Tag Archives: Harley-Davidson

The Nebraska Independent Colleges Foundation

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nebraska Independent Colleges Foundation (NICF) President James Johnson Ph.D. is used to change. Dr. Johnson, his wife, Lesa, and his Harley-Davidson moved to Omaha four years ago, after serving respected stints at a handful of universities across the nation. Such positions included president of Ohio Valley University in West Virginia, and director of forensics and assistant to the provost at Texas A&M University.

The communication skills he has gained after a lifetime in education are making a difference in the lives of underprivileged college students in Nebraska. “We raise scholarship funds to help needy students in Nebraska attend Nebraska colleges, primarily independent colleges,” he says.

Founded in 1953, the NICF has a staff of three and is about to get a whole lot busier as they prepare to double their size and serve more schools. Currently, they raise scholarship funds for the students of Union College, Bellevue University, York College, and Hastings College.

Johnson says that, statistically, students who come out of independent colleges are hired quicker than state school graduates and they are promoted faster.


JamesJohnson1“I think it’s because of some of the types of students that private colleges attract and also smaller class size, smaller teacher/student ratio (that allows) more individual attention in the classroom,” he says.

Johnson says that the schools they currently work with are leaders in certain fields. “York, for example has an excellent teacher preparation program. Union has a very good physician assistants program with a waiting list on it. Bellevue is probably, in my opinion, one of the leaders in nontraditional programs. Hastings has such a vibrant legacy and heritage and history that speaks well for all of their programs.”

Since Johnson began his teaching career in 1983 as a professor of communication at Lubbock Christian University in Texas, he has seen the average age of a student increase.


“When I started teaching, the average age of a college student was about 23,” Johnson says. “Now the average age of the college student today is closer to 30. We have so many more adults going back to retrain or going back to make career changes.”

A recipient of the 2008 President’s Volunteer Service Award, which was presented by President George W. Bush, Johnson enjoys teaching and the relationships he has with students. He says he is able to fulfill his desire to teach through his leadership consulting firm, Ethos Leadership Group, where he serves as chief executive officer.

Johnson notes that the NICF has an annual golf tournament that has grown in attendance by 50 percent over the past four years. The tournament raises awareness and provides an opportunity for fundraising. NICF accepts donations from both corporate and individual donors.

“I enjoy being able to tell donors, when they write me a $1,000 check, that $1,000 is going to scholarships.”

Johnson has his eyes set on a big prize for the foundation—a fundraising challenge of $2.5 million. If NICF reaches that goal by the end of the year, an independent donor will match that sum, bringing the total to $5 million raised. Now that’s enough money for a lot of books.

Visit nicfonline.org for more information. B2B

The McBrides

July 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Caroline McBride sobbed as she left midtown Omaha with her partner, M.J., and the last load of their belongings from their midtown home. She was so happy there.

The tears quickly subsided as they arrived at their new home.

“It’s pretty easy when you are greeted with strangers bearing champagne,” M.J. says.

McBrides4The couple now live in The Rows at SoMa, a group of rowhouses along Leavenworth between 11th and 13th streets. Bluestone Development approached them about moving.

Bluestone owner Christian Christiansen was looking for buyers of his new development off the Old Market, and a mutual friend suggested he contact the ladies.

“When we bought down here, it was dirt and not much else. We really had to trust and go on a wing and a prayer,” M.J. says. “Everything they promised has come true.”

Christiansen promised great people (in the neighborhood) and quality workmanship (in the building). The couple appreciate the diversity of The Rows’ residents. Their neighbors range from millennials to folks in their 60s, from single people to married couples.

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Caroline and M.J. welcome all the new friends. Caroline has even joined the board of the homeowner association, which hosts wine nights on Wednesdays.

“They’re great,” Jerre Tritsch, current HOA president and a retired lawyer, says of the couple. “They’re fun people. Very positive. We love having them here.”

“There’s always an eclectic group of people and dogs,” Caroline says.

