Tag Archives: Duchesne Academy

The Catholic Issue

February 21, 2017 by

The March/April issue of Omaha Magazine hits the streets just as Oscar season comes to a close. Meanwhile, the subject of Omaha’s best-known Oscar-winning story is up for an even greater recognition—sainthood. A tribunal from the Vatican is currently scrutinizing Boys Town’s founder, the late Father Edward J. Flanagan, for canonization.

Boys Town (the movie) tells a fictionalized story of the real-life Father Flanagan. Released in 1938, the movie was actually filmed on the grounds of Boys Town. Spencer Tracy won the Academy Award for Best Actor with his portrayal of Father Flanagan, and Tracy’s Oscar sits in a protective case at the Boys Town Hall of History.

The Village of Boys Town was engulfed by Omaha’s westward sprawl. But Boys Town itself has grown significantly, too, with satellite locations throughout the metro (and nationwide). This year, Boys Town enters its 100th year of operation.

Should Pope Francis designate Father Flanagan to be a saint, the Village of Boys Town would become a place of holy pilgrimage. Add that to Omaha’s list of annual pilgrimages (a cherry—or maybe “halo” would be a better word—on top of Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting and the College World Series).

Although Father Flanagan’s earthly remains now rest in a tomb adjoining Dowd Chapel on campus, if he is canonized a saint, the village would need a shrine to accommodate the throngs of devout pilgrims (to avoid disrupting the normally calm chapel that was designed by local Omaha architect Leo A. Daly according to Father Flanagan’s own instructions).

Omaha Magazine’s March/April cover story tells the tale of Father Flanagan’s life and his ongoing canonization process. With St. Patrick’s Day, Lent, and Easter taking place during this issue’s distribution period, the magazine has taken on a noticeably Catholic theme.

There is a guide to Omaha’s St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl, a guide to six of the best Lenten fish fries, and a story about the mysterious stained glass windows of St. Mary Magdalene Church (which was also designed by Omaha architect Leo A. Daly).

The cover story’s author, Carol Crissey Nigrelli, converted to Catholicism one year ago on Easter. She has become the magazine’s go-to writer for all subjects Catholic. Nigrelli wrote about the last nuns of Duchesne Academy in the September/October 2016 issue. She also profiled the University of Notre Dame’s president in “From Omaha to Notre Dame” for the cover story of our November/December 2015 issue.

Omaha Magazine’s 35th Anniversary

A publication titled Omaha Magazine has existed in Omaha since the 19th century. The earliest version, according to publisher Todd Lemke, was published in 1890. It was a satirical newsprint publication in magazine format, he says.

Lemke entered Omaha publishing in March 1983 with the first issue of City Slicker, the precursor to his current Omaha Magazine. This March issue of Omaha Magazine marks the 35th anniversary of Lemke’s career in magazine publishing. That history explains why Omaha Magazine’s issue numbering starts with No. 1 in March.

When CitySlicker was initially in distribution, another Omaha Magazine was on the streets. Lemke says the previous Omaha Magazine—no relation to the current magazine—started in the 1970s and folded a few years after he had entered the local media market.

The Omaha Magazine brand name came available in the late 1980s. Lemke secured the copyright, and the first issue of his Omaha Magazine came out in 1989. The rest is history.

Today, Omaha Magazine Ltd. is the parent company of Omaha Publications, which also produces several other local community-focused magazines such as Encounter, B2B Magazine, Omaha Magazine’s Family Guide, and assorted custom publishing products.

For 35 years, Lemke’s Omaha Magazine (previously known as City Slicker) has told the stories of Omaha people, culture, and events. Thanks for reading!

Keeping Up With Kasher

February 3, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Anyone who went to dances or homecoming festivities at Creighton Prep, Marian, Duchesne Academy, Cathedral, or other Omaha high schools from late-1989 through the early ’90s probably bounced their head to the beat of a cover band called The March Hares. At the time, no one realized they were witnessing one of the most original talents ever to come out of Omaha.

