Healthy Blue Nebraska is supporting a University of Nebraska at Kearney project focused on the broadband internet disparities that exist in rural Nebraska with a $100,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Affordable, high-speed internet is almost a necessity in today’s world, yet many people in Nebraska and the U.S. still lack access. The Federal Communications Commission estimates 19 million Americans don’t have access to broadband services. Most of these people – 14.5 million – live in rural areas.

Through its Rural Measures project, UNK is examining the digital divide that exists across the state, giving regulatory agencies and internet providers a clearer picture of where broadband infrastructure needs to improve. This is especially important because the internet delivers a wide range of healthcare services and information while being equally important in education, business and more.

“This donation will provide our rural communities with resources to stay connected, promote health and wellness, and enable emotional and social support,” said Dr. Rob Rhodes, president of Healthy Blue Nebraska. “If rural patients have a good internet connection, they can expand their options for medical services and specialists while also saving time, money and avoiding unnecessary travel. Healthy Blue continues to adopt a digital-first approach within the local community and connect with members when they want and how they want it, putting them at the center. Technology is helping close gaps in care and better support members across the state. Connectivity is crucial for continuing education, getting or maintaining a job, and accessing benefits and services.”

The Rural Measures project is led by the College of Business and Technology in collaboration with other areas of UNK.

“We feel for the people in our rural areas who experience poor-quality broadband service,” said Tim Obermier, professor of industrial technology and cyber systems at UNK and a Rural Measures coleader. “You hear all the time about people who are unable to get good, quality internet service. Because of the ever-increasing need for this technology, it affects people’s lives in substantial ways.”

In a state where roughly 35% of the residents live in rural areas, it’s easy to spot the disparities in broadband internet service, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to do more online from home. This has exposed “gaping holes” in Nebraska’s internet infrastructure, according to Angela Hollman, associate professor of cyber systems at UNK and a Rural Measures coleader.

“Access to quality internet service directly impacts a lot of people in a lot of ways,” Hollman said. “This has been a big motivator for us to try to figure out how we can help Nebraska solve this problem, so we’re grateful to Healthy Blue Nebraska for its support of this work.”

The Rural Measures project uses a small, in-home device known as a QT (quantitative throughput) to accurately test and report the broadband speeds internet users are experiencing. Participants in the study also complete a survey to provide an even fuller range of information collected on internet service use and experiences. More information about the project is at

About Healthy Blue

Healthy Blue helps improve healthcare access and quality for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) members in Nebraska. Healthy Blue serves Nebraskans by developing and delivering innovative care management programs and services. Healthy Blue members are assured care that is not only accessible, but also accountable, comprehensive, integrated and patient-centered. It provides ongoing community relations and outreach to encourage members to become active participants in their healthcare. For more information about Healthy Blue, please visit, and follow the company on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyBlueNE and LinkedIn @healthy-blue-nebraska.

Skilled UNK graduates help Nebraska marketing firm succeed

About this photo: Graphic artist Jase Hueser earned six awards, including best of show, at the recent Nebraska ADDYs design competition. The 2018 UNK grad received the Daake Design Scholarship at UNK and was hired by Daake, a Nebraska-based marketing firm.

When many students head to college, their journey is often filled with discovering one’s abilities. But Jake Hueser, a recent University of Nebraska-Kearney graduate, always had a clear path. His talents were visible from the moment he stepped onto the UNK campus as a visual communication and design major.

“A lot of people assume that graphic design is just kind of this vapid profession where you make pretty pictures on a computer screen,” he said. “But there’s a lot of logic that goes into it, a lot of psychology.”

Heuser’s work ethic and artistic ability didn’t go unnoticed. He was awarded the Daake Design Scholarship during his academic career at UNK. Later, he received a job offer from the donors behind the scholarship.

Scholarship created to build future workforce

The Daake Design Scholarship fund was established in 2009 by UNK alumni Greg and Lisa Daake. Greg, a 1996 commercial art grad, and Lisa, a 1995 business administration grad, are the founders of Daake, an Omaha-based national design firm.

Their permanently endowed scholarship helps with tuition for a UNK student pursuing a degree in visual communication and design.

“I want that program to succeed. I want people to be interested in it,” Greg said. “I think it’s the best program in the state, and we’re just really thankful that we have the means to give back.”

The Daakes’ often hire student interns and full-time employees, too, with whom they share a UNK connection. Hueser was the latest student to get the opportunity.

“There is kind of a UNK DNA here,” Greg said about his company.

