtown on the Creighton University). In 1919 he went to West Point Academy. Upon graduation, he was assigned to Tientsin, China, where he learned to speak Mandarin and gained a deeper understanding of China’s turbulent political climate with the consolidation efforts by the Nationalists and the rise of the Communist movement.


The 1946 Omaha City Directory lists one business under the category “Laundries—Chinese” (Louie Chas at 209 S. 13th St.), and the name disappears in the next year’s directory. The Chinese laundry category vanishes from record in subsequent city directories.


Omaha has 106 Chinese residents.*


Omaha has 130 Chinese residents.****


Omaha has 186 Chinese residents.****


Joe Kuo and his wife, Alice, open the Great Wall Restaurant at 72nd and Farnam streets. The restaurant’s success will spawn other Great Wall restaurants downtown (at 11th and Farnam streets), near 84th and Center streets, at Oak View Mall, and in Council Bluffs. Kuo had graduated from Fort Hays State University in Kansas with a mathematics degree in 1972, but with a new family decided against doctoral studies to enter business as a restaurateur in New York City and Chicago before coming to Omaha. The Kuos were founding members of a Christian fellowship of Omaha Chinese (established in 1977), which started as a bible study group (officially renamed the “Omaha Christian Chinese Fellowship” in 1980, and again renamed as “Omaha Chinese Christian Church” in 1986). Kuo’s restaurants host bible study gatherings. The church’s founding minister, Pastor Job Lee, is married to Joe’s elder sister (Grace). The church fellowship serves as a center for Chinese language and culture education. The Kuo family will sponsor local Chinese cultural events, leading to the creation of the Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association.


Omaha has 374 Chinese residents.****

The Omaha Chinese Christian Fellowship rents space at First Presbyterian Church. A few years later, in 1983, the fellowship will relocate to First Christian Church on 66th and Dodge streets.


The Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association forms with the goal of bringing all Chinese immigrants and American-born Chinese together, regardless of regional origins or political affiliation. The organization’s board includes Dennis Chin (a Bellevue Public School educator and Gin Chin’s grandson), his wife Betty Chin (a research organizer at Creighton and UNMC), and UNL engineering professor Bing Chen, among others. The association will eventually discontinue as political tensions mount and the community shifts to a predominantly mainland Chinese orientation.

From left: Dennis Chin, Betty Chin, and Bing Chen (at the Nebraska Chinese Association in 2018)


The Metropolitan Omaha Chinese American Association’s Chinese New Year celebration moves to UNO’s Milo Bail Student Center for a Chinese meal cooked by UNO chefs under the watchful eye of Joe Kuo followed by music, acrobatics, and dance performances at the Strauss Performing Arts Center. During its years of operation, the group also participates in the Omaha Ethnic Festival at the Civic Auditorium and hosts Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and Dragon Boat Festival gatherings.


The Omaha Chinese Christian Church purchases its own building at 81st and Blondo streets.
Omaha has 553 Chinese residents.****


Mainland Chinese in Omaha are believed to organize local community events, including Lunar New Year gatherings. (Individuals known to be involved did not respond to Omaha Magazine’s request for comment.)


Omaha has 1,155 Chinese residents.****
In 2000, UNMC begins a formal faculty exchange program with Shanghai University. It is the first time the Chinese government has “awarded and funded a faculty exchange program between a Chinese medical school and [a] U.S. medical school.” In subsequent years, UNMC’s exchange programs with Chinese medical institutions continue to develop. By the year 2018, UNMC’s Asia Pacific Rim Development Program will have established partnerships with more than a dozen Chinese medical schools.


Creighton philosophy professor Jinmei Yuan begins annual student trips to China, supported by the Rev. John Schlegel (president of the university) and Soong Ching-Ling Foundation in China.  


Omaha-born filmmaker Alexander Payne is part of a group that buys King Fong Cafe from the Huey family that has managed the restaurant in the years following Gin Chin’s passing. Also in 2007, the Confucius Institute (which operates around the world teaching Chinese as a second language) opens at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the institute will become a key sponsor for holiday celebrations with the UNL chapter of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, Lincoln Chinese Cultural Association, the Asian Community Center in Lincoln, and the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association/Nebraska Chinese Association.


In 2008, Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions establishes a three-month Rehabilitation International Summer Program. By 2014, the university will establish the China Honors Interprofessional Program for medical students and health care professionals in China. Partner schools will include 10 universities across China (along with universities in five other countries).

May 2008

The Omaha Chinese Culture Association establishes in the wake of China’s tragic 2008 Sichuan earthquakes. In China, more than 69,000 are confirmed dead and 5 million people are displaced. Bellevue University’s director of global partnerships in Asia, Julie Verebely, was born in the area devastated by the quake. Verebely knew her home was affected, but she didn’t know how badly. She couldn’t contact any friends or family in the province. “She called me up and said, ‘We need to do something. It’s my hometown,’” recalls Linda Steele, who works with Verebely at Bellevue. With a core group of more than 30 Chinese-Americans and Chinese expats, they arrange several fundraisers that accumulate more than $30,000. During their fundraising efforts, Ping Ye (a systems analyst at HDR) suggests to fellow volunteers that they organize as a continuing Chinese association. Ye is the Omaha Chinese Culture Association’s first president, followed by Mae Keith, and then Steele. John Zhang is the association’s first chairman of the board, followed by Hong Zheng.

Linda Steele


The Omaha Chinese Christian Church moves to its current location at 4618 S. 139th St.


Omaha has 1,437 Chinese residents.****

Feb. 3, 2009

The first Lunar New Year Gala is hosted by the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association at Christ Community Church. Locations will change in later years: Millard North High School in 2010, Burke High School in 2011-2012, Westside High School in 2013, Westside Middle School in 2015-2017, and Burke again in 2018.

April 2009

In April, an Omaha delegation visits Yantai (in Shandong province) at the invitation of the mayor of the northeastern Chinese city. In October, Yantai officials will visit Omaha to sign a letter of intent to become “sister cities.” In June 2010, Omaha’s Mayor Jim Suttle will visit Yantai, China, in a trip to establish Omaha and Yantai as “sister cities.”

Oct. 3, 2009

The Omaha Chinese Cultural Association hosts the first annual Mid-Autumn Chinese Cultural Festival at Zorinsky Lake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

June 4, 2011

The Omaha Chinese Cultural Association hosts its first annual Dragon Boat Festival on a Missouri River cruise.


Bellevue University establishes a partnership with Guangzhou College of Commerce in 2012. The first group of Chinese students will arrive in 2015. Also in 2012, the UNO College of Business Administration begins annual study trips to China.

August 2012

During a visit to China, Nebraska’s Gov. Dave Heineman announces the state will open a trade office in China.


The UNO College of Business Administration hosts a China Conference focused on US-China economic relations and business partnerships. The conference continues for a second year in 2014.