Tim Kasher,  “like most ragged teenage guitar players,” had already been bitten by the underground bug when he and four Prep mates, including Matt Maginn and Matt Oberst, older brother of future indie singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, formed the group. They performed covers of bands like The Clash, The Cure, and R.E.M. in public, while playing original music in one another’s basements.

“It was a good little business,” recalls Kasher fondly, from his home in Los Angeles. “We found what got us most excited and, instead of baseball, it was music.”

tim-kasherMore than 25 years later, music still gets the indie rocker excited and “out of bed every morning.”  He’s writing and recording original songs for his current bands, Cursive and The Good Life. He’s also using his degree in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to write screenplays and, as always, testing the limits of his vocal cords.

“It’s definitely getting tougher to push the voice,” admits Kasher, 42, whose nasal and sometimes pitchy cries of anguish make his voice unmistakable. “I long to be 20 again, when I could scream as much as I wanted to. I can’t mistreat it now.”

Kasher will have to pace himself this spring when he goes on tour promoting a new solo album, his third. Titled No Resolution, the album comes out in March and, according to Kasher, features the lush sounds of strings, which he helped arrange.

True to form, Kasher wrote and directed a low-budget, feature-length film of the same name that uses all the songs from the album. “The film No Resolution is about a couple in their 30s who get engaged because she’s pregnant,” Kasher explains. “It’s set over New Year’s Eve, an appropriate backdrop to expose that the guy isn’t quite ready.”

Omahans saw an early edit of the film during the Omaha Film Festival last March. The final cut comes out this summer. Unlike many of his lyrics, the movie contains no autobiographical details. A happy and devoted Kasher married an editor at L.A. Weekly about one year ago. The couple live in the Silver Lake neighborhood, where they mingle with a sizeable group of Omaha transplants.
The musician’s private contentment hasn’t tempered his desire for professional independence. With the new year comes an announcement sure to send tremors through Omaha’s indie sphere: Kasher now has his own record label called 15 Passenger, a nod to an old touring van.

“The new album is on it. We also have all our master reels for Cursive, so we’re going to be releasing our back catalog, along with new stuff” he says. “We’re not planning on getting into the game of taking big gambles on new artists. Just self-releasing.”

What about Omaha-based Saddle Creek Records, the label formed and grown, in part, from Kasher’s talent? “Saddle Creek is alive and well. We’re just transitioning over.”

With a new album, new film, and a new record label, the beat goes on for Tim Kasher.

Visit timkasher.com for more information.

The Last Nuns of Duchesne

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The nuns have left the building. For the first time in the 135-year history of Duchesne Academy, students have no interaction with members of the Religieuses du Sacre Coeur de Jesus (also known as the Society of the Sacred Heart).

That means no nun to greet students at the front door of the all-girls Catholic high school at 36th and Burt streets; no nuns to work the main office, teach in the classroom, or raise an eyebrow at tardy students scampering into the historic red-bricked school. None of it. 

Nuns2Sister Lucy Hayes and Sister JoEllen Sumpter performed those duties (and many more) during their various tenures at Duchesne dating back to the 1950s. But time inevitably forces even the most earnest and dedicated to answer another call, and both sisters heard the call of retirement.

“It’s time,” says Sumpter, 76. “I fell in a freak accident a couple of years ago and hit my head. I lost sight in my right eye.” In addition, mobility problems force her to use a walker.

Hayes, still spry and active at 87, fought the idea of leaving Duchesne. She wanted to continue her daily duties as sacristan, even if it meant living in Omaha alone. But the Society of the Sacred Heart mandates its members live in a religious community. Hayes now looks ahead to mentoring opportunities for both of them at the RSCJ retirement complex in Atherton, California. 

Losing nuns at the Catholic school signals a seismic shift of symbolic importance. The sisters’ departure plans became official in late August, when the provincial leaders of the RSCJs handed over the responsibility of their spiritual vision to the lay administrators and faculty. Students, families, alumnae, and members of the Omaha Archdiocese gathered for the formal ceremony at St. Cecilia Cathedral.

“They’re putting their charisms—or values—into our hands,” says head of school Meg Brudney. “Symbolically, (the Society of the Sacred Heart) no longer has a resource here. But we know their goals and their values. We live them every day.”  Duchesne will remain part of the Sacred Heart network of 22 schools in the U.S., Brudney adds.

