Growing up in the Sandhills of Garden County, Don Meier developed a sense of place that remains evident today, decades after he left his home state to pursue a career highlighted by his role as producer of the landmark television series, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
Thanks to Meier and his wife Lorena, Garden County High School students have a foot in the door to the University of Nebraska through the William C. Meier Scholarship.
Tammy Bossert of Lisco is the most recent recipient of the scholarship. She is studying horse management at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. The scholarship helped Bossert as she weighed her options after high school.
“It’s made it easier to plan on going to college,” she said. Bossert earned many honors in the 12 years she competed in the 4-H horse program before college. “I’ve always liked horses and have a natural ability with them.”
William Meier, Don Meier’s brother, graduated from Garden County High School and has lived in Oshkosh nearly all his life while building a successful farming and ranching operation.
Don and Lorena Meier established the scholarship through the University of Nebraska Foundation and also established scholarships to honor their parents, John and Ada, as well as other family members.
Recipients of the John and Ada Meier scholarships this year are Ashley Olson of Oshkosh and Jacki Harper of Lewellen, respectively. Olson is studying business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Harper is studying nursing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Don and Lorena Meier’s love of family and place is evident in the scholarships they named after family members. All the scholarships benefit high school students from Garden County High School, and the William Meier scholarship is awarded to students attending the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis or the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in Lincoln.
“My brother Bill is a great guy and the hardest working individual I’ve ever met in my life,” Don Meier said. “People who are successful ranchers and farmers are making it in an area that is more difficult than any other profession because they gamble on the weather and on markets where they don’t determine prices.”
In addition to an appreciation for his siblings and their success, Don Meier’s own college experience played a part in the establishment of the scholarship. “I had no other dream than to go to the University of Nebraska,” he said. That dream did not come easy, however.
He worked off and on during school, sometimes taking up to a year off to work on a pipeline or even to go back home and work as the high school librarian. He completed his degree in six years.
“I remember my own struggles to complete my college education,” he said. “In those days – back in the ‘30s – they didn’t have a lot of scholarships. I just remember how tough it was for me to make it.”
Perhaps because he struggled financially to attend college, Meier has a deep appreciation of education.
“It became apparent to me as I pursued my own career that the main thing is not only the support, but it’s important to get kids into college,” he said. “I agree with my wife who says that all students should seek to expand their potential by seeking full development of their talent.”
With these scholarship funds, Don and Lorena Meier are giving back to a place Don remembers fondly while honoring people who are important to them – their family. While Don Meier may have left Garden County to travel the globe, he never lost his sense of place.
The University of Nebraska Foundation is a nonprofit corporation supplementing support for students, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Nebraska’s four campuses since 1936 through gifts from alumni, friends, corporations and other foundations.