March 18, 2013

Ceremonies in Nebraska and Shanghai are held to announce the opening of the Nebraska Center China in Shanghai. Upon taking office in 2015, Gov. Pete Ricketts continues to foster China-Nebraska trade relations with trade trips in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The Omaha Chamber also participates in overseas trips to China on an annual basis.

May 2014

An estimated 1,000 Chinese investors visit Omaha for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting. In China, the “Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffett is known as “the God of Stock Investing.” The number of Chinese visitors to Omaha during the shareholder meeting will continue to grow every year. An estimated 2,000-3,000 Chinese investors will visit Omaha for the shareholder meeting in 2016.


The Nebraska Chinese Association replaces the Omaha Chinese Cultural Association under the leadership of local Omaha businessman Hong Zheng (owner of the Asian Market) and its president Linda Steele (an adjunct professor Bellevue University).

Hong Zheng

April 2016

Lion Dancers help the Nebraska Chinese Association celebrate the grand opening of the Nebraska Chinese Center in the site of a former church at 8206 Blondo St. The center offers language classes, cooking classes, a farmers’ market, tai chi exercise programs, and other cultural events.


King Fong Cafe closes “temporarily.”

May 2017

The annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting continues to draw more Chinese visitors every year. Buses take Chinese tour groups to Warren Buffett’s home in Dundee for photographs. In 2017, Linda Steele estimates that there are 3,000-4,000 Chinese visitors. A gala dinner hosted by the Nebraska Chinese Association introduces overseas investors and local businesses. Steele expects 5,000 Chinese visitors for the Berkshire meeting in 2018.

June 14, 2017

Forty boxes of beef arrive in China from Greater Omaha Packing Co. The Omaha-headquartered business has emerged as an industry leader in reopening U.S. beef exports to China. It is the first shipment of U.S. beef to China since 2003 (following a mad cow scare that halted imports).

November 2017

The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the historic status of the On Leong Tong at 1518 Cass St.


In the 2017/2018 academic year, Bellevue University has 258 overseas Chinese students; UNMC has 96 students from mainland China; UNO has 124 overseas Chinese students; Creighton has 36.

March 3, 2018

The 10th anniversary of the Lunar New Year Gala hosted by the Nebraska Chinese Association/Omaha Chinese Cultural Association takes place at Burke High School. Of the approximately 200 volunteers organizing the gala, 100 are overseas Chinese students. The association’s members include close to 800 people.

Nebraska Chinese Association board members from left: Grant Wu, Hong Zheng, May Yap, Jun White, Linda Steele, Li Li, Sarah Luo, Qiuming Zhu, Ping Ye, Jenny McAtee

*Source: U.S. Census data provided by the Nebraska State Historical Society

**Source: An Almanac of Nebraska: Nationality, Ethnic, and Racial Groups (published in 1975)

***Source: U.S. Census data provided by the Nebraska Library Commission

****Source: U.S. Census data provided by University of Nebraska-Omaha Center for Public Affairs Research

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

See other Omaha-Chinese content from the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine:

Sculpting Her Own Destiny

January 6, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Glittery gold nail polish shimmers. Angie Seykora’s hands move animatedly as she talks about a sculpture made out of smooth flagging tape. Beat-up and worn-out, Seykora’s hands are her most important tool.

These same hands twist, weave, and roll everyday material into works of art.

In one photo, a roll of black plastic static intercept sheeting wraps around her like a glossy snake. Seykora, dressed in the same color, blends in with her soon-to-be-creation. Wearing black gloves, she molds and shapes it. She cuts the sheeting into hundreds of strips, constructing it with zip ties and metal chains. The final piece, which is for a solo exhibition at the Union for Contemporary Art, suspends from the ceiling all the way to the floor like a cascade of midnight.

“I don’t need elaborate facilities, just my hands and scissors,” Seykora says. “And space and time. Time is invaluable.”

Seykora felt the art itch as a child growing up in Minnesota and later South Dakota. Her mother sewed dresses for her. She watched her father saw, hammer, and drill in his woodworking shop. It was a mag- ical place. Four-year-old Seykora would draw circles with different faces and scrawl phrases, like “All people are important,” across the paper. “Making” offered a safety net during high school, and she spent any extra time in the art room, where she dis- covered like-minded individuals.

It was a hobby, a way to express herself, and Seykora didn’t think of it as a career when she attended Creighton University. One fatal drive would shift Seykora’s priorities. A drunk driver passed out, flew over the median, and hit Seykora’s vehicle in a head-on collision.

A broken left wrist. Torn ligaments. Aching bruises.

Conscious, Seykora was aware of the pain. She doesn’t dwell on it now. It was just something that happened. Yet, it was life-affirming. The accident made Seykora realize she could no longer suppress her talents and deepest desires because of societal expectations.

“I trusted my intuition, which is still a part of my studio practice,” Seykora says.

Seykora switched majors several times before settling on a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture and a minor in business.

Sculpture, a once male-dominated art form, inspired Seykora in ways she never knew existed. She woke up to a world of creative possibilities. Space, light, and senses merged into making something out of nothing. Littleton Alston, a Creighton art professor, saw grittiness and greatness from the young artist who stepped up to any challenge he threw at her.

“She was a once-in-a-lifetime student,” Alston recalls. “Art is a deeper search for meaning of what it is to be human. Angie did that.”

She continued on to graduate school at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Fine Arts. The International Sculpture Center bestowed a rare Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture award, which earned Seykora a residency in St. Urban, Switzerland, for two months during the summer of 2014. She returned in 2015. It allowed Seykora to experiment with material not readily available in the United States.

Seykora, now 30, is an adjunct instructor at Creighton University, teaching 3D foundations and sculpture. Plus, Seykora mentors at Kent Bellows art program at Joslyn, and she has a part-time job in retail.

But the bulk of her time is spent in her studio practice, dropping by each day in order to “exist in the same world” as her material. She is constantly on the lookout for various items. Discarded “trash” from friends, salvage yards, and second-hand stores become her artistic treasure. Electrical tape, plastic wrap, and vinyl have been transformed into stunning displays of talent.

“She is one of the most exciting contemporary artists in Nebraska,” says Launa Bacon, director of Darger HQ. The gallery hosted Seykora’ work, along with artist Ying Zhu, in an exhibition titled Lines Forming (on display through Jan. 7).

Seykora found a pink artificial Christmas tree in a dumpster. She is in the process of cutting needles off the branches and stems. The remaining wire is wrapped around a metal grid. Although a sculptural object, it is a gray area between contemporary sculpture and “painting.”

“This is a timely and meditatively engaged way of making,” Seykora says.

Much of her work is a time-consuming, sophisticated process. One conceptual sculpture, Flesh, took almost a year to finish. But it is Seykora’s way of creating her own world.

“Art is something I always have control over,” she says playing with her gold cage-like grid earrings. “My work is a direct reflection of my life.”

