KEARNEY, Neb. -- A $2 million gift to the University of Nebraska at Kearney is destined to help Nebraska children and families for years to come.
University of Nebraska alumnus Ron Williams of Denver and his wife, Cille, provided the gift to the Campaign for Nebraska to establish two permanently endowed funds at the University of Nebraska Foundation that will provide annual support for UNK’s early childhood education and development programs.
A $1 million endowment will provide annual support for the UNK College of Education and its academic and outreach programs related to children from birth to age 8. The endowment will also support UNK’s efforts to help develop a highly qualified early childhood education workforce in the state.
Another $1 million establishes the Cille and Ron Williams Community Chair for Early Childhood Education. The endowment will provide annual support to enable UNK to recruit and support distinguished early childhood education faculty members. A primary role of those who are selected to receive the chair will be to serve as faculty mentors to undergraduate and graduate students while serving as a resource to other education professionals in the community.
The faculty members will also work collaboratively with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, a statewide research, practice and policy institute of the University of Nebraska.
Ron Williams said providing this gift is an important investment, as there are many bright young people who do not have an adequate support system.
“We must create the mechanism to provide early childhood education support for all children,” Williams said. “It will take time and commitment. Nebraska has the resources, both publicly and privately, and also has the petri dish, if you will: an urban-rural combination where you can reach the community.
“We are pleased a part of this gift will help design the process of how to proceed ahead. Hopefully, it will morph into something that is going to be outstanding and make a difference in the lives of many children and families.”
Ed Scantling, associate vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management and dean of the College of Education, said, “The College of Education and the Department of Teacher Education are extremely grateful to the Williams family for this tremendous gift to our Early Childhood Education Program. We are very excited to use these funds to significantly increase the number of highly qualified early childhood educators across the state of Nebraska. This investment will be used to support the efforts of Sam Meisels and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute to help Nebraska become the best place in the nation to be a baby.”
Chancellor Douglas Kristensen said the university is profoundly moved by the generosity of Ron and Cille Williams. “They are the perfect donors: thoughtful, flexible and willing to invest in the long-term future of the University of Nebraska at Kearney,” he said. “Ron and Cille see the tremendous benefits of early childhood education and understand the needs that must be met in order to reach the next level. Their support will elevate our early childhood program like no other previous gift to our campus has done and will provide opportunities for UNK’s already high quality program to further expand and improve. We look forward to leveraging this gift with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute to produce world-class early childhood educators right here in rural Nebraska.”
The gift from the Williams family provided support to the university’s Campaign for Nebraska, a nine-year fundraising initiative that ended on Dec. 31. UNK received gifts of more than $60 million during this campaign, surpassing its goal of $50 million and providing support for students, faculty, programs and facilities.
Ron Williams received a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1967 from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a master’s in business management in 1969 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
He served as co-chair of the UNK Campaign for Nebraska committee and was a member of the campaign’s executive committee.
Williams is self-employed and serves as chairman of the National Western Stock Show of Denver. He is the former president and CEO of the Gary-Williams Company, a private energy company. He was previously with Arthur Anderson & Co. in Denver before joining Samuel Gary Oil Producer, which later became Gary-Williams Energy Corporation, as the chief financial officer in 1977. He assumed responsibility as president of the company in 1981.
He is a member and past chairman of the board of directors of Children’s Hospital Colorado and a member of the board of the hospital’s foundation.
Ron and Cille Williams are trustees of the University of Nebraska Foundation, and they have a daughter, two sons and seven grandchildren.