On the western side of the UNMC and Nebraska Medicine Omaha campus, the Suzanne & Walter Scott Cancer Research Tower, a 10-story, 98-laboratory section of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, looms over the campus.
But the tower is only the most visible symbol of decades of support that Omaha philanthropist Walter Scott, who died Saturday at the age of 90, provided UNMC through the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation.
"Nebraska has lost a giant of philanthropy and a stalwart champion of health care," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD. "Mr. Scott has left a huge imprint on UNMC, and the results of his unwavering support will be felt across the state, nation and world in the form of advances in cancer research, cutting-edge education, biodefense and in many other areas.
"Mr. Scott was the very first private donor to publicly commit to the medical center’s Project NExT, the proposed multibillion dollar federal disaster response center and state-of-the-art medical research and training facility planned for the UNMC and Nebraska Medicine campus. His vision and courage in being the first of so many to commit to Project NExT helped ensure Nebraska will be a national leader in disaster response. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his foresight and leadership.
"On a very personal level, his leadership has been inspiring for me and so many others. He will be greatly missed, but his spirit will continue to inspire the very best for generations to come."
Scott’s impact is seen throughout the med center campus. Through the Suzanne & Walter Scott Foundation, Scott and his family helped support the Davis Global Center, the new home of the Munroe-Meyer Institute, the Chihuly Sanctuary, the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and a host of other buildings and programs designed to help improve the health and quality of life not only of their fellow Nebraskans, but through the research and educational opportunities they created, the entire world.
"Walter was a builder, not just of companies and buildings, but much more," said Nebraska Medicine CEO James Linder, MD. "He loved building Omaha through leadership to serve our community. He supported education at the University of Nebraska, Metro Community College and other institutions to build the people that make Nebraska, Nebraska -- and he succeeded, changing the lives of tens of thousands. He was a role model for leaders and philanthropists, making all of us better. Walter was my friend so I saw firsthand his human insight, compassion and humility that could be overshadowed by his accomplishments, but inspired all who worked with him."
Scott received the University of Nebraska Regents Medal in 2014. The award recognizes individuals whose services to NU’s four campuses has provided exceptional benefits in furtherance of the goals and missions of the institution.
Scott and his wife Suzanne, who died in 2013, also were honored in 2015 as Margre and Chuck Durham Spirit of Nebraska Award winners -- an honor given to an individual or group who has significantly impacted the fight against cancer in Nebraska.
"Walter Scott's support of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center has impacted countless patients and families in a myriad of ways," said Kenneth Cowan, MD, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. "From the research tower that bears his name and the name of his late wife, Suzanne, to the world-class Healing Arts program at the Buffett Cancer Center, Walter's hand has guided the creation of spaces on the campus of UNMC that educate, nurture and inspire patients, staff and students. The incredible Chihuly Sanctuary, a place of respite and healing, was Walter's vision. As a tireless visionary who never stops working to support the mission of the cancer center, Walter has helped the people who need his vision the most: our patients."
But the Scotts’ impact at UNMC went beyond their commitment to fighting cancer. With the foundation’s support of the Global Center and the new MMI building, for example, Walter Scott helped put UNMC on the cutting edge of educational simulation, biodefense and research into and treatment of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"Mr. Scott is a transformational figure for MMI, UNMC, Omaha and the broader society," said Karoly Mirnics, MD, PhD, director of the institute. "Without his sustained efforts and visionary leadership MMI would be a shadow of itself. His legacy, wisdom and care are inspiring and enduring."
In addition to their support of UNMC, Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska, the Scotts have been generous with gifts of time and leadership. Walter Scott has served as director of several community and national charities and as chair of the Board of Policy Advisors for the University of Nebraska Peter Kiewit Institute and the Omaha Zoological Society. Suzanne Scott, who passed away in 2013, served as a director of the Omaha Zoological Society, Joslyn Art Museum and the Salvation Army, and she was board chair for United Way of the Midlands.
Walter Scott was the chair emeritus and former CEO of Peter Kiewit Sons’ Inc. He also is the former chair of the board of Level 3 Communications Inc, and many other highly successful businesses and community service organizations.
His generosity, leadership and commitment to transform UNMC and Nebraska was admirable. Nebraska was blessed with Walter Scott. He will be missed and always remembered as an example of generosity, leadership and commitment to Nebraska.
I am grateful for his UNMC legacy.
When I led faculty development at UNMC, I had the privilege of traveling with Mr. Scott, Mr. Yanney, Chancellor Gold, and a group of UNMC leaders to Toledo, Ohio, as we were envisioning a world class virtual simulation center. This vision would materialize in the UNMC Davis Global Center which is transforming the way we teach our students and residents. It was a wonderful illustration of Walter's passion for his home town and the quality of healthcare in Omaha. His legacy is a lasting elevation of the quality of healthcare for generations of Nebraskans!
His impact on the Omaha community will never be forgotten.
What a legacy he leaves behind. He truly made a difference.