Graphic art a longtime passion for Jase Hueser

Hueser’s background in design extends back to his days at Papillion-La Vista South High School where he was already completing graphic design work for local clients.

“I always was really intrigued by art,” he said. “I think around junior high I started discovering art could translate into an actual vocation besides just studio work.”

His knowledge of computers allowed for his artistic abilities to translate into graphic design work. Hueser said he enjoys coming up with creative ways to communicate a message through logos, campaigns and promotional materials.

While in college, he was able to show off his passion and ability through the Nebraska ADDY awards. At the competition, he competed against student design majors from across the state and earned four golds, a silver and a special judges’ citation award.

“There was a lot of really great work from the other students,” he said. “It can be a bit intimidating to see the creativity coming from UNK and other Nebraska schools.”

Hueser’s work included a promotional package of movie posters, a wine bottle and social media and online components based on the 1944 film “Arsenic and Old Lace.” According to Hueser, the judges appreciated the cohesiveness of his design elements.

More than a scholarship, a relationship

The recent grad has his opportunities to thank for his successes. The Daake Design Scholarship allowed Heuser to develop a professional connection with the Daake family, while Hueser’s advanced UNK education allowed him to go above and beyond in his creative work.

Due to the Daakes’ generosity, we are able to see young men and women thrive in an outstanding UNK program.

“We have a special place in our heart for UNK,” Greg Daake said.

This article was written by Tyler Ellyson, UNK news writer, and was edited for this story by Jessica Moore, public relations intern at the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Sahling estate gives $1.9 million to UNK to forever help even more students

Well known among the University of Nebraska at Kearney community – especially by those in Loper athletics – for his compassion and generous student scholarship donations, Bob Sahling is helping students once again.

Well known among the University of Nebraska at Kearney community – especially by those in Loper athletics – for his compassion and generous student scholarship donations, Bob Sahling is helping students once again.

The Robert P. Sahling estate has bequeathed $1.95 million to UNK, bringing to more than $3.25 million the total support the late Kearney resident and businessman provided to help Nebraska students with their college educations.

“The Sahling family has made a difference for many years, and continues to make a difference, in the lives of our students,” UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen said in recognizing this latest gift. “Their support and longtime commitment to UNK has meant so much to many people. We are grateful for their generosity and interest in our university.”

While Sahling didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, he enjoyed providing scholarship support for UNK students, including awards for Loper football players and non-athletes studying any major on campus. The permanently endowed funds he established through the University of Nebraska Foundation provide an annual income that will perpetually enable the university to award scholarships to both UNK football players and non-athletes who graduate from a Nebraska high school and meet certain academic requirements.

As a current recipient of a Sahling Scholarship, Jonah Peterson of Central City says that without the tuition help he received, his goal of helping others through health care information technology would be difficult to achieve on his own.

“The Sahling family’s love and generosity have helped in ways I can’t even begin to describe to you,” said the UNK junior systems administration major who plans to work in rural health care. “From the bottom of my heart, believe me when I say this, the university appreciates his one-of-a-kind contributions. He has made so many students’ dreams become a reality, and I can only hope to repay the kindness by helping others through my career.”

Based on current estimates, the combined endowed Sahling scholarship funds will make available about $140,000 each year for the university to award in scholarship support. Depending on the number and award amounts, this will enable the university to help between 30 and 40 students each year with tuition assistance.

When announcing his earlier $1.2 million scholarship gift in 2013, Sahling said, “I experience real joy in getting to know the students and seeing their many accomplishments. What has also motivated me to give is witnessing the dedication of university leadership to the important mission of UNK.”

Sahling grew up in the Dust Bowl days on a farm near Kenesaw, and is a childhood survivor of scarlet fever, which took the life of his sister. His mother worked tirelessly to care for her family, making the family’s clothes and maintaining their home, while his father operated trucks to support his family.

After graduating from Kenesaw High School in 1943 and serving in the U.S. Navy Air Corps, Sahling worked for his dad’s combining and trucking business. He started selling trucks in 1948 for Hastings Motor Truck Co. and later worked as a real estate broker.

Bob married Doris “Dode” Heacock in 1955 in Kearney, and they raised four children: John, Sherry, Ron and Holly. In 1968, Bob started his own company, Sahling Truck and Trailer in Kearney. The company changed its name to Sahling Kenworth in 1973. It also had operations in York and Columbus. Bob retired from the business in 1998.

Dode Sahling died on Oct. 19, 2007, and Bob Sahling died on March 1, 2017.

