Dr. Roger Hughes ’82, Doane’s 13th President, articulated a new motto, “We Build Leaders,” last year. It highlights the fact that Doane's graduates have set themselves apart as leaders, entrepreneurs and critical thinkers for the past century and a half. Here are just a few who have stood out in their field, stood up for others, and paved the way for future generations.
Margaret Thompson Sheldon 1886
Sheldon taught mathematics at Doane starting in 1886, and later became professor of English literature after receiving her master’s degree in 1897. She was active in campaigning for women’s suffrage, served on a commission for statewide child welfare reform, and participated in multiple civic organizations.
Alva R. Kinney 1897
Co-founder of Nebraska Consolidated Mills, which later became ConAgra.
Claude E. Welsh M.D. ’27
Renowned surgeon who taught at Harvard Medical School, served as an Army surgeon in World War II and advocated for equality in medical treatments as chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, among other positions. He is known for being called to Rome to consult on abdominal surgery for Pope John Paul II, after he was shot during an assassination attempt on May 31, 1981.
Donald W. Nyrop J.D. ’34
Nyrop graduated from Doane with a degree in history, and later earned a law degree from George Washington University. He held a distinguished career in aviation, heading the Civil Aeronautics Administration and running Northwest Airlines. While CEO of Northwest Airlines, he handled the hijacking of Flight #305, on Nov. 24, 1971. Nyrop was a 14-year member of Doane's Board of Trustees and the recipient of numerous Doane awards for his generous support and leadership.
John K. Vance ’37
Vance worked for the CIA starting in 1947 and served on the inspector general’s staff from 1960-63. He became director of central reference until he retired in 1971. He discovered in the early 1960s that the CIA was administering LSD and other drugs to human subjects without consent. His discovery — alongside the inspector general's report — helped stop the CIA's testing.
Allen "Al" L. Franta ’41
Franta worked for 16 years with the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. doing radar research, including on airborne early warning systems still used today. Later, he worked for Submarine Signal in Boston; and for NASA from 1959-75 where he helped select the sites for Cape Canaveral and Cape Kennedy, and helped build the Goddard Space Center. Additionally, Franta worked for General Electric, Lockheed and Bendix Aerospace.
A. Ivan Johnson ’41
Johnson’s career and expertise in engineering and geohydrology took him across the world during his time with the U.S. Geological Survey, as a private consultant to Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Senegal and Morocco, and as UNESCO consultant to Turkey and Mexico. He received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Department of the Interior Merit Award in 1962 and Meritorious Service Award in 1977, and helped lead an international symposium on land subsidence for UNESCO.
Rev. Robert L. Polk Ph.D. ’52
Polk has spent his career building bridges and challenging the barriers between races and cultures. He was the first Black student to graduate from Doane, and became ordained in 1955. Throughout his career as a reverend in the Congregational Church, he remained heavily engaged in working with young people and their families, as well as social justice outreach. Polk was appointed Dean of the Chapel and acting Dean of Students at Dillard University in 1966. Although he retired in 1997, Polk has continued to serve through numerous New York non-profit organizations and the City College of New York. The annual Robert L. Polk Lectureship on Race and Social Justice was created at Doane in his name in 2016.
Toshihiro “Tom” Takami ’56
Founder of the Asian Rural Institute, a leadership training program that promotes sustainable agriculture and community development in rural Japan. Takami received the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize in 1994, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding, and the William Sloane Coffin Award for Peace and Justice from the Yale Divinity Center in 2012.
Sharon L. Wilch ’59
Wilch was the first woman to lead the Colorado High School Activities Association, where she served as an administrator for 27 years. She established nationally recognized programs in equity and Title IX training and led the sanctioning of girls’ sports at the CHSAA. Wilch was inducted into the CHSAA’s Hall of Fame in 1997, and the National High School Hall of Fame in 1998.
Jane Renner Hood Ph.D. ’66
Hood served as executive director of the Nebraska Humanities Council for 23 years before retiring in 2010. She has been recognized with many awards for her work in bringing arts and culture opportunities to communities across the state, including the 2013 Sower Award of the Humanities. She has served on Doane’s Board of Trustees since 2011.
Ola I. Kupka ’66
Kupka took her degree in art from Doane to the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City, where she was on the team that coordinated displaying King Tutankhamun’s treasures in a tour across the U.S. from 1976-1978. This was the first time the exhibit was shown outside of Egypt.
Judi M. gaiashkibos ’00L
Since 1995, gaiashkibos has been the executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, promoting opportunities for Nebraska’s Native populations and working with the state legislature. She has won multiple awards, including the 2012 Humanities Nebraska Sower Award and was recognized in 2021 for Excellence in Government Service at Lincoln’s Inspire: Celebrating Women’s Leadership awards. gaiashkibos also served on Doane’s Board of Trustees.