Time out with T.O. - The perfect fit

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC strategic communications (retired) | October 27, 2020

Image with caption: Doug Ewald

Doug Ewald

Doug Ewald readily admits that patience isn't one of his strong suits.

In 2017, when Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, opened the search for the expanded position of vice chancellor for business, finance and business development for both UNMC and UNO, Ewald was pumped.

picture disc.
Doug Ewald, right, with son Dane Ewald, who graduated from the UNMC College of Pharmacy in 2019

"I always felt this was one of the most coveted positions within the university," he said.

He wanted the chancellor to know how interested he was, so he attended a forum at UNO where Dr. Gold was speaking. Afterwards, he introduced himself to the chancellor and got the ball rolling.

The process took nearly a year, but in the summer of 2018, it concluded with Ewald getting the job offer. Dr. Gold calls him the "perfect fit."

"I think it took five months to put the job description together," Ewald joked. "It was well worth the wait. These past two years have been quite a journey. I've learned you need to have thick skin, but I'm excited to be here. It's all about building relationships...knowing who to go to for answers."

One sporty guy

Sports have been -- and continue to be -- a big part of Doug Ewald's life.

He went to Omaha Northwest High School and played first base under the legendary baseball coach, Bill Olson.

From there, he played college baseball at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Following college, Ewald played for Godfather's Pizza in the most competitive slow pitch softball league in Omaha. He was still playing in the summer of 2019 but took this year off with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ewald and his wife, Robin, love to play couples golf and two times a week (they call it "date night") they work out at a fitness center.

To build morale in his large workforce, Ewald enjoys treating them to a UNO Mavericks hockey game or an Omaha Storm Chasers baseball game.

With more than 600 people reporting to Ewald, the job is massive. It encompasses accounting, human resources, IT, facilities, energy management and more - on both campuses.

"I split my time between UNMC and UNO over typically a 50-60 hour work week," Ewald said. "It's a lot, but I knew that coming in. Dr. Gold is a work horse. You're excited to get up in the morning and work for him."

Ewald is quick to credit his team with any success. "The key is to surround yourself with good people and then get out of their way and let them perform.

"This job isn't about me. But, I know at the end of the day, the buck stops here. I want to be a solution finder instead of saying 'no' all the time."

A certified public accountant (CPA), Ewald brings a unique combination of public/private sector experience to the position. His corporate experience includes stints at Arthur Andersen & Company, Union Pacific, KPMG and Ameritas. On the public side, he served as state tax commissioner under Gov. Dave Heineman.

He used his skillset this year to play a key role in getting the Nebraska State Legislature to provide state funding for UNMC's NExT Project, a transformational initiative that will enhance UNMC's position as a national leader in medical research and hazard response, while potentially creating 8,700 great-paying jobs.

The Ewald file

Personal/education

  • Lifelong resident of Omaha
  • Graduate, Northwest High School
  • Undergraduate degree with honors, accounting, Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, Iowa (1985)
  • Master's of professional accounting degree with honors, UNO (1987)
  • Certified Public Accounting (CPA) license

    Work career

  • Arthur Andersen & Company (May 1987 - Dec. 1989)
  • Union Pacific, director, state taxes (Jan. 1990 - Dec. 2006)
  • Tax commissioner, Nebraska Department of Revenue (Nov. 2006-Oct. 2013)
  • KPMG, managing director, state and local tax practice (Oct. 2013 - Oct. 2017)
  • Ameritas, tax director
  • UNMC/UNO, vice chancellor for business, finance and business development (Aug. 2018 - present)

    Honors/awards

  • UNO Distinguished Alumnus Award
  • John Fisher Alumni Award from Buena Vista University

    Other highlights

  • Guest speaker at numerous conferences
  • Author, several publications
  • Board of directors, Senior Health Foundation
  • Member, Accounting Advisory Board, University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Board of directors, Millard North Baseball
  • Finance director, Omaha AAA Hockey Club
  • Board member, Mid-America Council for the Boy Scouts of America
  • In a year in which the state budget has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, procuring any sort of state funding for the project was a huge victory.

    "You take what you can get," Ewald said. "You have to start somewhere."

    Ewald is the only CPA to serve as Nebraska tax commissioner. His monumental accomplishments included:

    • reorganizing the Department of Revenue;
    • saving $13 million by spending 90% of the appropriated budget and strategically allocating dollars to high impact initiatives; and
    • making Nebraska the No. 1 state in the country in terms of electronic tax filing.

    Ewald is a firm believer that everyone needs mentors. One of his favorite mentors at Union Pacific was Bernie Gutschewski, whose son, Scott, is a professional golfer. He rattles off one of Bernie's favorite expressions -- "We pay people good money here to sit at their desk and think. E-mail has become a distraction."

    Don Leuenberger, who also served as tax commissioner before serving as vice chancellor for business and finance at UNMC for 27 years, is someone Ewald tries to connect with once a month.

    Although Ewald's only been working at UNMC for two years, the medical center has become a center point for his family. His son, Dane, graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 2019, while another son, Cale, is a fourth-year medical student at UNMC.

    Doug credits his wife, Robin, with also being "invested" in UNMC, often attending evening events with her husband. "If there is an important UNMC event, she is there."

    Bottom line -- he couldn't be happier that he pushed that initial meeting with Dr. Gold.

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    Donny Suh
    October 27, 2020 at 7:56 AM

    Also, T.O. does a great job writing these articles and highlighting various people who are making a difference at UNMC. Thank you for what you do!

    Donny Suh
    October 27, 2020 at 7:54 AM

    Great to have Doug with us at UNMC. Thanks for what you do for us to help our patients.

    Heidi Keeler
    October 27, 2020 at 4:55 AM

    Doug is the real deal. We are so fortunate that he is working for us at UNMC.