Transformation is the most powerful thing about art. Seykora hopes when someone sees her work that the conversation will not end. Don’t dismiss. Engage. Look closer.

Visit angieseykora.com for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The State of Volleyball

December 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For generations, football gave Nebraska a statewide identity. But with Husker gridiron fortunes flagging, volleyball is the new signature sport with booming participation and success.

Here and nationally, more girls now play volleyball than basketball (according to the National Federation of State High School Associations).

“It’s the main or premier sport for women right now,” Doane University coach Gwen Egbert says.

Omaha has become a volleyball showcase. The city hosted NCAA Division I Finals in 2006, 2008, and 2015, with the Cornhuskers competing on all three occasions (winning the national title in 2006 and 2015).

Packed crowds at the CenturyLink Center will once again welcome the nation’s top teams when Omaha hosts the championships in 2020. Meanwhile, Creighton University is emerging as another major volleyball powerhouse, and the University of Nebraska-Omaha has made strides in the Mavericks’ first two years of full Division I eligibility since joining the Summit Conference.

In the 2017 NCAA tournament, Creighton advanced to the second round (but fell to Michigan State). As this edition of Omaha Magazine went to press, the Cornhuskers headed to regionals in hopeful pursuit of a fifth national championship.

“The fact Nebraska has done and drawn so well, and that kids are seeing the sport at a high level at a young age, gets people excited to play,” says Husker legend Karen Dahlgren Schonewise, who coaches for Nebraska Elite club volleyball and Duchesne Academy in Omaha.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln first reached a national title game with Schonewise in 1986. The dominant defensive player set Nebraska’s career record for solo blocks (132)—a record that still stands—before going on to play professionally. (The Cornhuskers didn’t win the national championship until 1995.)

Skutt freshman and future Husker Lindsay Krause and current Creighton standout Brittany Witt (a Marian grad)

“I think the amount of kids that play in Nebraska is No. 1, per capita, in the country. I think the level of play is far higher than many states in the country,” says Omaha Skutt Catholic coach Renee Saunders, whose star freshman, 6-foot-3 Lindsay Krause, is a UNL verbal commit.

Volleyball’s attraction starts with plentiful scholarships, top-flight coaching, TV coverage, and professional playing opportunities.

Few states match the fan support found here.

“We have probably the most educated fans in the nation,” Saunders says. “They’re a great fan base. They know how to support their teams, and they’re very embracing of volleyball in general.”

The lack of physical contact appeals to some girls. The frequent team huddles after rallies draw others.

Omaha Northwest High School coach Shannon Walker says “the camaraderie” is huge. You really have to work together as a unit, communicate, and be six people moving within a tiny space.”

Volleyball’s hold is rural and urban in a state that has produced All-Americans, national champions, and Olympians.

The Husker program has been elite since the 1980s. Its architect, former UNL coach Terry Pettit, planted the seeds that grew this second-to-none volleyball culture.

“He really spearheaded a grassroots effort to build the sport,” says Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. “Besides winning, he also worked diligently to train our high school coaches.”

“It’s important to realize this goes back many years,” former Husker (2009-2012) Gina Mancuso says, “and I think a lot of credit goes to Terry Pettit. He created such an awesome program with high standards and expectations.”

Pettit products like Gwen Egbert have carried those winning ways to coaching successful club and high school programs and working area camps. Egbert built a dynasty at Papillion-LaVista South before going to Doane. Several Papio South players have excelled as Huskers (the Rolzen twins, Kelly Hunter, etc.).

Their paths inspired future Husker Lindsay Krause.

“Seeing the success is a big motivation to want to play,” Krause says. “Just watching all the success everyone has in this state makes you feel like it’s all the more possible for you to be able to do that.”

Many top former players go on to coach here, and most remain even after they achieve great success.

Walker says quality coaches don’t leave because “it’s the hotbed of volleyball—they’re staying here and growing home talent now.”

“It’s us colleges that reap the benefits,” Bernthal Booth says.

Pettit says it’s a matter of “success breeds success.”

Schonewise agrees, saying, “Once you see success, others want to try it and do it and more programs become successful.”

“The standard is high and people want to be at that high level. They don’t want to be mediocre,” UNO coach Rose Shires says.

Wayne State, Kearney, Hastings, and Bellevue all boast top small college programs. In 2017, Doane was the first Nebraska National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics program to record 1,000 wins.

“We’ve got great Division I, Division II, NAIA, and junior college volleyball programs,” says Bernthal Booth, who took the Creighton job in part due to the area’s rich talent base. She feels CU’s breakout success coincided with the 2008 opening of D.J. Sokol Arena, which she considers among the nation’s best volleyball facilities.

“All these colleges in Nebraska are in the top 25 in their respective divisions,” Saunders says. “It’s crazy how high the level of play has gone, and I think it’s going to keep going that way.”

“It’s really built a great fan base of support,” Mancuso says, “and I think the reason the state produces a lot of great volleyball players is the fact we have great high school coaches, great college programs, and great club programs.”

Club programs are talent pipelines. There are far more today than even a decade ago. Their explosion has meant youth getting involved at younger ages and training/playing year-round. Nebraska Elite is building a new facility to accommodate all the action.

“The athleticism found in the state has always been pretty high, but the level of play has definitely improved. The kids playing today are more skilled. The game is faster,” Egbert says. “When I started out, you’d maybe have one or two really good players, and now you could have a whole team of really good players.”

“You have your pick of dozens of clubs, and a lot of those clubs compete at the USA national qualifiers and get their players that exposure,” says Shannon Walker, the Northwest High School coach who is also the director of the Omaha Starlings volleyball club.

“Volleyball is such a joy to be a part of in this state,” Mancuso says.

Gina Mancuso

“It’s cool to be a part of everything going on in Nebraska and watching it grow and develop,” Skutt freshman phenom Krause says.

“My goal is to make Lindsay ready to play top-level Division I volleyball by the time she graduates here,” Saunders says. “She already has the physicality, the competitive edge, the smarts. Now it’s just getting her to play to her full potential, which she hasn’t had to yet because she’s always been bigger than everybody. She’s definitely not shy of challenges. I feel like every time I give her a challenge, she steps up and delivers.”

Krause values that Saunders “gives great feedback on things I have to fix.”

Native Nebraskans dot the rosters of in-state and out-of-state programs. Along with Krause, Elkhorn South freshman Rylee Gray—who holds scholarship offers from Nebraska and Creighton—may emerge as another next big name from the Omaha metro. But they are both still a few years from the collegiate level.

UNO’s Shires says “impassioned” coaches like Saunders are why volleyball is rooted and embraced here. Shires came to Omaha from Texas to join the dominant program Janice Kruger built for the Mavericks at the Division II level. Kruger, now head coach at the University of Maryland, was previously captain of the Cornhuskers’ team (1977).

