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Remembering Bill Scott

Longtime Nebraska donor passes away at age 93
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Longtime philanthropist and UNL graduate Bill Scott passed away unexpectedly on Feb. 27. His last public appearance was at the annual NU Foundation event at the Thunderbird Country Club in Palm Springs, Calif., five days earlier.

I have attended that event for several years and the highlight was always him playing his trumpet at the end to the tune of There Is No Place Like Nebraska with all the university leaders singing along on stage. I always made it a point to record this tradition. Here is his rendition on Feb. 22, five days before his passing.

Here is a photo of the red jackets from a few years ago. 

L-R, Dick Herman, David Max, Hugh Williams, Bill Scott

L-R, Dick Herman, David Max, Hugh Williams, Bill Scott

Bill was a 1953 graduate of UNL and was a part of the Buffett organization from 1959 to 1993. He and his wife, Ruth, are natives of Ashland, Neb. Ruth is also a graduate of UNL and had a career in education.

Bill and Ruth Scott were longtime donors to multiple campuses in the University of Nebraska system and other Nebraska educational institutions. They formed the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation in 1998. Total donations are in the $45 million range. One of the most recent donations was to the UN-Kearney campus for the Health Science Education Complex at UNK; the leadership gift for the Douglas A. Kristensen Rural Health Education Complex (or what Bill Scott had affectionately named “The Doug”). My wife Donna and I attended the Rural Health presentation on Feb. 22 and got to hear Chancellor Kristensen, who is retiring this year, give his appreciation to Bill, who was sitting in the front row with Ruth. Bill Scott was the epitome of what a true Nebraskan is with his generosity and appreciation of who are the stewards of the gifts he and Ruth gave.

His legacy will live on for generations and he will be missed. There will be a celebration of life with a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, you can make a donation to the University of Nebraska Foundation at this link. Here are statements from university leadership.

Chris Kabourek
University of Nebraska System Interim President

I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Scott at a university event just last week. He and Ruth were as warm, funny, down-to-earth and generous as everyone had told me they would be. I’ll always remember Bill closing the event by pulling out his trumpet and playing "There is No Place Like Nebraska" while the chancellors and I sang along. The Scotts are the true embodiment of great Nebraska philanthropy. While they never wanted attention or credit for any of it, it would be impossible to overstate the impact their generosity has had on the lives of students and Nebraskans. The University of Nebraska is a stronger, more accessible, more impactful institution for the leadership and vision of Ruth and Bill. We have lost a great Nebraskan, but Bill’s legacy will touch our university and state for many generations. All of us at the University of Nebraska thank Bill for his lifetime of service and extend our deepest sympathy to Ruth and the Scott family at this sad time.

Brian Hastings
University of Nebraska Foundation President and CEO

Bill Scott was truly one of a kind. He was a treasure to Nebraska and its University – a man who gave generously touching so many projects and programs at the University of Nebraska through his many thoughtful investments. He gave simply to help others and to make Nebraska a great place to live and raise a family, and he did it all without ever wanting to be in the spotlight. We are all better for having known Bill Scott. He will be deeply missed.

University of Nebraska at Kearney Chancellor Doug Kristensen

“Bill Scott’s passing enables us to reflect on one of the great Nebraskans. Bill and his wife Ruth, from their first kiss at age 12 at the top of the Ferris wheel, have been a great team. A team that has significantly and generously benefited so many Nebraska communities. Quietly, they have impacted so many rural communities with their charitable giving. Most recently, the state’s most comprehensive rural health education initiative benefited from their lead donation. Bill was a friend to the University and the state. Personally, I found Bill to be a great role model in how to impact all Nebraskans for the common good with their resources. My sincere sympathy to Ruth and the Scott family. They are one of the great Nebraska families.”

University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeff Gold

“Bill Scott was a champion of the faculty, staff and students at UNMC. More so, he was a wonderful friend and simply a terrific human being. He and Ruth’s impact on the University of Nebraska Medical Center is incalculable. Our thoughts go out to Ruth and the rest of the Scott family. We should take comfort in knowing that Bill’s support of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine will have a lasting impact on the health and well-being not only of his fellow Nebraskans, but on others throughout the country and the world. His is a magnificent legacy.”

University of Nebraska at Omaha Chancellor Joanne Li

“Bill and Ruth Scott’s contribution to the University of Nebraska, including UNO, is immense. Bill Scott and Ruth changed the trajectory of this urban university, especially in our world-renowned biomechanics department, and created a multigenerational impact among our communities by funding critical student support initiatives. Words don’t seem enough to describe how saddened we are to lose one of our most inspirational philanthropists but to quote Winston Churchill: ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ This sums up Bill’s life and the profound effect he had on our entire community. Our hearts go out to Ruth and the Scott family.”

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Rodney Bennett

“Bill Scott loved the state of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the University loved him right back. Along with his wife, Ruth, the Scotts have impacted generations of UNL students through their support of numerous projects and initiatives, including the Dinsdale Family Learning Commons, a transformational space on East Campus; the Nebraska Food for Health Center; and our beloved Nebraska State Museum – Morrill Hall. UNL shares in mourning Bill’s passing with all those who loved and cared for him.”