Walking around the neighborhood, Caroline greets everyone by name, and they smile and say hello back. In fact, the only complaints that the couple receive follow M.J. starting her Harley-Davidson motorcycle before 7 a.m.

The wine nights take place in the community garden, which features two crescent-moon shaped benches on a paver patio. The garden includes 14 planting beds, available by a lottery system. The landscaping and gardens are all organic.

It’s also beautiful, in part, thanks to Keep SoMa Beautiful, a group started by the community that walks through the streets to make sure the sidewalks are intact and mess-free.

“Overall we’re looking to encourage an attitude of participation in the community,” says Tritsch. “Don’t wait for a contractor or management company to do something. Pitch in and help, because that helps to build relationships within the community.”

The first row house the couple lived in was a two-bed, 2-1/2-bath townhouse in the middle of the development. The 2,200-square-foot home looked out over the community garden. Sitting on one of the benches in the garden, a visitor would hardly know the heart of the Old Market lies a quick stroll down the street.

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“There’s a sense of openness by the total privacy that’s built in,” Caroline says.

The couple specifically wanted to live in one of the homes facing Leavenworth Street and the Old Market.

In 2009, they acquired one of The Rows’ eight 2,500-square-foot homes with three beds and 3 1/2 baths. They liked the floor plan, which is longer and includes more windows.

“One of the first questions people ask is about windows,” M.J. says. “Are you covering them? Are you leaving them uncovered? What about the kitchen?”

The creative couple, who established and operate Rebel Interactive agency, found an appropriately creative solution—sheer panels with black squiggly details running down them. The contemporary design fits well with their home, which includes brightly colored artwork and furniture throughout.

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The couple appreciate that art is a part of SoMa. The garden features a sculpture commissioned by Bluestone for the area. The community also features an art gallery that doubles as a commons room and is available to residents at SoMa. Caroline and M.J., who have been together since 1997, used the gallery to celebrate with their friends and neighbors following their marriage in Iowa in September of  2013.

This urban-living development embraces people (and pets) of all types. Amenities such as snow removal and lawn care help residents leave home with peace of mind.

“A lot of people are attracted to SoMa because they travel quite a bit,” says Tritsch.

The McBrides count themselves among those travelers. They spend many weekends at Lake Okoboji with their black cat, Reo, and Boston terrier, Bella. They also travel to Key West, Florida, once a year to stay at their time share, and to Arizona to visit M.J.’s mom.

Their travels always end back at their row home in Omaha.

“We love being close to Bemis and KANEKO,” Caroline says. “It’s nice being right across the street from world-class creativity.”

M.J. smiles brightly as she thinks about her downtown life.

“I’ve enjoyed living other places, but I love living here,” M.J. says. Encounter

Visit omahadowntown.org for more information.McBrides1

Retirement on the Road

July 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in 60-Plus June/July 2015 edition.

Fritz Sampson says he likes to travel slowly, but the words “travel” and “slowly” can conjure up thoughts of lounging over three hour-long dinners in Italy, or spending an entire afternoon wandering through a village in France.

For 65-year-old Fritz, “traveling slowly” means moving about 200 miles a day across Europe and Asia by motorcycle.

Last March, Fritz undertook a 115-day motorcycle journey through southern Europe, the former Soviet bloc, and Mongolia; but his plans were cut short by more than three weeks after an accident
in Mongolia.

It’s an itinerary that sounds crazy, but, when explained calmly by Fritz, seems perfectly reasonable.

“Whether it’s breaking a shoulder, or getting stopped by police, or running out of food, things are going to happen,” Fritz says. “And that’s why you take the trip, because it’s an adventure.”

According to Sampson and his wife of 40 years, Mary, he always had a daring spirit.

“That’s what I loved him for, was his sense of adventure,” Mary says. “No one is comparable to Fritz—he’s all out for the experience.

The couple met on the Model United Nations Team at Creighton University and married in 1975, right out of college. They, and their two children, moved to Germany in 1998 while Fritz pursued a degree in international tax law. His career took him everywhere from China to Belize; but he still craved different ways to see the world.