Further enhancing the volleyball culture, Shires says, is having former Olympian Jordan Larson and current pro Gina Mancuso come back and work with local players. Mancuso’s pro career has taken her around the world. She wants the players she works with at UNO, where she’s an assistant, to “see where it can take them.”

As volleyball has taken off, it’s grown more diverse. Most clubs are suburban-based and priced beyond the means of many inner-city families. The Omaha Starlings provide an alternative option. “Our fees are significantly lower than everybody else’s,” says Walker, the club’s director and Northwestern’s coach. “Anybody that can’t afford to pay, we scholarship.”

Broadening volleyball’s reach, she says, “is so necessary. As a result, we do have a pretty diverse group of kids. I’ve had so many really talented athletes and great kids who would have never been able to afford other clubs. We’re trying to even the scale and offer that same experience to kids who have the interest and the ability but just can’t afford it.”

“It’s very exciting to see diversity in the sport—it’s been a long time coming,” Schonewise says.

Forty-five Starlings have earned scholarships, some to historically black colleges and universities. Star grad Samara West (Omaha North) ended up at Iowa State.

Starlings have figured prominently in Omaha Northwest’s rise from also-ran to contender. Eight of nine varsity players in 2017 played for the club.

Walker knew volleyball had big potential, yet it’s exceeded her expectations. She says while competition is fierce among Nebraska coaches and players, they share a love that finds them, when not competing against each other, cheering on their fellows in this ever-growing volleyball family/community.

“It’s awesome,” Walker says. “But I don’t think we’ve come anywhere close to reaching our peak yet.”

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Curling for Gold

November 12, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Curling anyone? The winter sport often described as “shuffleboard on ice” still gets pegged as a Canadian import. In Husker-hungry Nebraska, the broom-swept sport remains something of an oddity.

That’s about to change.

The 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Curling sweep into Omaha Nov. 10-18 at the 7,800-seat Baxter Arena. Curling enthusiasts from all over the country will join the uninitiated in viewing a competition to determine which American teams will vie for curling gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Why Omaha? Competitive curlers like Steve Jaixen represent part of the answer.

“Not many people know that Omaha has a very active curling club,” says Jaixen (pronounced Jackson), an Omaha native who became a local fixture of the sport at a young age. “My mom and dad both played at the Aksarben Curling Club.

People remember holding me at the rink as a baby. My entire family has played at some point,” he says.

“We had our own building until 2000 in the old Aksarben Fairgrounds,” explains Steve Taylor, current president of the 59-year-old club. “We had a barn that we’d use every winter. Then, in the summer, the city used it as a pig barn during the fair. So the club was kind of born in a barn.”

Jaixen, 38, played in that pig barn growing up and learned to love this game requiring both skill and athleticism.

While on the juniors team of the Aksarben club, they won at nationals four years running in the late ’90s. The team traveled to Sweden one year to compete in the World Junior Championships, where they lost to Switzerland in the semifinals. He now heads the juniors program at the local curling club.

“To me, curling is more like golf,” Jaixen says. “You’re aiming for a target that’s in the distance, and it takes precision and a perfect touch.”

It also takes a lot of squatting, crouching, bending, sliding, sweeping, and overall flexibility to propel and rotate a 42-pound circular granite rock across a sheet of ice. Two teams—each with four members— compete to get their rock closest to the “button,” or the middle of the target area (also known as the “house”). A player can make the rock “curl” (i.e., turn) more or less as it slides down the sheet.

The brooms create friction that heats up the ice a little bit, enabling the rock to glide farther and straighter.

“One of the things I love about curling is the sportsmanship,” says Jaixen, a father of four who works for a financial company. “Touching the stone with a broom is a violation, but it’s up to the sweeper to be honest and say, ‘Yea, I burned it.’”

Since the U.S. Olympic Trials announcement, coupled with the recent taping by NBC Sports Network of “Curling Night in America” at Baxter Arena, interest in curling has spiked in Omaha. Steve Taylor expects membership at Aksarben Curling Club, which now calls Baxter Arena home, to reach 240 this season.

Teams from the University of Nebraska system (UNL, UNO, and UNMC), Wayne State College, and Creighton University play under the Aksarben Curling Club umbrella.

Who knows? Maybe curling terms like “bonspiel,” “hack,” “slider foot,” “broom stacking,” “pebble,” and “skip” will become part of Nebraska’s sports vocabulary after all.

Visit curlaksarben.com to learn more about the Aksarben Curling Club.

This article was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine.

2017 November/December Family & More

Photography by contributed

Reinert-Alumni Library WWI Lecture Series, Nov. 2 in Heider Hall at Creighton University, 2500 California Place. Two Nebraska authors discuss their books related to events during WWI in Nebraska. Karen Gettert Shoemaker, author of The Meaning of Names, and Ted Wheeler, author of Kings of Broken Things, will read from and discuss their books. 7 p.m. 402-280-4756.

UNO Native Film Festival, Nov. 4-5 at Roskens Hall, 6005 University Drive North. The fifth annual UNO Native Film Festival highlights films by Native American directors, producers, and actors. Among the films to be screened is Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, a new documentary about Native Americans in popular music history. Screening times TBD. Admission: free. 402-554-2248.

2018 US Olympic Curling Trails, Nov. 11-18 at Baxter Arena, 2425 S. 67th St. Omaha will host the Olympic Curling Trials for the first time. Athletes will compete for the chance to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Tickets: $70-$100 for all sessions, $30-$45 for the championships only. 402-554-6200.

Teen Poetry Workshop, Featuring Louder than a Bomb Artists, Nov. 11 at the South Omaha Library, 2808 Q St. These workshops for both novice and seasoned slam poets will be held by Nebraska Writers Collective’s Louder Than A Bomb coaches and other experts. The event will build up to the Teen Poetry Bash in December. 1:30 p.m. Admission: free. 402-444-4850.

Junktoberfest Holiday Edition at Southroads Mall

Junktoberfest Holiday Edition, Nov. 18-19 at Southroads Mall, 1001 Fort Crook Road North, Bellevue. This vintage and artisan market features collectibles, gifts, hand-made or repurposed furniture, and home décor. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $5 for both days. 402-669-6975.

Holiday Lights Festival NRG Energy Ice Rink,Nov. 21-Feb. 14 at 10th St. and Capitol Ave. Portion of proceeds will go toward the Shine the Light on Hunger campaign which supports the Food Bank for the Heartland. Bring the whole family and create memories while supporting the community this holiday season. Admission: $8 (includes skate rental). 402-341-3700.

Thanksgiving Lighting Ceremony and Making Spirits Bright Concert, Nov. 23 at Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam streets. This community-wide celebration held in Gene Leahy Mall culminates with the illumination of the 2017 holiday lights. The lighting display will blanket the Mall and surrounding area with more than 1 million white lights. Following the ceremony, head over to the Holland Center for Making Spirits Bright Holiday with Drew Duncan and the Nebraska Wind Symphony. 6 p.m. lighting ceremony, 7 p.m. concert. Admission: free. 402-345-5401.

