Students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the Kearney community will benefit from a gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation in honor of fashion retailer The Buckle for student-athlete scholarships, intercollegiate athletic facilities and the new campus Wellness Center.
The largest portion of the gift establishes the Buckle Athletic Scholarship Fund as a permanent endowment to provide annual scholarships to undergraduate students who are members of any athletic team in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The endowment will enable the department to award up to four full-tuition scholarships or many more partial-tuition awards each year.
Another portion of the gift establishes the Buckle Fund for Loper Athletics as an expendable fund to support facility projects within the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The department plans to use the funds to enhance its Loper brand awareness, modernize facilities and help install a video board in the Health and Sports Center.
“Buckle is a nationally recognized brand that is in the heart of our country right here in Kearney, and we are thrilled they have decided to partner with us in support of our student-athletes,” said Athletic Director Paul Plinske. “This much-needed financial support will assist us in providing the best experience possible to our student-athletes. Scholarship support and facility renovations are at the top of our list, and Buckle is helping us make a lasting difference in the lives of these individuals.”
The gift also provides support for UNK’s new Wellness Center, which opened in August 2014 and features a student fitness center, classrooms, a physical activity and wellness lab, and public health research and community outreach space. The $6.5 million project was made possible through student wellness fees, university funds and private donations.
In connection with the gift to UNK, Dennis Nelson, president and CEO of The Buckle, said the company is pleased to support its longtime education partner.
“At Buckle, the talent and dedication of our many outstanding teammates is key to our success,” Nelson said. “The University of Nebraska at Kearney has been a tremendous partner for us, as they provide educational opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders. We are proud to be able to invest in the university, to further solidify our partnership and to help UNK as it raises the bar for academic and athletic achievement.”
In recognition of The Buckle’s support for both students and student-athletes, UNK has named the Health and Sports Center’s basketball court “Buckle Court” and plans to name the cardio fitness area in the new Wellness Center “Buckle Cardio Fitness Zone.”
“Kearney and UNK are proud to call Buckle a friend and supporter,” UNK Chancellor Douglas Kristensen said. “This generous gift is one representation of the many ways Buckle has improved this community. Our students obtain valuable internship and other experiential-learning opportunities at the company, and their support of students academically and financially is meaningful in countless ways. It is fitting to name wellness and athletics spaces to honor this partnership and acknowledge Buckle’s commitment to student health and success.”
The gift supported the university’s successful fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska, which concluded Dec. 31. UNK received gifts of more than $60 million during the campaign, surpassing its goal of $50 million and providing support for students, faculty, programs and facilities.