New Innocents Society, Mortar Board members inducted

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New Innocents Society, Mortar Board members inducted

The new Innocents Society members are, from left, Taylor Lofdahl, Sam Brower, Natasha Naseem, Olivia Beier, Marcella Mercer, Shelby Williby, Erin Sheehan, Tanner McKerlie, Kayla Punt, Tiffany Truong, Alan Davis, Kurt Cronican and Alec Williams.
Courtesy photo | Michelle Waite
The new Innocents Society members are, from left, Taylor Lofdahl, Sam Brower, Natasha Naseem, Olivia Beier, Marcella Mercer, Shelby Williby, Erin Sheehan, Tanner McKerlie, Kayla Punt, Tiffany Truong, Alan Davis, Kurt Cronican and Alec Williams.

Students, faculty and alumni were honored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln at its annual Ivy Day ceremonies on April 8.

The event, co-sponsored by Mortar Board and the Innocents Society, recognized the outstanding contributions of students selected to serve in the two organizations, as well as the achievements of current members and notable underclassmen and seniors.

Ceremonies took place at the Nebraska Champions Club and concluded with the traditional planting of the ivy by the 2017-18 presidents of the societies, Alexandra Janvrin of Elkhorn for Mortar Board and Taylor Lofdahl of Omaha for the Innocents Society.

Jane Hirt, former managing editor and vice president of the Chicago Tribune, delivered the keynote address. Before her time at the Tribune, she was founding editor of RedEye, a pioneering millennial news brand in Chicago. She graduated from Nebraska in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In college, she was president of Mortar Board, managing editor of The Daily Nebraskan and an officer in Chi Omega sorority. She is now a consultant.

Honorary memberships in the Innocents Society were presented to Greg Bashford, professor and biomedical engineer in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering; Kwame Dawes, Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner; and Chad Kilpatrick, recruitment manager in the Office of Admissions.

Honorary Mortar Board memberships were presented to Lindsay Hastings, Clifton Professor in mentoring research and director of the Nebraska Human Resources Institute; Helen Fagan, lecturer in agricultural leadership, education and communication; and Donde Plowman, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer at Nebraska.

The Innocents Society inducts 13 new members each spring, with selection based on leadership, scholarship and service to the university and greater community. The Innocents Society was founded in 1903 to promote the spirit of the university and is the chancellor’s senior honorary. It is not affiliated with any national organization.

New members of Mortar Board are tapped into the Black Masque Chapter each spring by Mortar Boarders wearing black masks and robes. The 28 new members were selected on the basis of outstanding scholarship, leadership and service to the university and community.

The following is a list by hometown of the 2017 inductees into the Innocents Society and the Black Masque chapter of Mortar Board. Information includes the student’s academic major(s) and parent names.


  • DeWitt: Thomas Waldo, Mortar Board, agricultural economics (public policy option), son of Lee and Joni Waldo.

  • Elk Creek: Amzie Dunekacke, Mortar Board, English and religious studies, daughter of Susan and Joel Dunekacke.

  • Elkhorn: Alexandra Janvrin, Mortar Board, actuarial science and mathematics, daughter of Jim Janvrin and Jennifer Janvrin.

  • Grand Island: Shayne Arriola, Mortar Board, marketing, son of Lori Arriola.

  • Hayes Center: Andrea Wach, Mortar Board, agricultural and environmental sciences communication, daughter of Loran and Nancy Wach.

  • Kearney: Jacob Kingsley, Mortar Board, biological sciences, son of David and Catherine Kingsley.

  • La Vista: Kurt Cronican, Innocents Society, economics and finance, son of Jim and Gina Cronican.

  • Lincoln: Connor Blankenau, Mortar Board, biological systems engineering, son of Tom and Lisa Blankenau; Carly Burkhardt, Mortar Board, English and pre-law, daughter of Mike and Mary Jo Burkhardt; Jonathan Freese, Mortar Board, biochemistry, son of Mark and Marlys Freese; Natasha Naseem, Innocents Society, English, daughter of Ahsan Naseem and Rubab Husain; Tiffany Truong, Innocents Society, chemistry and biochemistry, daughter of Thu Truong and Bich Chau; Elise Wordekemper, Mortar Board, mathematics and pre-PA, daughter of Rick and Lori Wordekemper.

  • Nebraska City: Marcella Mercer, Innocents Society, journalism, daughter of Mark Mercer and Christina Sim-Mercer.

  • Oakland: Grant Uehling, Mortar Board, applied science, son of Jay and Sheryl Uehling.

  • Omaha: Olivia Beier, Innocents Society, accounting and economics, daughter of Scott Beier and Julie Gibson-Beier; Shelby Beller, Mortar Board, nursing, daughter of Marc and Bonnie Beller; Olivia Bond, Mortar Board, economics, daughter of Tim and Nancy Bond; Olivia Charlesworth, Mortar Board, human resource management, daughter of Danae and Mike Charlesworth; Taylor Lofdahl, Innocents Society, agricultural education-leadership, daughter of Shannon and Matt Lofdahl; Kayla Punt, Innocents Society, secondary education (English), daughter of Tom and Holly Punt; Erin Sheehan, Innocents Society, history and political science, daughter of Tammy and Kerry Sheehan; Natalie Strawhecker, Mortar Board, nutrition science, daughter of Terry and Judy Strawhecker; Alec Williams, Innocents Society, biological sciences and economics, son of Tammy and John Williams; Margaret Witzenburg, Mortar Board, computer science, daughter of Molly and Curt Witzenburg; Kelsey Young, Mortar Board, speech-language pathology, daughter of Scott and Debra Young; Joseph Zach, Mortar Board, accounting and finance, son of Alvin and Peggy Zach.

  • Valley: Shelby Williby, Innocents Society, chemical engineering, daughter of Jason and Cole Williby.

  • Wahoo: Evann Vrana, Mortar Board, family and consumer science education, daughter of Steve and Ann Vrana.



  • Castle Rock: Alan Davis, Innocents Society, finance and agribusiness, son of Bill and Tammy Davis.


  • Fort Myers: Bryce Byman, Mortar Board, biochemistry, son of Keith and Annette Byman.


  • Hudson: Jason Hawkins, Mortar Board, classics and religious studies, son of Frank and Joanne Hawkins.

  • Iowa City: Allison Peterson, Mortar Board, advertising and public relations, daughter of Barb and Hap Peterson.


  • Prairie Village: Alison Manske, Mortar Board, biomedical engineering, daughter of Amy Schuman.

South Dakota:

  • Dakota Dunes: Sam Brower, Innocents Society, economics and political science, son of Amy and Dan Brower.

  • Sioux Falls: Samuel Breske, Mortar Board, finance, accounting and economics, son of Marie Holland and Dennis Breske.


  • Memphis: Claire Shea, Mortar Board, psychology and political science, daughter of Marcia and Jeff Shea.


  • Sugar Land: Tanner McKerlie, Innocents Society, actuarial science, son of Brian and Judy McKerlie.


  • Tashkent: Said-Nuriddin Makhmudzoda, Mortar Board, finance, son of Mukhiddin Makhmudov.

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