Holiday Poinsettia Show at Lauritzen Gardens

Holiday Poinsettia Show, Nov. 24-Jan. 4 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. This floral display features a 20-foot- tall poinsettia tree, model trains, and other nostalgic decorations. On select dates (Nov. 24-25; Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 15-23, and 26-30; and Jan. 2-3) Lauritzen Gardens will be open until 8 p.m. and the gardens will be enhanced with lights in the evening. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free to Lauritzen garden members and children under 6. 402-346-4002.

Christmas at Union Station’s Tree Lighting Ceremony, Nov. 24 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Kick off the holiday season with cookie decorating and holiday crafts while listening to live music. Santa Claus will be on hand to help turn on the lights on Omaha’s largest Christmas tree. 4-8 p.m., with the tree lighting at 7 p.m. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (60+), $7 children (3-12), free for children under 3 and members. 402-444-5071.

Lights of Aksarben, Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 8, 15 at Aksarben Village, 67th and Center streets. Enjoy complimentary coffee, hot cocoa, and cookies, and view all of the lights throughout the park. Events include music, face painting, horse and carriage rides, and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Countdown to the lighting begins at 6 p.m. Admission: free. 402-496-1616.

Ethnic Holiday Festival, Dec. 1 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. Learn how the world celebrates this joyful time of year. More than 20 local cultural organizations display crafts and traditional dress, while musicians and dancers perform throughout the evening. 5-9 p.m. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (60+), $7 children (3-12), free for children under 3 and members. 402-444-5071.

Wizard’s Yule Ball 2017, Dec. 2 at Omaha Comfort Inn & Suites Central, 7007 Grover St. A wizarding event for the whole family. Dress up as a Harry Potter character and enjoy music, food, dancing, prizes, live owls, and more. 6 p.m. Tickets: $15 adults, $5 children (4-10). 402-934-4900.

Ira Glass at the Holland Dec. 2

Seven Things I’ve Learned: An Evening with Ira Glass, Dec. 2 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Creator, producer, and host of NPR’s This American Life, Ira Glass talks about his life and the stories he’s collected over almost 40 years of working for NPR. During his presentation, Glass will mix stories live onstage and help his audience better follow his creative process. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20-$48. 402-345-0606.

Holiday Market, Dec. 2-3 at Aksarben Village, 67th and Center streets. This German-inspired outdoor market features more than 55 local artisans, who will offer seasonal goods and activities. Santa will come to the market on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. Please leave pets at home during this event. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 402-345-5401.

Holiday Lights Fun Run, Dec. 10 in downtown Omaha. View the holiday lights in this four-mile fun run. The event starts at 10th and Harney streets, and participants are encouraged to wear jingle bells and other festive clothing. Hot cocoa and cookies will be served after the run.
All paces welcome. 6 p.m. Admission: free.

Penguins and Pancakes at Henry Doorly Zoo.

Penguins and Pancakes, Dec. 26-30 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Eat breakfast with some lovable “tuxedo-clad” animals during this annual event, which includes pancakes from The Pancake Man, crafts, and visits from the African penguins. The cost includes a breakfast, a plush penguin toy, and admission to the zoo. Reservations required. 9 a.m. Admission: $25 for adults, $20 for children (ages 3-11), and free to children 2 and under. Members receive a $5 discount. 402-733-8401.

Noon Year’s Eve, Dec. 30 at The Durham Museum, 801 S. 10th St. This Noon Year’s party includes live music, special crafts, and activities, culminating in a celebratory bubble wrap stomp and balloon drop at noon in the Suzanne and Walter Scott Great Hall. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission: $11 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $7 children (3-12), free for children under 3 and members. 402-444-5071.

Noon Year’s Eve, Dec. 31 at Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, 3701 S. 10th St. Join the zoo animals at this event, which includes activities, entertainment, and a beach ball drop at noon. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission: $14.95 adults (ages 12 and over), $9.95 children (ages 3-11), and free to children (2 and under). $1 discount to seniors (65+), members of the military, and children of military members. 402-733-8401.

Noon Year’s Eve at Durham

New Year’s Eve Bash, Dec. 30 at Omaha Children’s Museum, 500 S. 20th St. Families can ring in the new year with kid-friendly activities at Omaha Children’s Museum. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tickets will be available for purchase closer to the event. 402-342-6164.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular, Dec. 31 at Gene Leahy Mall, 14th and Farnam streets.One of Omaha’s favorite New Year’s traditions, the fireworks are choreographed to open on cue to a musical score developed specifically for this event. Spectators are encouraged to tune in to Star 104.5 for the full effect. 7 p.m. Admission: free. 402-345-5401.

Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

This calendar was printed in the November/December edition of Omaha Magazine. 

Designing and Building a Life in Omaha

June 6, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Wanted: beautiful minds.

Omaha architectural and engineering firms continue to hang the “help wanted” sign, roll out the welcome mat, and host job fairs, looking to snag that rarest of breeds: an employee who uses both sides of the brain equally, combining the practicality of a physicist and mathematician with the soul of an artist. In other words, young architects and architectural engineers are hot commodities in a leading job market.

Low interest rates and demand for new development (which shows no signs of ebbing) keep employers busy looking for qualified applicants. Where do they find the necessary numbers? Right in their own backyard.

“Certainly the job market in Omaha within architecture and engineering is very, very, very strong,” emphasizes Christopher Johnson, a vice president and managing principal at Leo A Daly, part of the big three of Omaha architecture firms, along with DLR and HDR. “Even when you look locally at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, PKI (Peter Kiewit Institute), or Nebraska-Lincoln, the interns and the graduates are secure in their employment by the holiday season, before they go home for their holiday break. That’s a lot earlier than what we would normally see.”

Top-notch schooling—the College of Architecture and the College of Engineering on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, and the Kiewit Institute and the Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction on the university’s Omaha campus— provides Omaha firms with a locally grown crop of well-grounded, technically advanced job candidates who work well with others and possess problem-solving skills.

“In Omaha, we typically hire between 10 and 12 architects and engineers every year,” says Johnson. In addition, Leo A Daly’s internship program places about four students on the architecture/interior side and the same number on the engineering side. 

How do the salaries compare?

“Entry-level job salaries are competitive in the Omaha market because we have a very competitive spirit among all the private firms here,” Johnson says. “But when you look at the national picture, you might say they look a little lower.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for architects nationally is $76,100. Omaha’s lower numbers reflect a geographical lower cost of living.

While many graduates take their sheepskin and leave for larger salaries in larger cities like Chicago, Boston, or Dallas, an impressive percentage chooses to stay close to family and friends. Two young professionals who made a conscious decision a decade ago to stay rooted in Nebraska have seen their stars ascend on a local and national level.

