Howard Wiegers Scholarship
The School of Natural Resources, created in 2003 and now the second largest department in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, can be traced to one man, Howard Wiegers. Wiegers lobbied the administration tirelessly for a wildlife program. When that was created, he continued to innovate with ways to attract and keep students.
So the Wiegers Boundary Waters Canoe Trip -- a field trip to a protected area in Minnesota near the Canadian border -- was born. And, with the help of a student who took the trip and appreciated its value, a scholarship was set up to help students who need financial aid for the trip. And after some years of dormancy, the trip is back educating students about another kind of ecosystem -- the boreal forest.
Kelly Edmonds (now Kelly Cable) went on the boundary waters with Wiegers as an undergraduate. And when she graduated, she and another former student established the Howard Wiegers Memorial Scholarship Fund, said Ron Case, a former School of Natural Resources professor.
Information about giving to this and other funds can be found at the NU Foundation web site.
Wiegers Scholarship Helps Fund Boundary Waters Field Class He Created.
In his quest for ways to better support his students, Howard Wiegers, the first wildlife professor at the University of Nebraska, said he recalled his brief stint as an assistant Boy Scout master after World War II. In particular, he remembered how much his scouts treasured their annual boundary-waters canoe trip near the border of Canada and Minnesota.
He thought that college students could benefit from a similar expedition, he said. So the Wiegers Boundary Waters Canoe Trip was born. And, with the help of a student who took the trip and appreciated its value, a scholarship was set up to assist with funding students in the field class who need financial aid for the trip. At first, he invited a select group of students who demonstrated an extraordinary interest in his classes to travel the boundary waters with him at the end of the semester.
"The trip was partly vacation, partly a lesson in wildlife studies and ecology and partly a personal growth experience,” he said.
Wiegers said he specifically crafted his canoe adventure as a chance for students to mature and learn about themselves. To do so, Wiegers said, he would invite respected, successful members of the community to accompany the group.
He chose people who made good examples for students to follow, he said.
He hoped that spending time with thriving, interesting and insightful people would give students the confidence and knowledge to chart similar courses themselves, he said.
With a few trips beneath his belt, he further reasoned that students could earn college credit for participating in the trip, he explained, because students were definitely learning on the outing.
Following the lobbying of the administration to set up a wildlife major, another round began, with Wiegers eventually acquiring the administration’s blessing for a boundary waters course.
The class met during the semester to prepare for the trip. The group would study the wildlife and ecosystems they would encounter during the two-week trip, Wiegers said.
For years, he brought his students to the boundary waters to learn, grow and earn college credit, he said. When he retired from the university, the boundary waters trip faded into obscurity. However, some SNR professors have revived it recently.
Professors Larkin Powell, Dave Wedin and Scott Hygnstrom have resurrected what they call “the extended field trip course,” Powell said.
When Powell landed at UNL, he heard the history of the trip, and having led similar courses, recognized the value of this excursion, he said. What’s more, several of UNL’s peer institutions boasted similar courses. Preparation for a new UNL boundary waters course began shortly thereafter, Powell said.
Kelly Edmonds (now Kelly Cable) was one of the students who explored the boundary waters with Wiegers as an undergraduate. And when she graduated, she and another of Wieger’s former students decided they wanted to help preserve the trip. To do so, they established the Howard Wiegers Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of their former professor, said Ron Case, a former School of Natural Resources professor.
Case said the former students founded the scholarship to pay the way for students who could not afford otherwise to participate in the expedition.
When Wiegers retired and his trip ended, the scholarship sat dormant. In fact, it has not received much giving since the original endowment of around $1,000, so anyone interested in helping build such a fund is welcome to donate, explained Bethany Throener of the University of Nebraska Foundation.
But with a boundary waters trip revival in the making, the scholarship is ready to begin helping students again.