Whitmer Scholarship aims to help early childhood educators

· 3 min read

Whitmer Scholarship aims to help early childhood educators

A new scholarship for students in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Education and Human Sciences will help to educate and prepare future generations of teachers, who are especially needed to provide early childhood education in Nebraska.

Mae Whitmer of Lincoln established the Bill and Mae Whitmer Early Childhood Education Scholarship Fund as a permanently endowed fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation. The scholarship was created in memory of her husband, a Nebraska alumnus, who died in 2012.

Mae Whitmer was inspired to create the scholarship because of Prosper Lincoln and its efforts to enhance what the community offers in early childhood education, employment skills and innovation.

“We need more teachers who are trained and qualified to meet the special needs of early childhood education, and I wanted to do something that aligned with Prosper Lincoln and its admirable efforts in this very important area,” she said.

Scholarships such as this are helping to build a skilled, informed and diverse early childhood workforce in Nebraska, said Richard Bischoff, the Gwendolyn A. Newkirk Professor and chair of the Child, Youth and Family Studies department.

“We’re deeply grateful to Mae Whitmer and her family for this generous gift,” Bischoff said. “It is timely and relevant. The impact of the gift will expand beyond dollars for tuition to inspire teaching excellence, which makes a difference for young children, their families and teachers.”

The College of Education and Human Sciences has awarded Whitmer Early Childhood Education Scholarships of $2,500 each to six recipients for the 2016-2017 school year:

  • Eagle: Elizabeth Dunavin, senior.

  • Lincoln: Amanda Francis, senior.

  • Omaha: Kristine Lamb, senior; Margaret Owens, junior.

  • Plymouth: Amber Collins, senior.

  • Longmont, Colorado: Alyssa Rhoadarmer, senior.

Bischoff said the Whitmer Scholarship helps to address important education workforce needs by helping the university attract and retain exceptional students to its Inclusive Early Childhood Education program.

“Nebraska, like most states, must bolster the early childhood education workforce through training and professional development, as well as by encouraging exceptional students to choose and pursue careers as early childhood educators,” he said. “That’s what the Whitmer Scholarship helps to do.”

The gift also provides support for Our Students, Our Future, a University of Nebraska initiative seeking support for students.

Bill Whitmer studied electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska and graduated in 1959. He and Mae were married the following year and raised two children, Lori W. Wennstedt, a child psychologist, and John Whitmer, a construction management graduate of the College of Engineering.

Bill Whitmer was the third-generation owner of ABC Electric of Lincoln, where he started working at 14 at the company started by his grandparents in 1932. The full-service electrical contractor company is now led by his son, John.

In addition to being longtime supporters of the University of Nebraska, the Whitmers have been active in the community. They have supported the Clinton Neighborhood Organization, Malone Center, Child Guidance Center, Lincoln Public Schools Foundation, Lincoln Community Foundation and Saint Paul United Methodist Church.

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