From one building in a small prairie town to more than 43,020 acres of campuses statewide, Nebraska’s land-grant university has grown beyond the imaginations of the legislators who passed the institution’s charter in 1869.
In a new volume, “Dear Old Nebraska U: Celebrating 150 Years,” published by the University of Nebraska Press, writer Kim Hachiya and photographer Craig Chandler have traced that growth and the people who made it happen.
One could say the book is more than 150 years in the making, but it got its start when the steering committee formed in 2017 and began the initial planning of the university’s 150th anniversary celebration. The committee guided the overall direction of the book, establishing an outline of things to be included. Hachiya and Chandler took over writing and photography duties in January 2018, and the list grew.
“It was important to me to think about the arc of the university, the arc of its history, and how decisions and philosophies that were laid out early on, are still part of our thinking today,” Hachiya said. “The charter is a good example in terms of our idea of inclusivity. That’s always been there.”
Hachiya relied on past centennial books, Robert E. Knoll’s “Prairie University,” digitized collections of the Daily Nebraskan and Cornhusker yearbooks, interviews and more.
“It was fun to dip into all that history,” Hachiya said. “I tried to incorporate the well-known things you’d expect, and the things that are more unique about us.”
Chandler, who is also the director of photography for University Communication at Nebraska and has been photographing campus for more than a decade, used archival photos, but also had sought out new photo opportunities.
“The project couldn’t have happened without all the images in the Love Library Special Collections directed by Mary Ellen Ducey,” Chandler said. “I had a lot of help. Everyone across campus was willing to work with me to get some of the shots I didn’t have, such as the shot of all the trophies amassed by athletics or the students with the 153 flags representing our international students.”
Hachiya is no stranger to the university, being an alumna, Alpha Xi Delta sorority sister, and a former member of the University Communication team, still learned a copious amount about her alma mater. Her favorite “discovered” stories include how fellow former Husker Bion J. Arnold is considered the father of the third rail and that alumna Gladys Rowena Henry Dick developed a vaccine and antitoxin for scarlet fever.
“I had never heard of this woman, and I just stumbled across her, and thought, ‘this is a great story,’” Hachiya said.
There are plenty of other surprises and opportunities to reminisce throughout the book. “Dear Old Nebraska U” is available for purchase in the University Bookstore, local booksellers and through the University of Nebraska Press website. A book signing with Chandler and Hachiya is planned as part of the N150 Charter Day Open House, 10 a.m. to noon Feb. 15 at the Wick Alumni Center, 1520 R St.