Stephanie Guy, project and resource manager at Alvine Engineering in Omaha, and Andrew  Yosten, managing engineering principal and director of mechanical engineering of HDR’s architecture practice in Omaha, both found their calling early. In many ways, they mirror each other’s lives.

“My uncle owned a construction company and I enjoyed building things, but I was always pulled toward engineering,” Yosten, 34, says of his teenage years growing up in West Point, Nebraska. “I happened to stumble across a pamphlet on architectural engineering. None of the other engineering fields really appealed to me until I read that pamphlet.”

Guy comes from a place even smaller than West Point. In fact, Mullen, Nebraska, population 492, is the only town in Hooker County, nestled in the state’s beautiful Sandhills. Like Yosten, she became more interested in how a building functions than in its design.

“When I was a junior or senior in high school, I thought about architecture, but I leaned more towards the math and science rather than the creativity,” says Guy, also 34 and president-elect of the Architectural Engineering Institute. “So I thought engineering would be a natural fit.”

Guy and Yosten earned advanced degrees, two years apart, from Durham on the UNO campus, one of the few schools in the country offering a five-year program combining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architectural engineering. Each specialized in mechanical engineering, obtaining a breadth of knowledge of a building’s structural aspects, plus its lighting, electrical, heating, cooling, and ventilation areas.

Guy opted to work for a company that focuses strictly on engineering, although she still works closely with architects. Her portfolio with Alvine includes renewable energy projects at Creighton University, renovations at Duchesne Academy in Omaha, a new school of nursing at the University of Michigan, a 50-story residential high-rise and a 50-story Class A office building, both in Chicago.

“There’s something about this Midwestern location and Midwestern work ethic that allows us to be successful,” Guy says. “We’re just a flight away from both coasts. HDR, DLR, and Leo A Daly all started here and are still here, three of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the world, with offices around the globe.”

Yosten, who interned at HDR while in school, felt at home with the company’s global reach from the get-go, especially in the field of health care.

“My mom is a physician assistant in West Point, and my wife is a nurse, so I have a true appreciation for what they do,” Yosten says. “So when I learned how much HDR’s portfolio is geared towards health care, that was a big drive for me to
stay here.”

Some of the notable health care projects Yosten’s teams have guided include the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, set to open soon, and a $1.27 billion replacement for Parkland Hospital in Dallas, best known as the hospital where President John F. Kennedy died. They’re also designing a new tower for Omaha’s
Children’s Hospital.

What keeps HDR’s 952 employees in Omaha and Lincoln, Leo A Daly’s 130 local employees, over 50 architectural firms, and more than two dozen engineering firms anchored here? The ability to balance a high-powered job and a personal life in an area that avoids getting caught up in the rat race plays a huge role.

It allows Guy and her husband to raise four daughters, who range from an infant to age 9, while pursuing a career that has garnered her numerous professional awards.

It allows Yosten time to play with his 18-month-old twin boys, who he says are “really ornery and a handful” but the light of his life, along with his wife, Jill.

Development may be booming in Omaha, but sometimes the intangibles prove a greater lure for employees.

Stephanie Guy, project and resource manager at Alvine Engineering

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

The Closer

May 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The most nervous person on the field during David Gerber’s pitching debut for Creighton baseball in 2014 might have been his older brother, then senior outfielder Mike Gerber.

The Bluejays were down 6-2 late in a March game against Arkansas State. David was just a freshman, and the elder Gerber anxiously hoped his brother could start his college career off right.

David hit the first batter he faced, but Mike snagged two fly outs to end the inning, leaving the Bluejays unscathed. It was a brief debut, but a moment neither brother will forget.

“Not a lot of brothers have the opportunity to say that they got to be on the same field at the Division I level,” the pitcher says of his first time on the mound in a college game.

It was also the beginning of David’s career as one of the best relief pitchers in Creighton history. Now a senior, the side-winding closer has played an important leadership role on the 2017 Bluejays squad. He was named to the National College Baseball Writers Association 2017 Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List amid expectations that he would finish his career as the all-time saves leader for Creighton.

A strong family bond brought David to Omaha, and a rare adaptability has set him up to succeed in the high-pressure closer role.

“His record speaks for itself,” says Creighton head coach Ed Servais of David. “He has taken advantage of every opportunity.”

The Gerber brothers’ father introduced them to baseball. “We saw his love for the game and adopted that,” David says. “It became the culture of our family.”

A 2 1/2-year age gap and mutual appreciation for baseball helped make the young Gerber boys inseparable. They maintained an allegiance to their favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals, even after moving from Springfield, Missouri, to the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois.

Tragedy struck the family when David was 14 years old. Their father, Michael (the elder brother’s namesake), died of kidney cancer. The loss tested the family, forging a tighter bond between the brothers and their mother, Karen.

“He doesn’t have Dad to call, so I try to be there for him in [rough] times,” Mike says, explaining his role as big brother.

The fraternal relationship was an important reason why David followed Mike to Creighton, where the older Gerber was already well on his way to being drafted by the Detroit Tigers organization.

“It was a family decision, along with the fact that I was comfortable with the coaching staff,” David says. “Mike and I were [going to be] in the same city, and our mom could take a trip up to see us.”

David didn’t see much action beyond his debut at Arkansas State during freshman year. Performance-wise, he was not ready. During that time, he focused on developing a rigorous mental and physical routine that served as the bedrock of his current success. At the beginning of his sophomore year, he also changed his pitching delivery from the traditional over-the-top style to the more irregular side-arm submarine delivery. 

“His velocity was probably around 84-85 [mph], and there are not a lot of guys that throw like that from the traditional arm slot,” coach Servais says, explaining the pitching style switch. “He is an unbelievably coachable player. Credit goes to him for being open-minded.”

The switch paid off. Following injuries to other players and multiple successful outings, including one at Kansas State, the Creighton coaches decided David was the best man to have at the back end of their bullpen.

“When I came in, it was a goal of mine to be a closer as a senior,” David says. “I don’t think coach ever expected me to be in that role as early as it happened. It is a tough situation. You are either the hero or the villain. There is no greater adrenaline rush than going out to close a game, and I can’t replicate how the mind works in that scenario, and how you go off into a different world, and your body takes over.”

After racking up 20 saves during his sophomore and junior seasons, he retained the closer job to finish out his Creighton career.

At the start of his senior season, David suddenly found himself in a role familiar to his older brother’s final year (in 2014). Both seasons featured overwhelmingly young rosters. Like Mike, David also had to play an essential leadership role. The 2017 squad had 16 freshmen, including those who red-shirted.

“He has done a good job one-on-one trying to pull guys aside and talk them through some things that he experienced as a freshman,” Servais says.

Despite being separated, with Mike chasing major league dreams in spring training as David began his final year at Creighton, the younger brother hopes to follow again in Mike’s footsteps.

