Thayer family gift creates endowed scholarship in UNMC College of Allied Health

April 24, 2018

Image with file name: DJ_Thayer_photo.jpg

The Thayer family -- an anchor in health care in the Grand Island area for many years -- recently made a $500,000 donation to the College of Allied Health Professions to endow scholarships for allied health students. But then something even more amazing happened.

That $500,000 became $1 million.

The Thayers' incredible gift is matched dollar for dollar by the Charles R. O'Malley Charitable Lead Trust. It's the latest, and largest, addition to an endowed scholarship program established by the college and the O'Malley Trust in 2017.

The O'Malley Trust made a sizable outright gift to endow the program -- but also promised to double the money of future donors who joined the project, up to a total match of $1 million more.

With the Thayers' donation, and the O'Malley Trust's match, the scholarship program is now the largest gift in the college's history, and counting. It also more than doubles previous annual scholarship funds available for allied health students.

"The incredible generosity and foresight of the Thayer family and the O'Malley Charitable Lead Trust will make allied health professions education affordable for generations of Nebraska students. And these students will in turn pay it forward by serving the health care needs of their fellow Nebraskans. We are all very grateful for their support," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

The scholarships are to help increase opportunities for underrepresented students from across Nebraska to become health care professionals, creating a high quality, diverse workforce to serve all of Nebraska -- including its medically underserved areas.

"The thing that sparked this more than anything is, in central Nebraska, and other parts of Nebraska, sometimes the primary care provider is not a physician, it's an allied health professional," said family member D.J. Thayer, who also is director of international and domestic business affairs for UNMC.

Outstanding students from Greeley, Howard and Hall counties will be the first tier of candidates for Thayer scholarships, followed by students from other rural Nebraska counties, said Kyle Meyer, Ph.D., dean of the College of Allied Health Professions.

Said Brian Anderson of the University of Nebraska Foundation: "What a unique partnership combining amazing generosity and innovation -- two foundations that would have otherwise never connected, combining their gifts to multiply an outcome for Nebraska students."

D.J. Thayer said the scholarships, and the students who earn them, will honor two family matriarchs: his mother, Jan Thayer, and his paternal grandmother, Emma Thayer, who served as a substitute teacher in central Nebraska public schools well into her eighties. "That work ethic and drive and the importance of education means a lot to my family," D.J. Thayer said.

Jan Thayer grew up on a farm near Wolbach, Neb., graduated from UNL and became a clinical dietician. She worked at St. Francis Hospital in Grand Island, founded her own dietetic consulting firm, and passed her knowledge to her fellow Nebraskans through local radio and TV shows. She later combined her passion for health care with a sharp business acumen. She owned and founded nursing homes and retirement communities.

She eventually founded and served as CEO of a company with 400 employees and retirement facilities in three states. She earned a slew of state and national awards and served on numerous national boards. Jan Thayer died in 2014 at the age of 76.

Jan’s husband Ernie Thayer, is former chairman of the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce, and currently chairman and CEO of the Agricultural Land Company in Grand Island.

The Thayer family is proud to have had three generations and counting educated at the University of Nebraska.

For more information on donating to the endowed scholarship program contact Brian Anderson of the University of Nebraska Foundation at 402-502-4113 or via email at:

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