Tag Archives: University of Nebraska Foundation

The Law of the Land

June 9, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in Summer 2015 edition of B2B.

The awards and accolades keep coming Deryl Hamann’s way, but the 82-year-old Omaha attorney has a decisively modest take. “You stay around long enough and they have to recognize you.”

The latest honor was the 2014 Douglas E. Parrott Faith in Action Award from Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. Hamann is grateful and humbled by the recognition, but, he feels he isn’t doing anything extra. In fact, he’s enjoying the slower pace these days.

“I come to the office every day, but I don’t work very hard,” Hamann says from his office high up in the Woodmen of the World building. “Mostly I just ferry my wife around.”

Hamann still has some long-time clients he tends to. And he is always there to offer up advice as needed to the younger attorneys at Baird Holm, the firm he’s been with since 1959.

Yes, the praise is nice and all, but that’s not what drives Hamann. He’s still the Iowa farm boy who worked his way through law school and went on to become one of the state’s most respected experts on banking and corporate law, not to mention the CEO of a large banking organization. Hamann says he is driven by the satisfaction that comes from showing up to work each day and serving his clients.

It’s a work ethic learned on the dusty farmlands of his north-central Iowa youth.

Hamann learned early on that there is no substitute for hard work. If asked about the accolades, you’ll get some pleasant comments. But talk to him about those early years managing the local drive-in north of Fort Dodge, Iowa, or clerking for U.S. District Judge Robert Van Pelt, and you’ll get a sense of what drove Hamann to success.

The combination of work ethic and intelligence led Hamann into the banking business in 1971 with the purchase of a small bank in southern Iowa. That led to him becoming the chairman and chief executive officer of Great Western Bank, which grew to over 100 locations in six states before selling in 2008.

Hamann is also a trustee and past president of the Nebraska State Bar Association; former chairman of the board of trustees at Bellevue University; a director of the University of Nebraska Foundation and chairman of its Investment Committee; and, also, former chairman of the Bethphage Foundation. In 2011, he was designated Corporate Lawyer of the Year in Omaha by Best Lawyers in America.

“Those were pretty busy years,” he says of balancing his career and raising four children, and later, three stepchildren.

Hamann graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1956 as an undergraduate. He received his law degree in 1958, the same year he clerked for Judge Van Pelt, a man who he says had a big impact on him and his career path. “The phrase ‘a gentleman and a scholar’ could have been invented just for him,” Hamann says.

Hamann recalls his first job, cutting cockleburs with a corn knife and helping with the chores around the little farm “a quarter mile down a mud lane just off a gravel road.”

Growing up during the Great Depression taught Hamann the value in helping others. And in treating other people right. “There is great satisfaction in being able to help someone in need, especially when you grow up without much,” he says. “Back then, things were not that lush.”

Times have changed, no doubt. But for Hamann, some things are constant, like the value of lessons one learns early on and, hopefully, never loses sight of.

Deryl Hamman

Karen Levin

October 20, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When you first meet Karen Levin, you see an attractive, petite, smiling woman whose eyes sparkle with passion—her smile radiates from across the room. She is dynamic and persevering in all that she does and has done for the Omaha community. She is a true visionary in every respect.

Levin is definitely a mission-driven mover and shaker with regard to helping Omaha organizations find development avenues, donors, board members, and volunteers.

Early on, retail involvement was also one of her passions and successes. She and former husband, David, owned the women’s clothing store The Avenue. She was very involved in the day-to-day aspects of the family business.

“Loyal customer associations and interactions for The Avenue were a primary goal of Karen’s, as well as with her charitable pursuits. Her input of energies helped everything come together for the long-term family business,” states David.

Currently, Levin serves as Director of Development for the Colleges of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Nebraska Foundation. She has been with the foundation since 2007. Previously, she worked at the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and Metropolitan Arts Council, on which she still advises.

“I’m all about dreams, passion, mission, generosity, building, and nurturing relationships, gratitude, and education,” Levin says. “My vision of myself is someone that holds the door open for the next person to walk through.

“I joined the University of Nebraska Foundation because I resonate with how we describe our organization. Since 1936, the University of Nebraska Foundation has existed to accomplish one goal, which is to advance the University of Nebraska. While independent from the university, we are intrinsically linked to it, connecting the dreams and passions of donors to the mission of the university, and stewarding donor generosity across its four campuses.

“Everything that I do is done with a labor of love and from the heart.”

“I am honored to be a member of the team that raises money for UNMC. The medical center’s mission is to improve the health of Nebraskans and beyond,” she adds.

“When I hired Karen a number of years ago, she told me that I was getting ‘designer shoes at T.J. Maxx prices.’ She was absolutely correct,” comments Amy Volk, Vice President of the University of Nebraska Foundation. “Karen brought tremendous experience in fundraising to our organization, [as well as] her personal philosophy of generosity to the University of Nebraska Foundation…She gives financially to organizations that she loves, but she also generously gives her time, experience, and compassion for people. All of this giving has enriched the University of Nebraska Medical Center, but it has enriched my work and the work of our entire team at the University of Nebraska Foundation. We are all thankful to have ‘designer shoes.’”

Levin is also a very active member of the Omaha community and a co-founder of the Omaha Children’s Museum, the primary participatory museum in the heart of Downtown Omaha dedicated to engaging the imagination while creating excitement about learning for children—though not many people know just how diligently she worked to get the museum started.

In 1976, Levin saw a need in the community for such a hands-on learning environment. Having previously worked at the Boston’s Children’s Museum, she knew that education for art and creativity was greatly needed for Omaha youth. Initially, she pursued the endeavor by beginning a traveling art program throughout the community. It all began in the trunk of her station wagon. Betty Hiller and Jane Ford Hawthorne were two of her colleagues who helped her bring art activities and creative experiences to children at community centers, libraries, schools, and malls.

Levin goes right to the heart of things as she spurs onward with her quests. She obtains help from local philanthropists, such as Susie Buffett. She even got former Senator Dave Karnes to help her get the Omaha Children’s Museum endeavor rolling.

“Everything that I do is done with a labor of love and from the heart,” Levin says with a smile.