After two years of a lively, concerted effort by alumni and friends of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a new fund has been endowed to benefit students and faculty for years to come. It all began two years ago with the establishment of the Alumni and Friends Advisory Board (AFAB) of the Department of Anthropology, a group that recently celebrated reaching their fundraising goal as they gathered at the historic Plains Anthropological Conference in Lincoln this past October.
“I have humorously said that the AFAB abbreviation also stands for ‘Anthropology is fabulous,’ says the board’s Chair, Bruce Rippeteau, a retired scientist and state and university agencies director. Following an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army, Rippeteau attended Nebraska from fall 1965 to graduation in January 1968. As an undergraduate, he helped establish the Department’s AnthroGroup, a student organization and has remained a loyal supporter of the Anthropology department for decades.
In 2014, LuAnn Wandsnider, professor, and then chair of the Department of Anthropology, and Rippeteau envisioned an advisory board for the department. The new body would be formed to provide advice to the Anthropology chair, support faculty and students, and raise endowment funds. After their initial meeting, Wandsnider and Rippeteau assembled a small, enthusiastic working group, which met at the university and at Rippeteau's home in Lincoln to explore the feasibility of a board. Participating in the initial discussions were the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) External Relations Coordinator and Joye Fehringer, Director of Development for CAS, who was instrumental in leading the group’s establishment and their fundraising efforts.
Over the months to follow, the group produced draft bylaws in concert with the foundation, and various board members were invited to join the endeavor. “The subsequent generosity of the Alumni and Friends Board members was substantial in time, treasure and talent,” Rippeteau reflects.
On Earth Day, April 22, 2015, AFAB held its inaugural board meeting at the Nebraska Union. The group solidified their bylaws, board membership criteria and terms, and importantly, created the “UNL Anthropology Endowed Excellence Fund” to benefit the Anthropology department. Also decided at this first meeting was the solidification of the advisory board membership and bylaws. AFAB also established a student mentoring process with opportunities for both alumni and friends of the Anthropology program.
In addition, the group initiated a campaign to identify the past graduates and to formally contact them asking for support for the endowment and AFAB projects moving forward. A subsequent meeting featured the work of then students, Jazmin Turner, now a graduate student in the Medical Anthropology program at Creighton University, and Aaron Pattee, just beginning PhD work at the University of Heidelberg.
Fundraising took place in earnest in 2016 which to date has surpassed the goal of $25,000. The sustained outreach campaign with Fehringer at the Foundation reached the nearly 1,000 graduates of the department.
“Many of our alumni welcomed this contact and supported the endowment,” Rippeteau says, adding that AFAB now is populated not only by supporters in Nebraska, but with alumni representatives residing in Florida, New Mexico, North Dakota, Iowa and New York.
During the Plains Anthropological Conference, the group held its first ever alumni reunion on October 13, 2016. Fifteen percent of the departmental alumni were present. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joe Francisco spoke at the event, along with Rippeteau and other AFAB members, the Department of Anthropology’s current and past chairs, the conference sponsors and the conference president.
“As Interim Chair I have been deeply impressed by the enthusiasm and generosity of the department’s alumni, who, having taken their education to all corners of the world, now also are dedicating time and resources towards enhancing the education of future anthropologists and archaeologists here in Nebraska,” Chair Priscilla Hayden-Roy says. “The UNL Anthropology Endowed Excellence Fund will give our students and faculty opportunities to pursue research and engage in scholarly exchange for generations to come. It is truly a visionary gift.”
The Department of Anthropology welcomes alumni of all ages and from all parts of the globe to become involved with AFAB. For updates, visit the Anthropology website. For more information on the UNL Anthropology Endowed Excellence Fund, visit the NU Foundation's website.