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A long-distance cyclist, he rode for years all over the United States. But as he aged, he turned to a new mode of transportation: motorcycling.

He bought a new Harley Davidson in 2007, and in 2008 rode with his son, Marty, from Omaha to Tierra del Fuego, an island chain off the southernmost point of South America.

“One of the reasons I do this—I like meeting people on the road,” Fritz says.

After his South American excursion, Fritz was itching to do a similar trip elsewhere. He read about two motorcycle adventures on travel blogs that looked really interesting—one to the Russian far east, another in outer Mongolia—and decided to combine the two by retiring and traveling to 17 countries. He planned to begin in Ireland, meet Mary in Turkey, and eventually end up in Mongolia and Russia, but had no other itinerary.

That meant he spent a week in Bulgaria because he felt like it. He chose to go to Kazakhstan instead of Turkmenistan because he met a fellow motorcyclist who was headed there. And when he told local policemen in Turkey the name of the hostel where he was staying, they told him he shouldn’t sleep there and took him to a friend’s house, where they hosted a barbecue for him.

He also had a run-in with corrupt police in Azerbaijan, lost 22 pounds, and experienced that fateful fall in Mongolia that cut his trip short and left him with a broken shoulder.

There’s only one thing he’s cutting out of his routine: off-roading on his motorcycle, which led to his accident. But he still wants to ride on motorcycle trips across the continental United States, Alaska, and Mexico.

After all, he says, those are “easy” rides.

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Restoring Hearts Celebration

October 4, 2013 by
Photography by Mitchell Warren

In the spring of 2013, young men and women from Omaha Home for Boys programs spent 18 weeks learning, laughing, and collaborating on the restoration of MishMash, the Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail motorcycle rebuilt as part of the nationally recognized Helping with Horsepower™ Bike Rebuild program. With the steadfast support of Jeremy and Mike Colchin, the father-son duo from Black Rose Machine Shop, MishMash was transformed into a stunningly patriotic motorcycle.

By late spring/early summer, MishMash was ready to travel around the state of Nebraska (and western Iowa) to spread the word about the Home and share a message of hope. MishMash heralded the Omaha Home for Boys mission and message at parades, fairs, football games, various community events, conferences, and concerts. One would be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn’t seen the motorcycle or heard about the youth at the Omaha Home for Boys and this life-changing project.

Several months later, the raffle winner of MishMash—Jeff Waddington of Bennington—was selected to the roaring applause of more than 450 Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts™ Celebration attendees. Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin delivered a breathtaking, inspirational speech to supporters, community members, and friends—some old, many new—of the Omaha Home for Boys.

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Matlin touched on the difficulties of growing up as a young child “who just happened to be deaf” with big dreams of being a star—fueled and supported by long-time friend Henry Winkler. It was a message that resounded well with youth, staff, and supporters alike—you can be anything you want to be, and anyone can make their goals and dreams into realities with hard work and dedication.

Youth also took to the stage, joining Mike DiGiacomo and Mary Nelson, hosts of KMTV-Channel 3’s The Morning Blend, to share their thoughts of the Helping with Horsepower™ project, along with their own dreams and goals.

It was a celebration as much about MishMash as it was about the youth at the Home—and a celebration everyone involved will remember!

With the help of supporters, the Home raised more than $30,000 from the bike’s raffle, selling more than 1,700 tickets. Funds will be used to facilitate the programs at the Omaha Home for Boys—directly and positively impacting the hundreds of youth touched by our programs.

Become a Home Partner and Supporter

With the success of this year’s Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts Celebration, staff at the Omaha Home for Boys are in full gear to prepare for next year’s Helping with Horsepower Bike Rebuild program. Stay tuned for more information to become a sponsor, donate to the bike rebuild project, and buy tickets to attend next year’s Restoring Hearts with Bike Parts!

To become a sponsor for next year’s bike rebuild, please contact Trish at 402-457-7165 or PHaniszewski@omahahomeforboys.org. For more information about Omaha Home for Boys, visit omahahomeforboys.org.