Sumpter began living those values—educating the mind and the soul—at a young age. “I started at Duchesne in seventh grade in 1952, went through high school and then college,” she says, referring to the days when the campus included a primary school as well as Duchesne College. “We had some really powerful (nuns) there at the time, with very few lay people teaching.” She majored in biology and eventually earned two advanced degrees.

Hayes, who grew up in Denison, Iowa, also attended Duchesne College, which closed in 1968, and fell in love with learning. “Our teachers tied all the subjects together, and somehow we came into this huge worldview, which just blew my mind,” she says. “It woke me up to, ‘Wow, this is what life is.’”

Both knew at an early age what they wanted to do with their lives, a decision formed by the loving nurture of the nuns at Duchesne. Sitting in their cozy apartment on a tree-lined street in the shadow of St. Cecilia’s, the two weave a fascinating life story that straddles two eras of the Catholic Church. 

“My family had a difficult time, especially my father, who wasn’t Catholic,” explains Sumpter about her decision to enter the Sacred Heart community. “You see, I was an only child.”

Which meant no grandchildren?

“You got that right,” she deadpans.

Nuns1Armed with a drama degree in 1951, Hayes immediately left for the convent. “My father wasn’t Catholic, either,” she says.  “When I got on the train, he remarked, ‘You can always come home, you know.’”

But it was a long time before either woman would see their families again. They lived a cloistered life, having very little contact with the outside world except in the Sacred Heart schools where they taught—Sumpter in Lake Forest, Illinois, and Hayes in San Francisco, during which time she earned a master’s degree in history. Prayer, reflection, and Mass filled their highly structured routine.

The winds of change that blew through the Roman Catholic Church in 1965 as a result of the Second Vatican Council also changed the lifestyle of the religious women. Exhorted to “go out into the world,” they left the cloisters and lived among the people they served. Their long, flowing black robes gave way to modern dress.

“A lot of nuns left because they couldn’t adjust,” says Hayes quietly.

The sisters’ paths finally crossed in the early 1990s when both returned to Omaha to be near ailing relatives. They rejoined the severely depleted religious community at Duchesne, filling in as needed in various capacities until they became the only two nuns left.

“We just adore both of them,” says Brudney, a 1983 graduate of Duchesne and one of many alums among the administration and faculty. “The culture of the school is filled with love. It’s a very respectful environment.”

With Duchesne’s enrollment at an all-time high and applicants on a waiting list, the legacies of these gentle, beloved women and all the Sacred Heart nuns who preceded them will no doubt endure.

Visit duchesneacademy.org  for more information. Omaha Magazine

Gina Keplinger

December 2, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In high school, Gina Keplinger urged her teachers to embrace her slam poetry ambitions. So, the confident teen resorted to a more direct insinuation—she bought them a ticket to one of
her performances.

“I knew that I could win somebody over if I just got their butt in the seat to hear me perform!” Keplinger says. “And that was all it took.”

It was that performance, Keplinger says, that got her teachers at Duchesne Academy to pay attention to the budding slam poetry scene that she and her classmates cared so much about. “Once they heard it there was a total switch. And it was just ‘Yes! We believed you before, but now—now you’ve got us sold. This is the real deal.’”

Keplinger performed locally and nationally alongside her classmates. She recently participated in the 2014 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, Calif. “People don’t expect a lot from young people. And I think it’s really important, for me, to be representative of an age and a generation and be able to say ‘Hey, here we are having these really interesting thoughts.’ It’s not just me, there are hundreds of us—thousands of us—and take us seriously!”

Young poetry is predictably full of revelations about self-discovery and lists of firsts, but powerful performances about rape, social issues, drugs, and heartbreak are as equally abundant. “I think it’s really important to foster youth poetry and kind of eradicate that ‘Oh, you’re young; you’ll understand when you’re older mentality. No, no, no! We understand right now, you know? And if we don’t understand, we’re trying to,” Keplinger says.

