William McGeachin Scholarship

Set up by Betty McKee to honor her father, the late William McGeachin (see article at right about Mr. McGeachin), this fund is for undergraduates demonstrating academic excellence and financial need. McGeachin was an engineer for the Lincoln gas company, a 1903 graduate of the University of Nebraska and a native of Orleans in Harlan County.

He demonstrated a live-long commitment to resource conservation and the beauties of nature through various state and community projects and by passing these passions on to his children.

Scholarships Given
  • Typically 5 per year

Two significant contributions were as a major lobbyist for passage of the Highway Beautification Act in Nebraska, which banned billboards within 600 yards of the Interstate and made the state eligible for additional federal conservation funding; and a statewide tree-planting program for fifth-graders that was adopted by various communities.

McGeachin Wove Environmental Protection into Every one of his Teachings

When Betty McKee thinks about her father, what she remembers most is how he taught his children about the importance of protecting the environment. Having lived through the Dust Bowl years, William McGeachin would point out shelterbelts and other conservation practices whenever the family traveled.

"He wove environmental protection into every one of his teachings. I think that it's important to encourage such lessons," she said. "My dad was a very intelligent, caring person. He grew up in Orleans in Harlan County and lived there being in touch with nature."

In memory of her father, and to support lessons both her parents taught, as well as the kind of work she sometimes did as a state senator's aide in Illinois, McKee established the William McGeachin Memorial Scholarship Fund for the School of Natural Resource Sciences. The fund is for undergraduates majoring in natural resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln demonstrating academic excellence and financial need.

A 1903 graduate of UNL, McGeachin worked most of his professional life as an engineer for the Lincoln gas company. But conservation was his avocation and his love. Among his lasting legacies is the state Highway Beautification Act. This act established a ban on billboards within 600 yards of the U.S. Interstate Highway. In addition, if the state passed the law, a percentage of federal highway funds were to be used for beautification along the interstate. Signed into law in 1960, the bill took much persistence on her father's part during the 1950s, McKee said.

"He contacted each legislator individually every year until the bill passed. He considered the passage of this act to be one of his most significant achievements," she said. McGeachin's work for this and other beautification projects earned him the highest award given by the Garden Club of Lincoln and the Federated Garden Clubs of Nebraska: the President's Citation for Distinguished Service to Horticulture.

Another little-known legacy is a tree-planting program for fifth graders in Nebraska's elementary schools. After retiring, McGeachin began this program in 1954. Students were given trees to take home and plant. Six years later, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce adopted the program and instituted it in all Lincoln elementary schools.

"He just had a lot of ideas about conservation," she continued, "things that hadn't been pursued. He also loved hunting and fishing."

McKee, a 1941 graduate of the University of Nebraska, established the McGeachin Scholarship shortly after the creation of the SNRS in 1997. A University of Nebraska Foundation staff member visited her about a gift as the university was just setting up the school, and the scholarship seemed like the right way to contribute, she explained.

"It was like an epiphany, to set up this scholarship," she added. "I'm sure that there are still a few people who remember what my father did for the environment, but the quiet heroes are often forgotten. This is my way to help others remember Bill McGeachin."

Opportunities for Giving

Information about giving to this and other funds can be found at the NU Foundation web site.

Award Winners

YearRecipients
2017-2018
Abigail Gramlich
Bethany Hollman
Evan Laible
Jasmine Mausbach
Quade Brees
2016-2017
Avery Dresser
Bethany Hollman
Brooke Mott
James Rutledge
Lindsay Ohlman
2015-2016
Benjamin Heusinkvelt
Cassie Cichorz
Elizabeth Lutz
Katherine Lagerstrom
Zachary Schafer
2014-2015
Charrissa Zuerlien
Ellen Paige Dolph
Jason Feldman
Jessie O'Connor
Zachary Schafer
2013-2014
Jessica Hansen
Kayla Tarr
Michelle Dvoracek
Paige Dunkle
2012-2013
Amanda Burau
Derek Mettenbrink
Jessica Powell
Michelle Dvoracek
Reed Brodersen
Zachary Schafer
2011-2012
Brian Prusa
Jacob Linderholm
Josiah Dallmann
Katherine Boone
Lindy Rauscher
Zachariah Douglas
2010-2011
Ben Beckman
Jeremy Grauf
Katherine Boone
Lisa Zilli
Michael Boden
Sarah Moy
2009-2010
Dillon Dittmet
Lindy Rauscher
Lisa Zilli
Samantha Bray
Sarah Moy
2008-2009
Colleen Zajac
Danielle McNeil
Dillon Dittmet
Jessica Milby
Julia DeWilde
Kelly Kappen
Lindsay Fischer
Michaela Wolf
2007-2008
Colleen Zajac
Jessica Milby
Kelly Kappen
Lars Anderson
Scott Harter
Trevor Hefley
2006-2007
Brian Smith
Dane Peterson
Jessica Milby
Nick Sell
Rich Wilson
Scott Groepper
Todd Burda
Trevor Hefley
2005-2006
Landon Pierce
Lindsey Richters
Nathanial Kroeten
Rebecca Sikes
Rich Wilson
Robert Sheeder
2004-2005
Joe Crandell
Landon Pierce
Lindsey Richters
Ryan Walrath
Stacey Stricker
William Score
2003-2004
Jessica Schell
Michael Gillian
Nicholas Dobesh
Rich Wilson
Ryan Walrath
2002-2003
Anthony Barada
Chad Brock
Delia Buerstetta
Neil Martinsen
Travis Shepler