The brothers who enjoyed a rare chance to share the collegiate field together still root for each other and cherish their friendship. 

“We talk on the phone all the time,” Mike says. “He is always there if I need anything, and I can tell him anything. I would be a totally different person if he wasn’t around.” 

Visit gocreighton.com for more information.

This article published in the May/June edition of Omaha Magazine.

2017 May/June Giving Calendar

May 1, 2017 by and

*May 1

Youth Emergency Services’ Golf Outing (10 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: Youth Emergency Services
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

May 2

50th Annual Boys Town Booster Banquet (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Boys Town sports
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

Countdown to Cinco de Mayo (5:30-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: OneWorld Community Health
Location: Livestock Exchange Building

May 3

Memories for Kids 2017 Guild Luncheon (11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Memories for Kids
Location: Champions Run

May 4

Heartland Heroes, A Centennial Celebration (6-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Red Cross
Location: CenturyLink Center

May 5

Leaders for Life Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Creighton University’s female student-athletes
Location: Ryan Athletic Center

Run for the Wet Noses: Talk Derby to Me (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: Mid-America Center, Council Bluffs

May 6

For the Kids Benefit: A Day at the Races, a Night on the Town (5-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Omaha Children’s Museum
Location: Omaha Children’s Museum

May 9

D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon (11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.)
Benefitting: Salvation Army
Location: CenturyLink Center Omaha

May 11

Evening with Friends (6-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: CHI Health Midlands
Location: CHI Health Midlands Hospital

May 12

An Evening in the Garden (6-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Brownell Talbot School
Location: Brownell Talbot Campus

Man & Woman of the Year Grand Finale Gala (6-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Location: Embassy Suites, La Vista

On the Road to the Big Easy 2017 (5:30 p.m.-midnight)
Benefitting: Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands
Location: Omaha Design Center

May 13

Cabaret (6-9:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Hilton Omaha

14th Annual Wear Yellow Ride, Fun Run & Walk (7 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Benefitting: Wear Yellow Nebraska
Location: Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum

2017 Omaha Heart Walk (8 a.m.)
Benefitting: American Heart Association
Location: Miller’s Landing

May 15

Ronald McDonald House in Omaha Golf Tournament (noon)
Benefitting: Ronald McDonald House Charities in Omaha
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

Chip in for Children Golf Tournament (11 a.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Council Bluffs Country Club

May 18

SAVE Program Graduation Dinner (5:30-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: SAVE
Location: Champion’s Run

Breathe and Brew Spring Yoga Series (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Lung Association
Location: Lucky Bucket Brewery

May 19

Golf Scramble (noon-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Senior Health Foundation
Location: Shoreline Golf Course

May 20

Great Strides (9:30 a.m.-noon)
Benefitting: Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Location: Stinson Park

May 22

Children’s Charity Golf Classic (11 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
Location: Champions Run

May 24

Omaha Gives! (midnight-11:59 p.m.)
Benefitting: more than 1,000 Omaha nonprofits
Location: online

May 25

Bland Cares Angels Among Us Golf Outing (10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: Angels Among Us
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

May 27

19th Annual Remembrance Walk (9-11 a.m.)
Benefitting: Grief’s Journey
Location: Miller’s Landing/Pedestrian Bridge

June 1

Pinot, Pigs & Poets (6-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Completely KIDS
Location: Happy Hollow Club

June 2

Grand Slam! (6:30-11 p.m.)
Benefitting: Methodist Hospital
Location: Werner Park

Run for the Young (7-8:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Square USA
Location: Peak Performance

June 3

Annual Gala (6:30-11 p.m.)
Benefitting: Joslyn Art Museum Association
Location: Joslyn Art Museum

Ollie’s Dream Gala 2017 (6:30-10 p.m.)
Benefitting: Ollie Webb Center
Location: Hilton Omaha

June 5

Central High Foundation Golf Outing (7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Central High School
Location: Field Club of Omaha

CHI Health Golf Outing (10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: CHI Health Foundation
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

June 7

CHANCE Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha
Location: CenturyLink Center

June 8

Tee It Up Fore Sight Annual Golf Tournament (10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.)
Benefitting: Outlook Nebraska, Inc.
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course

June 9

Sand in the City (10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: Nebraska Children’s Home Society
Location: Baxter Arena

June 10

Child Saving Institute Kids 4 Kids (7:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: The Child Saving Institute
Location: Sumter Amphitheater

Vets & Pets Blackjack Run (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Benefitting: Midlands Humane Society
Location: American Legion

Centennial Gala (7-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: American Red Cross
Location: CenturyLink Center

June 11

Monroe-Meyer Guild Garden Walk (9 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: Munroe-Meyer Institute
Location: 150th Street and West Dodge Road to 168th and Harrison streets

June 12

15th Annual Hope Center for Kids Golf Classic (10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Hope Center for Kids
Location: Champions Run Golf Course

Third Annual Golf Tournament (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: First Responders Foundation
Location: Oak Hills Country Club

Hit the Links and Drive Against Disabilities Golf Tournament (11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Benefitting: United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska
Location: The Player’s Club at Deer Creek

June 13

Project Harmony Golf Invitational (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Project Harmony
Location: Indian Creek Golf Course

WCA Tribute to Women (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Benefitting: Women’s Center for Advancement
Location: Hilton Omaha

June 14

Hops for Harmony (5:30-8:30 p.m.)
Benefitting: Project Harmony
Location: Werner Park

June 16

Strike a Chord (6-9 p.m.)
Benefitting: Heartland Family Service
Location: Mid-America Center

June 19

Golf Fore Kids (11 a.m.-6 p.m.)
Benefitting: Child Saving Institute
Location: The Players Club at Deer Creek

June 21

The Longest Day, an individualized fundraiser (all day)
Benefitting: Alzheimer’s Association
Location: Donor’s choice

June 24

Wheels of Courage (11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Benefitting: the Jennie Edmundson Foundation
Location: Quaker Steak & Lube, Council Bluffs

June 30

ALS in the Heartland’s 2017 Golf Classic (11 a.m.-8 p.m.)
Benefitting: ALS in the Heartland
Location: Tiburon Golf Club

This calendar is published as shown in the print edition

We welcome you to submit events to our print calendar. Please email event details and a 300 ppi photograph three months in advance to: editintern@omahamagazine.com

*Times and dates may change. Check the website, or with the event coordinator.

Anne Hindrey’s Helping Hands

March 2, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands is a resource dedicated to helping the thousands of nonprofit entities scattered across Nebraska and western Iowa.

CEO Anne Hindrey stands at the helm of the organization that connects so many disparate nonprofits—from sports (Omaha Fencing Club) to social services (United Way of the Midlands). Roughly 330 total nonprofits hold a registered membership to NAM. Each works to serve the community in its own way.

Hindery’s job involves helping nonprofits navigate the often sticky world of public policy. It is a role she is well-qualified to assist with.