UNK senior says Sahling Scholarship ‘helped me achieve my goal’

By Mariah DaMoude, University of Nebraska at Kearney

I am from Hershey and am a senior studying Spanish education and English as a second language. After graduation I would like to fulfill my dreams of becoming a teacher.

My goal has been to make it through college debt free which is not an easy thing to do, and I am going to be a teacher, so everybody knows it would be hard to pay off that debt on a teacher’s salary.

I want the Sahling family to know that this scholarship has helped me achieve my goal of making it through college debt free, and, because of that, I feel so much more ready to pursue my dreams of becoming a teacher without the financial burden of college to worry about. It’s going to help me focus on my teaching instead of worrying about the payments. I am so thankful to them for being so generous.

Thank you for honoring the Sahling family and their generosity.

UNK’s new early childhood education center to be named for LaVonne Plambeck

Many generations of Kearney-area children and university students preparing to be early childhood teachers are at the heart of plans for a new facility at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

UNK will name its new 20,000-square-foot Early Childhood Education Center in honor of Dr. LaVonne Plambeck of Omaha, who made a leadership gift toward its construction and established permanently endowed funds to forever support its related academic programs. The board of regents will be asked to approve the naming at its June 28 meeting.

“This will be the premier early childhood education center in the Midwest, and we are so grateful to Dr. Plambeck for her leadership in this area,” said Dean of the College of Education Sheryl Feinstein.

The new center is the first academic footprint on UNK’s developing University Village and will become a model for exemplary early childhood education, early childhood educator preparation, and research.

Programs to involve campuswide, statewide collaborations

In addition to training undergraduate and graduate students and integrating coursework from all across all three of UNK’s academic colleges and University of Nebraska Medical Center, the new center will serve Kearney-area children and families with developmentally appropriate early education for a diverse population.

Undergraduate and graduate experiential learning will occur in the building in the forms of practicums, internships, observations and diagnostic testing. For example, working with a curriculum designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, teaching early literacy strategies, and diagnostic testing in the areas of speech, language skills and cognitive development. The building will facilitate learning and improve undergraduate and graduate students’ skills working with young children including relationship-building, classroom management and age-appropriate expectations.

“This education center will improve service to area children and enhance educational experiences for UNK students and faculty. That improves our community,” said Feinstein. “The project will grow our early education program to increase the quality of services provided and the number of young children enrolled. Early education programs, majors and minors across campus will benefit from state-of-the-art learning environments. This larger facility will also enable UNK and ECEC to increase collaborations that involve academics, research, and outreach to the community, and state and national organizations.”

Feinstein said the facility will also advance and create new partnerships at the community, state and national levels.

“With the Buffett Institute, we can increase the early childhood workforce in Nebraska while developing a high-quality component to the workforce; increase our partnership with Buffalo County community partners in curriculum and mental health collaborations; work on early literacy programs and research with the Nebraska Library Commission and the Nebraska School Librarians Association; and work with the National Coalition for Campus Children’s Centers and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on resources supporting and educating student parents.”

New center to educate more, serve as a home to research-based learning

The facility replaces the Child Development Center in the existing 1950-era Otto Olsen building, which cares for and educates 60 children – with an ongoing waiting list of 75 from infants to age 6. The capacity for the new LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center will be 176.

When completed in fall 2019 the center will feature three research-based philosophies of Early Childhood Education: Eclectic (Waldorf, Reggio and others), Montessori, and Project Based. One classroom will be devoted to Project Based Early Childhood Education, two classrooms to Montessori, and eight classrooms to Eclectic.

The Plambeck gift brings the total project cost to $7.8 million and 19,900 square feet that will include two dedicated Montessori education classrooms.

The naming recognizes a leadership gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation by Plambeck, for her undisclosed gift for construction, endowing a Montessori education professorship and establishing endowed excellence funds for early childhood programs.

“Dr. Plambeck’s generosity and vision will make a profound difference in the lives of children and in the preparation of highly qualified early-childhood educators for generations to come,” UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen.

The Plambeck gift includes an endowed professorship in Montessori education, which will enable UNK to increase its offerings in Montessori education by hiring a professor of excellence in Montessori. It also includes an endowed excellence fund for early childhood programs. These funds will help UNK deliver outreach services to early childhood providers in Nebraska with a focus on rural communities through workshops, professional development, and in-service through on-site and online modes.

