This is a campus tale that would make Harry Pecha, composer of “There is No Place Like Nebraska,” beam with pride.
As thousands of Huskers streamed from Memorial Stadium, celebrating graduates with photos and hugs after the first of two historic commencement ceremonies on May 8, a wayward sandwich bag holding a short stack of 20-dollar bills floated away on the wind.
Dropped accidentally while shuffling blankets, commencement programs and other graduation accoutrements near Richards Hall, the sealed baggie would be discovered under a car in a parking lot to the east of the stadium.
“We were on the east side of the stadium, right there in front of the statue, walking to our car when my son thought there was money under a nearby car,” said Angel Moore Thomas. “We picked it up and noticed it had a name on it. So, we stood there and hung out, waiting to see if anyone would come looking for it.”
The Thomases, who are from Blair, Nebraska, were in attendance celebrating the graduation of their daughter, Emma Thomas. Emma, whose studies focused on music performance, earned a Bachelor of Music from the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.
After a few minutes, the family decided to contact University Police and turn in the found cash.
“We would have waited longer, but we needed to get home for our graduation party,” Moore Thomas said. “We really wanted to get it turned in to lost and found because it was obviously money allocated for someone — we thought maybe a graduate.”
Some 30 minutes later, while out to eat with her newly-graduated daughter, Elizabeth Schuster realized the sandwich bag was missing. From Lincoln, the family was honoring their daughter Grace Schuster, who majored in fisheries and wildlife and graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
“It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was the $200 my daughter pays us every month for rent,” Schuster said. “I went out to the car to look for it, but it wasn’t there. That’s when I realized we must have been dropped when we were taking photos by Richards Hall.
“Losing that much money made me feel a little sick in the stomach, but I had to move on because this was my daughter’s special day. And, I hoped, maybe someone would find it and turn it in.”
Schuster submitted a report via the university’s TIPS system later in the day, then followed up by contacting the University Police Department on May 9. She was notified May 10 that the money had been found and was ready to be picked up at the University Police Department.
“It’s surreal to think about it floating around in the wind and being found by someone who turned it into the campus police — but that’s just what Nebraskans do,” Schuster said. “We’re at a time in history when we disagree on so many things, but, doggone it, Huskers do the right thing when it comes down to it.”
From the other side of the found cash, Moore Thomas agreed.
“There was never a question about what we were going to do with the money,” Moore Thomas said. “We wouldn’t feel right taking it — which, would have given me a huge guilt complex. For us, it was all about finding the owner.
“That’s the Nebraska way.”