She started her career as the law enforcement coordination specialist with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Omaha.

“I wanted to change the world, but I realized that, in government, every four years someone changes the world back,” says Hindery, a Missouri native with a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Her previous job in the Nebraska branch of the Department of Justice involved writing grant applications. Her grant-writing experience carried over to her next role as program director at the Omaha Community Foundation. She served on boards, and deepened her involvement in the community. She eventually joined NAM in 2008.

“I was on the board for five minutes,” Hindery says, half-jokingly. “I took someone’s place on the board in November, and they just had a staff change. Because NAM had a good staff policy in place, they needed someone on the board to step in. I said I could do it, and after a time, I was hired full-time.”

Hindery and her staff at NAM develop relationships with various nonprofits. They offer assistance with human resources, insurance, and legal needs; create partnerships between advocacy and public policy groups; and provide tools and training to members. NAM is also part of the National Council of Nonprofits, which keeps Hindery at the forefront of industry trends and changes in public policy.

“We find our membership in the Nonprofit Association of the Midlands very beneficial,” says Peg Harriott, CEO and president of the Child Saving Institute. “We use the annual salary and benefits report to make sure that our salaries are competitive in the market, and we participate in the health insurance trust to help moderate the cost of health insurance for our employees.”

CSI’s 150 employees benefit from NAM’s insurance trust, but Hindrey and her team make sure they offer services to small nonprofits as well as large ones.

Joining NAM is not free, however. According to the organization’s website, the cost to register ranges in eight tiers from $50 (for nonprofits with an annual budget less than $49,999) to $1,000 (for nonprofits with an annual budget greater than $10 million).

The Inclusive Life Center offers Christian rituals to people who may not belong to a church but want a minister for a wedding, baptism, or funeral. The center’s staff of one says he has greatly benefited from belonging to NAM.

Chaplain Royal D. Carleton says, “We work off of donations, and it helps us to be mindful that we have to be very transparent and good stewards of the funds that are bestowed on us.”

“I went to my first NAM conference [in 2016], which was ‘Who’s telling your story?’” Carleton says. “I learned more that day about marketing than I have in some ways in six years [of running Inclusive Life]. There were very strategic marketing insights that I did not know before.”

He also learned that his audience is wider than he originally thought.

“I’ve never marketed to those who are religious, because I figured they have a church they belong to,” Carleton says. “I had people stand up and say, ‘Listen, I’m Catholic, but I have friends who are not religious, and I need to know who you are so I can share that resource with my friends.’ That was a big eye opener for me.”

That connection to people, and other nonprofits, is one of the biggest resources that NAM offers.

“We encourage our members to not reinvent the wheel,” Hindery says. “In many cases, someone has gone through the same problem, and the solution is already available. You may want to tweak it, but it’s there.”

Visit nonprofitam.org for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Other World-Renowned Kobe

January 7, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kobe Paras had never heard of Omaha when Creighton called this past summer.

He spent the first 15 years of his life in the Philippines before moving to Los Angeles to chase a basketball scholarship. At the time, Creighton was just one of dozens of prominent basketball programs in pursuit of the high-flying 6-foot-5-inch tall guard. Creighton head coach Greg McDermott had coveted Paras since he first spotted the native Filipino while recruiting his high school teammate. Paras had committed to UCLA at the time, but he withdrew from the school in early June after failure to meet academic requirements. With Paras back on the open market, McDermott wanted to make him a Bluejay.

During his July visit to Creighton’s campus, Paras toured the $13 million Championship Center and posed for pictures with McDermott’s Naismith player of the year trophy, but it was the personal connections Paras made that led him to pick Creighton as his future home.

“I got to bond with the coaches and my teammates, and it really felt right,” Paras says.

He will need those bonds. Paras enjoys celebrity status in his home country, as the basketball-obsessed nation looks to him as a potential NBA player. The Pacific archipelago has never produced a professional player in the world’s most coveted league.

“I am not a regular student-athlete,” he says. “I have a lot of people looking up to me.”

Paras’ earliest memories are of hoards of fans stopping to ask his father, Benjie Paras, for autographs and pictures. Benjie was a two-time MVP in the Philippine Basketball Association, and has since become an actor. His father’s fame caused the younger Paras to grow up in the limelight, but Benjie tried to instill a sense of perspective in his son.

“When he was my age, he had to do laundry for other people to have enough money,” says the younger Paras of his father. “He kept telling me how blessed I was.”

Basketball was not something Paras picked up until the third grade. Before that time, he played badminton and table tennis. A growth spurt in seventh grade helped the now-taller young man to fall in love with basketball. Meanwhile, basketball continued to grow in popularity throughout the Philippines.

“Basketball in the Philippines is a religion,” Paras says. “Wherever you go, you see people playing basketball.” 

NBA games were constantly broadcast throughout the country, which helped Paras, whose first name pays homage to the recently retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, become familiar with the sport’s biggest stars.

In 2013, an encounter with his favorite player, Lebron James, took Paras’ fame to a whole new level. During a trip to the Philippines, James took part in a camp for the country’s most promising young players. In a pre-game warm-up, Paras slammed home a one-handed dunk as James leapt to the side of him in a half-hearted effort to play defense.

“I didn’t really plan it,” says Paras about the moment. “My friends were like, ‘do you realize who you just dunked on?’”   

The original video of the dunk received over 2.5 million views. That clip would bring about a whole new level of fame for the then-15 year old.

Paras’ move stateside to aid his basketball skills would come just months after the dunk. It was at Cathedral High School, under the guidance of coach William Middlebrooks, that Paras, living away from his family, honed his leadership skills and focused on building his brand.

“I told him, now that you are here, your popularity can only grow,” says coach Middlebrooks. “Especially as people better understand Kobe Paras the person.”

Paras also developed as a basketball player with more than just raw athleticism. He will bring those skills to a Creighton team poised to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid.

“He already has the body to play at this level,” says McDermott of Paras. “He also really knows how to put the ball in the basket.” 

And even thousands of miles from the Philippines, Paras’ enthusiastic fans have been able to follow his every move.

“We found out pretty quick that the media in the Philippines was going to find him wherever he went,” says McDermott, who has spent many a Skype session this fall with the media outlets in Paras’ home country.

Paras also keeps in touch with many back home via social media. On Twitter he has over 114,000 followers and on Instagram he has more than 454,000 followers.

“On social media people always reach out to me,” Paras says. “Anywhere I am, I feel the support.”

Even though he knew almost nothing about Omaha before his visit in July, he has come to appreciate his new home. He says his favorite place is the gym, and he loves that there is less traffic here than in Los Angeles. He also knows that the start of basketball season means winter is coming.

“He is getting ready for that snow,” Middlebrooks says. “He called me and said, ‘coach, I think I need boots.’”

Visit gocreighton.com for more information.