Michael Yanney, Grace Tolstedt speaking at UNK winter commencement

WHAT: UNK Winter Commencement
WHEN: 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 17
WHERE: UNK Health and Sports Center
SOCIAL MEDIA: Follow @UNKearney on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see photos and posts
LIVE BROADCAST: Watch commencement live at http://unk.edu/eventdashboard

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is hosting its 2021 winter commencement ceremony 10 a.m. Friday at the Health and Sports Center on campus.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen will award degrees to 387 graduate and undergraduate students during the event.

Michael Yanney, chairman emeritus of Burlington Capital, will deliver the commencement address.

Michael Yanney
Michael Yanney

A graduate of Kearney High School, UNK and the University of Wisconsin School of Banking, Yanney’s distinguished business and investment career spans more than 60 years.

Yanney founded Burlington Capital, formerly America First Companies, in 1984 and he currently serves as chairman emeritus for the Omaha-based investment management firm. He played an integral role in expanding Burlington Capital’s real estate division to include ownership, operations, financing and development totaling more than $4 billion through the sponsorship of public and private real estate funds. The company’s portfolio has included 360 properties with 68,000 units in 40 states.

Prior to the organization of America First, Yanney was principally engaged in the ownership and management of commercial banks. He was employed by Omaha National Bank and Omaha National Corporation (now part of U.S. Bank), where he held various leadership positions, including executive vice president and treasurer of the holding company. Yanney was also a member of the board of directors and executive committee for FirsTier Financial Inc., and he served as a director for numerous corporations and investment firms.

Grace Tolstedt
Grace Tolstedt

He and his wife Gail Walling Yanney, a retired physician, have given their time, energy and resources to numerous civic, community and educational initiatives, with a specific focus on assisting disadvantaged and at-risk youth.

The student speaker is Grace Tolstedt of Alliance, who graduates summa cum laude on Friday with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and minors in political science and public law.

Tolstedt was a member of the UNK Honors Program, Kearney Law Opportunities Program, Student Government, Gold Torch Society, Pre-Law Society, FIRST Leaders, Loper Leaders and Alpha Phi Sigma criminal justice honor society. She plans to attend law school in fall 2022.

Alyssa Jacobs of Phillips will perform the national anthem with UNK collaborative pianist Mirim Kim. Jacobs graduates Friday with a master’s degree in music education.

Guests and participants are not required to wear face masks, per the university’s Phase III status in its COVID-19 response plan.

Individuals planning to attend are asked to monitor themselves for symptoms and stay at home if they are feeling ill or have been in recent contact with someone with COVID-19. Those who are unable to attend in person may watch the ceremony via livestream on UNK’s website. A recording can also be viewed later on the website.


Commencement attendees are encouraged to park in the lots west of the Health and Sports Center. Visitors with handicap permits can park east of the Health and Sports Center. Those transporting a handicapped person will have access to drop off the individual on the east side of the complex but will need to move their vehicle to another lot.

Visitors with wheelchairs can sit in the corner seating sections on the main floor of the Health and Sports Center or use the elevator in the northeast corner of the building to sit in the designated section on the arena floor.

Doors open at 8:30 a.m.