Plambeck ‘fierce advocate’ for early childhood education

Kristensen said LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck of Omaha has been a “fierce advocate” for early childhood education for nearly 50 years. Described as an educational legend and visionary, Plambeck has understood and invested in high-quality experiences for babies and young children decades before recent research confirmed her actions.

Inspired by the Montessori teaching method, based on a philosophy that puts much of the responsibility and freedom for learning within a child’s control, she opened Omaha’s first Montessori Educational Center in 1968 and later added seven locations and opened schools in Denver and Fort Worth. She launched the Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute to provide professionals with training and certification.

In addition to working on early childhood education extensively with UNO, UNK, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, College of Saint Mary’s and Concordia University, she has served the Nebraska Association of Young Children, the American Montessori Society Board of Directors and Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education. She also served on an advisory committee on early childhood education for the State of Nebraska and was appointed to a White House conference on families.

“Dr. Plambeck’s support for this new facility in Kearney and her permanent support for UNK faculty members and academic programs is yet another extension of her tremendous interest in education and her life’s work in this vital area of early childhood education,” said University of Nebraska Foundation President and CEO Brian Hastings.

Pending board approval, the building will be funded by state funds through LB 957 and dedicated facility funds from the Plambeck gift.

A celebration and ceremonial ground-breaking for the building is planned for September.

About the LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center

Construction Start: Contractors will break ground later this summer (August)

Completion: Summer 2019

Size: 19,900 square feet

Cost: $7.8 million

Capacity: 176 children from infant to age six.

Other: A model for exemplary early childhood education, early childhood educator preparation, and research, the facility replaces the Child Development Center in the existing 1955 Otto Olsen building. In addition to training undergraduate and graduate students and integrating coursework from all across all three of UNK’s academic colleges and University of Nebraska Medical Center, the ECEC will serve Kearney-area children and families with developmentally appropriate early education.

Classrooms: When completed in fall 2019 the ECEC will feature three research-based philosophies of Early Childhood Education: Eclectic (Waldorf, Reggio and others), Montessori, and Project Based. One classroom will be devoted to Project Based Early Childhood Education, two classrooms to Montessori, and eight classrooms to Eclectic.

UNK scholarship supports first-generation college students, honors Peterson family’s legacy

Kearney native Pete Peterson has established a new scholarship for students who, like him, are the first in their family to ever attend college.

PHOTO: George and Venetia Peterson (center) made Kearney their new home in the early 1900s and raised sons Peter (left) and John. Peter Peterson has created a scholarship at UNK for students who are first in their family to attend college.

George and Venetia Peterson immigrated to Kearney in the early 1900s with nothing but a third-grade education and the desire to work hard so their children would have a better life – and the opportunity for education.

Their son, Kearney native Peter G. Peterson, has honored his family’s tenacity and Nebraska roots by establishing a new scholarship for students at the University of Nebraska Kearney who, like him, are the first in their family to ever attend college.

“I was lucky enough to live the American dream, and my story began in Kearney,” Peterson said. “This scholarship will help make it possible for more first-generation students to realize their own American dream by accessing the world-class education offered by the University of Nebraska at Kearney.”

The Peter G. Peterson Scholarship Fund was created as a permanently endowed scholarship with a $50,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation. Annual net income from the fund will be awarded by the UNK office of financial aid as scholarships to first-generation students from Nebraska who are studying any major and maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

“Throughout its history, UNK has been a welcoming school where many first-generation college students completed an education that was both affordable and of the highest quality,” said Charles Bicak, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at UNK. “This remains true today, and because of Pete’s generosity, many more generations of students who otherwise would not be able to afford college will have an opportunity to realize their dreams at UNK.”

Having grown up in Kearney, Pete Peterson graduated from Kearney High School in 1942 and then graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University in 1947 before earning an MBA at the University of Chicago.

Peterson’s distinguished career includes contributions and accomplishments in public service, business and philanthropy. He has served in government roles including as U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the early 1970s and as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2000 – 2004. His highly successful business career includes serving as chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers and founding The Blackstone Group in 1985.

In 2008, Peterson founded the Peter G. Peterson Foundation as a non-partisan organization dedicated to addressing America’s long-term fiscal challenges. In addition to his current work with the foundation, he is chairman emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, founding chairman of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., and founding president of the Concord Coalition.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney conferred on Peterson an honorary doctorate degree in 2006.

Peterson has five children and nine grandchildren. He lives in New York City with his wife, Joan Ganz Cooney, a director and co-founder of the Children’s Television Workshop.