In 2013, Keplinger performed her original poem “Hey Mama” for the first time in front of her mother. Gina demonstrated her word-smithing talent and her embodiment of the slam poet swagger. It also was a declaration of love and celebration of the woman who has always pushed her to pursue her passions.

In “Hey Mama,” Keplinger hints at her impending departure to college. “This is…for loving that I’m leaving. I am leaving. I have left. I love you—just because. I am inaccurate meteorology and unpredictable rainstorms, but your eastern-sky smile reminds me to seek the sun, always. Mama. If this heart is a compass you are my due north…”

Now 19, Keplinger is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She’s studying English with a concentration on poetry writing and women’s and gender studies while also concurrently fulfilling pre-dentistry requirements. She said her work now has more science and math influences. With little free time, she says her writing is much more cathartic now than ever. And of course, her mama keeps her moving.

“It’s amazing how one person’s voice can combat all the negativity that comes at you,” Keplinger says. “She was my one voice that just kept saying, ‘Keep trying. Keep going forward.’ And she still is that voice for me today…which is great.”

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Kim Reid Kuhn

May 3, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Artist, teacher, promoter, curator, mom. Kim Reid Kuhn wears many hats.

Between painting in her studio, teaching art lessons, running the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson, showing her work, and raising three children, Kuhn has become a master of time management.

And she always finds time to put her children first.

“I love my work,” Kuhn says. “I love what I do. I love advocating for artists. I like promoting people. I like booking shows. I like doing all of that, but my family comes first above everything else. I make sure that family is the first priority.”

Until two years ago Kuhn “unschooled” her daughter Zoe, 18, and sons, Ian, 13, and Ollie, 10. Kuhn believes in “life learning” vs. “institutional programming.” This approach provides more flexibility and allows children to develop a passion for “learning as a lifestyle,” she explains.

Kuhn went to work after she separated from her ex-husband and the kids went to school. Zoe graduated from Duchesne Academy and is now a freshman at the University of San Francisco. Ian and Ollie attend Montessori schools in Omaha. However, that hasn’t affected her ability to spend time instilling in them a sense of curiosity about the world, Kuhn says. “We try to really experience and enjoy life together.

“Kids need to be excited—not afraid—to explore the world,” she passionately exclaims. That’s not to say they should be left to completely fend for themselves. “My kids are very, very supported. We continually have dialogues and there are boundaries.”

Kuhn doesn’t see her role as the ‘authoritarian.’ “My job as a parent is to make a safe place for my children to be who they are and help them explore and encourage that,” Kuhn says.  “We have a really fluid and easygoing home. Especially as a single parent, you have to be flexible and juggle things, like having to do this interview at the tattoo shop,” she says with a smile while her oldest son, Ian, waits to get his ears pieced.

Having an artist mother is definitely a unique experience, Ian says. “We can do art a lot more. We can just go downstairs and make something. It’s pretty special because we get to experience a lot of stuff other people don’t.”

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“We don’t really buy toys,” Kuhn says. “We buy art objects or things for making. All of that’s been really important in their development.” Kuhn started buying her children sketchpads to use as “artistic journals” when they were young, and all three still use them. “Zoe has gone through book after book after book,” Kuhn says. “It’s so cool to look back. It’s like a visual diary.

“Whether these guys choose to go into the arts or not, I think growing up creative and having a lot of life experience is invaluable,” Kuhn says. “I think it’ll give them a different perspective on life and we really need to value that part of children. Creativity needs to be completely encouraged.”

Kuhn’s daughter seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps. Over Christmas break, she had a pop-up art show at Sweatshop Gallery that was well attended, Kuhn says. “The Omaha arts community is so supportive.”

Ian and Ollie like to create as well. Ian says his hobby is “just making stuff.” He recently combined two of his favorite pastimes when he deconstructed a skateboard and turned it into a chair at Bench, a collaborative workspace in Benson. “I like putting parts together.”

Younger brother Ollie says his latest masterpiece is a collection of clay animals filled with clay organs ready for dissection. He also likes to build with Legos, but he’d rather make his own designs than follow the instructions. “I like making it up myself more. I like being creative”.

