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Local philanthropists donate $19 million to UNO for Innovation and Excellence Fund and leadership endowment

Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 07, 2023

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — Barbara Weitz has been a part of UNO, whether as a student or faculty, for over 30 years and in those decades she has seen a lot of change come to the university.

“I started, I grew up here. This was one building with a cupola on top and it was the University of Omaha. To see the growth that has happened from here to now is astounding,” said Weitz.

In that time Weitz says the university has grown from its humble beginnings and woven itself into the fabric of Omaha.

“It's grown into a University that sees itself as a metropolitan university that sees itself as all of Omaha is our campus. I think I see us as a place where people can be comfortable,” said Weitz.

Weitz and her husband Wally have been ardent supporters of UNO throughout the years.

The on-campus community engagement center carries her name as well as her and her husband’s latest contribution looks to build on that legacy.

“If you ask me what is my first reaction? I am beyond excitement. Because this gift is a very important signal to our faculty, staff and our community that the Weitz family, Barbara and Wally, really believe in the work we do,” said UNO Chancellor Joanne Li.

The Weitz’s recently announced they will be donating $19 million dollars to UNO.

$14 million of that will create the Weitz Innovation and Excellence Fund, which will award grants to UNO priorities that may benefit from new investments.

The other $5 million go to the Barbara and Wally Weitz Endowed Chair in Higher Education Leadership.

This will be a first-of-its-kind position in the University of Nebraska System and Li thinks it will be a critical part of UNO’s success moving forward.

“We have heard the national narrative about the relevancy of education. So we really do need wonderful leadership at UNO. To be brave, courageous, to do the right thing at all times. To make a commitment to a community and all of the students in their family,” said Li.

From 2024 to 2029 Chancellor Li will ask for annual proposals that could be funded, a committee will then review those proposals and select the ones they think will benefit the university the most.

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