'Silent hero' provided emergency aid to students

by Karen Burbach, UNMC strategic communications | October 14, 2020

Image with caption: Ed Brittenham

Ed Brittenham

For the past 46 years, Ed Brittenham was a 'silent hero' to students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the UNMC Financial Aid office.

Brittenham died Sept. 25 in Lincoln, Neb., at age 90, but his legacy lives on in the hundreds of students whom he helped through the Freda Brittenham Emergency Loan Fund.

To donate

Donations may be made to the:
Freda Brittenham Emergency Loan Fund
UNMC Financial Aid Office
984265 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-4265

"Ed Brittenham was a silent hero to UNMC students," and "a true hero for me," said Judi Walker, director of financial aid at UNMC.

Walker recently shared how Brittenham's late wife, Freda, was an administrative assistant to then Director of Financial Aid Bob Fredlund. Shortly after she passed away of cancer at UNMC in 1973, Brittenham visited with Fredlund and asked how he could help students. His desire was to help establish an emergency loan fund for students who were experiencing a short-term financial crisis. "At that time, financial aid was not what it is today," Walker said. "The rules were strict and providing federal funds for emergency needs was not an option."

So, in memory of his wife, Brittenham, the UNMC Financial Aid Office, and the UNMC Student Council established the Freda Brittenham Emergency Loan Fund in March 1974. Over the years, the fund grew, and countless students have received short term loans to assist them at a time of crisis.

"The needs have been as countless as the number of students who received funds," Walker said, and have ranged from car repairs to a refrigerator breakdown to an unexpected medical bill.

When Walker joined the financial aid office in 1987, Fredlund instilled upon her the importance of the fund. Walker, who plans to retire later this year, intends to do the same with the new financial aid director.

The fund remains important today, she said. "Over the years, Ed, and his son Scott, and countless other donors have made generous contributions to the loan fund, in memory of loved ones, to ensure the level of funding has grown to sustain the needs of any UNMC student in crisis are met."

"(Ed) never asked for a 'thank you' from students, Walker said, because he said, "students in crisis have more important things to worry about." Instead, he would say: "I hope when they are practicing professionals they remember how funds were made available to them ..and can find it in their hearts to contribute to pay it forward."

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Bobbi Hartshorn
October 14, 2020 at 10:03 AM

Such a wonderful act of of selflessness and kindness over the years!