Kuhn describes her process as an artist as “very intuitive” and driven by her interests. “I’m really adaptable, which is good for my work,” Kuhn explains. “But it’s also a great lesson for parenting. You just never know what’s going to come up.

“Being a parent has been the most difficult, most challenging thing,” Kuhn says. “But I mean, I would not be who I am without it.” It’s shaped her character more than anything else in her life, she says.

“What I’m working on now is balancing my own personal needs and not overdoing it with work,” Kuhn says. “For years I would go to the studio at 9 o’clock at night after I put the kids to bed and work until 2 a.m. and then get up at 7 a.m. Now I’ve learned to be really careful and protective of my time,” she explains. “Which is hard to do as an artist because you want to do everything and live your life to the fullest.

“There have to be things that fall away.” Kuhn says her priorities are clearer than ever. “Kids first, then work, and now I’m really trying to take care of myself and make sure I don’t burn out.”

Alicia Smith Hollins and Zelda

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Alicia Smith Hollins, 34, says she was never much of an animal person growing up. Her two sisters sisters were always the ones wanting to take care of the family’s yellow lab, Gunner, and brown lab, Penny, while Smith Hollins was “more into getting into trouble.” But something changed when she and husband Trevor Hollins took in Zelda, a 9-year-old Miniature Schnauzer.

Smith Hollins, a sales associate with Omaha Publications and an alumna of Duchesne Academy, thought about getting a dog after she and Trevor moved into their Aksarben Village home, but they never got around to it. It wasn’t until Trevor’s mom’s co-worker was looking for a home for one of her show dogs that Zelda found her way into their care. “Trevor’s parents’ dog had just died, so they had Zelda over for the weekend to see if they were ready for another dog. But then we took her for a weekend, and she ended up staying with us for good,” she says. 20121219_bs_8082 copy

Zelda originally had just been called Z, which was short for another name that Smith Hollins says she can’t remember. “We figured if we wanted to change her name, it needed to start with a Z, since she was already 6 years old when we got her. So we called her Zelda, which Trevor liked because he loves [The Legends of Zelda] video games, and I have always been fascinated with reading about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.”

One of the things Smith Hollins says she and Trevor liked the most about Zelda was that she had been trained to be a show dog, so she was already potty-trained and didn’t chew up all of their things. However, Smith Hollins did worry that Zelda had experienced some trauma during the somewhat grueling training of the show dog life. “Her tail was cut incorrectly, so she actually couldn’t participate in the shows, but she was bred twice. Her second birth was a C-section, and she apparently almost died.” Another issue Smith Hollins encountered with Zelda was her teeth. “Apparently, Schnauzers have bad teeth, so we took her to the doggy dentist a few months after we got her, and they pulled 11 teeth. The next year, they pulled nine, so she doesn’t have a lot of teeth left, but I think she would be in more pain had we not done it.”

Smith Hollins' son, Logan, plays with Zelda in the family's backyard

Smith Hollins’ son, Logan, plays with Zelda in the family’s backyard.

In terms of activity, Zelda is a fairly laidback dog. Smith Hollins says she doesn’t go on walks or play with toys but rather prefers to cuddle and be petted. “She won’t walk on a leash, [and] she won’t go to the bathroom on a leash because show dogs are trained not to do that, so we really don’t take her for walks…She had one toy she played with for a while, but she chewed it up. I tried to buy the same toy again, but she hasn’t touched it.”

Although Zelda is timid, she has become more protective of the family over time, especially with Smith Hollins’ 2-year-old son, Logan. “I think it’s adorable because she really doesn’t want to play with him, but she wants to protect him.”20121219_bs_8030 copy

She admits that, at first, she feared that Zelda would have a hard time adjusting to having a baby around, as she had always been the baby and slept by Smith Hollins’ side every night. But after Logan was born, Zelda began sleeping by his bed every night and even started barking if someone was at the door.

While Smith Hollins thinks Zelda can have really weird quirks that make her seem somewhat high-maintenance, she says she loves Zelda because she is a perfect lap dog. “If you are having a bad day, she will let you cuddle up to her.”