UNK scholarship honors teaching passion of Neva Nielsen

Contact: Robb Crouch, NU Foundation, 402-458-1142, rcrouch@nufoundation.org

Kearney, Neb., May 14, 2013 — Monty Nielsen vividly remembers being taught by his mother, Neva Nielsen, in a one-room rural school in Nebraska. He witnessed firsthand her passion and enthusiasm for teaching, and now he hopes to pass it on to students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

He and his spouse, Anne Nielsen, have established the Neva Nielsen Elementary Education Scholarship in honor of his mother and her devotion to teaching. The permanent endowment was established with a $25,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation and will forever provide annual scholarship awards to elementary education students at UNK who graduated from either Superior High School or Nelson High School in Nuckolls County.

Nielsen said his mother knew she wanted to be a teacher ever since she was a young girl growing up in south-central Nebraska. She enjoyed teaching despite the challenges of instructing in a one- room rural school during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.

“My mother said upon retirement from teaching that she would not have traded being a teacher for any other career,” Monty Nielsen said. Neva Nielsen taught for 30 years in several rural and small city elementary schools in south central Nebraska, capping her career at North Ward Elementary School in Superior. “She loved to teach, and she loved the children she taught. She cherished all of those relationships and the positive impact she had on her students’ lives.”

Now living in Manhattan, Kan., Monty Nielsen has devoted his own life’s work to education through higher education administration and is also a University of Nebraska alumnus, with a bachelor’s degree from UNK and a doctor of education from UNL.

“I hope this scholarship means UNK students who want to teach will be able to complete their education in a timely manner and be able to pursue teaching as quickly as Neva had wanted to,” Monty Nielsen said. “I hope it will reduce, if not eliminate, some of their educational debt burden. And most of all, I hope Neva’s story will be inspirational to them and instill in them that same sense of care and love for their students that she had for her students.”

Ed Scantling, dean of the College of Education, said, “We are very appreciative of this generous gift in honor of Ms. Neva Nielsen and the dedication she displayed over a long career as an elementary teacher in Nebraska. This scholarship will enable future elementary teachers from UNK to follow in her footsteps as strong educators.”

Neva Nielsen, a native of Bostwick, Neb., earned a Nebraska Elementary Teaching Certificate shortly after high school and began her teaching career in a one-room rural school in Webster County. She later began her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in 1936 at age 20 and completed the degree at Kearney State College in 1970 at age 54, all while continuing to teach. She married Ervin Nielsen, a local farmer, in 1947, and they farmed around Abdal, Neb., until 1970. Monty was their only son. Ervin died in 1972. Neva retired in 1982 after teaching for 30 years, and she died in 2010.

“Good teachers, such as my mother, are vital to all children and their education, so if this scholarship can help UNK students today and tomorrow achieve the levels of accomplishment and satisfaction in teaching that my mother did, then it will be a small contribution, a good thing, for which Neva would be pleased,” Monty Nielsen said.

In addition to the named scholarship fund, the Nielsens are also honoring Neva Nielsen at UNK with a plaque on the One Room, One Teacher Wall of Honor in the College of Education building. The new honor wall enables family and friends to recognize Nebraska teachers and will be unveiled during UNK’s homecoming weekend on Sept. 20.

The gift of this scholarship also provides support to the university’s current fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, and a priority to increase available student scholarship awards.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 75 years. In 2012 donors, through their gifts to the foundation, provided the university with $165 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty and buildings. All foundation funds are donor designated. The foundation’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, concludes in 2014. For more information, visit campaignfornebraska.org.