Kevin Hopper, 60, a University of Nebraska employee for more than 40 years, died Aug. 19 of complications due to COVID-19.
Hopper, a technical consultant with Information Technology Services, started working at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln on Nov. 6, 1979. He began his career as an input/output clerk, processing information for departments. He also served as an IT service center associate and, most recently, as a technical consultant in the university’s Operations Center.
“We are deeply saddened to learn about Kevin’s death during this pandemic,” Chancellor Ronnie Green said. “He was a dedicated employee and greatly relied upon for his institutional knowledge, gathered over decades of service.
“This brings the devastating impacts of COVID-19 closer to home for all members of the UNL community. We mourn this tragic loss and offer support and our deepest sympathy to Kevin’s family, colleagues and friends.”
Kristy Kennedy, assistant manager of the Operations Center for IT Client Services, who served as Hopper’s supervisor, said he exemplified the meaning of the word “team.”
“He made so many contributions to the university during his time here and was always happy to lend a hand in any way he could,” Kennedy said. “Kevin was quick to volunteer for an additional shift or learn a new task. And, he was always there with a quick joke to lighten the serious moments in the office.”
He pulled some of that humor from his loves, which included Star Trek (shown in a “Captain — Incoming message” text alert that played on his mobile phone) and books. He was particularly fond of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” from which he was known to quote two sayings — a simple “42” when asked a question (a number which, in the book, is the answer to life, the universe and everything) and, “So long, and thanks for the fish,” which he used in place of good-bye.
“I found Kevin to be very dedicated to the ‘behind the scenes’ details, always making sure that the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed,” said Bob Goeman, executive director of IT Client Services. “And, his institutional knowledge was second to none.”
In December, Hopper was among NU Central Administration employees honored for their years of service to the institution. A biography, written by Hopper and read during the event by then interim-NU president Susan Fritz, provided an overview of the changes Hopper experienced working at Nebraska U.
The presentation described how Hopper fed stacks of individual cards — each holding just 80 characters per line — into an IBM 360/65 mainframe for processing. He also recalled friendly competitions as employees worked to see how many computer processes could be run simultaneously.
“Years later, even laptops have more power than that of the 360/45 and we now monitor network connections all across the state,” Hopper wrote. “Many of the things we do today were a mere glimmer in someone’s eye back then. What a wild ride it has been!”
Hopper became ill earlier this summer and was hospitalized for about a month before his death. After his positive diagnosis for COVID-19, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department conducted contact tracing procedures and alerted individuals who were in close contact with Hopper about the need to self-quarantine.
Hopper is survived by his wife, Jeri Davenport Hopper, and two teenage sons, Angus and Drake, both of Lincoln.
“Lynda and I join the University of Nebraska family in mourning the loss of our colleague, Kevin Hopper,” said Ted Carter, president of the University of Nebraska system. “Kevin was a true public servant, dedicating his career to the betterment of the university and the student experience.”
Any member of the campus community experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact a health provider for an assessment and possible testing. The university is working with TestNebraska to offer a free-testing option for the campus community. Any member of the campus community who tests positive for COVID-19 should immediately contact the Public Health Advocacy Team at email@example.com. Learn more about COVID-19 case reporting, testing and contact tracing.
For the latest updates and information on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit covid19.unl.edu.