Nominations Open for Nebraska Hall of Fame

January, 2016

Lincoln -- The state Hall of Fame Commission is taking nominations, until the end of 2016, to add a 26th member to Nebraska's officially recognized list of its most outstanding citizens. This link provides more information about the process.

To be eligible, nominees must have made great contributions to society and been deceased for at least thirty-five years. So who are some possible nominees this year?

• Howard Hanson died in 1981, making him eligible for the first time. The internationally famous composer and conductor was born in Wahoo of Swedish heritage. He won the Prix de Rome, a Pulitzer Prize, and was the director of the Eastman School of Music for forty years. His music, much of which was inspired by his upbringing in Nebraska, is still played in concert halls around the world. His boyhood home in Wahoo is now a museum on the National Register of Historic Places.

• Rachel Lloyd, who died in 1900, is the subject of a new book about her contributions to Nebraska, especially to agriculture. She was the first American woman to earn a Ph.D in chemistry and was on the University of Nebraska faculty from 1887 to 1894. Her laboratory work to establish Nebraska's sugar beet industry was untiring; she had a remarkable effect on her students and the university; she worked herself to a premature death on behalf of the state and must be considered a worthy nominee.

• Lawrence Bruner would make a good addition to the Hall of Fame. He was born in Cuming County and became a world-famous entomologist at the University of Nebraska. He undertook international missions on behalf of the federal government. His work in Argentina was appreciated so much that the country held a 50th anniversary celebration of his arrival to combat an insect plague. A governor's commission once named him Nebraska's most distinguished citizen.

Elizabeth Dolan was one of the country's greatest fresco artists and should be recognized with a nomination. Her works in two of the state's most noteworthy interior spaces, the State Library in the Capitol and Elephant Hall on the UNL campus, have inspired Nebraskans for decades. She studied art in Lincoln, Chicago, New York, and Paris, but spent most of her working career in Lincoln.

At least four previous nominees should be considered in this round.

• Two recent biographies of Louise Pound recount her remarkable career and accomplishments. Her selection to the Hall of Fame would recognize her leadership on behalf of women's athletics, as well as highlight her academic contributions to the American language.

• Leta Stetter Hollingworth is the subject of a 2002 biography, A Forgotten Voice. Selection of Dr. Hollingworth (who indeed has been much too forgotten since her honorary degree from NU in 1937) would recognize her pathfinding contributions to psychology.

Frederic Clements was the founder of the discipline of plant ecology and gave the world the Clementsian theory of nature. It is still the benchmark against which all other such theories are measured. Frederic Clements' contribution to theory is matched only by his heroic work, in spite of his failing health, to save the Great Plains from the Dust Bowl.

Edith Schwartz Clements was the wife and full professional partner of Frederic Clements. Their work is inseparable. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D from the University of Nebraska. She was the force behind the Alpine Laboratory, where the Clementses trained Nebraska botanists and ecologists from 1900-1940.

A question inevitably arises about the fact that, so far, only twenty-five Nebraskans have been included in the state's Hall of Fame. Is Nebraska so lacking in people who have made notable contributions to society that only twenty-five – soon twenty-six – can be duly recognized? Surely not. One reason why deserving Nebraskans will never be sufficiently recognized by the Hall of Fame is that the governing state statute allows only one person to be inducted every five years.

In the last round, I nominated Edith and Frederic Clements as a team – indeed, they had once been called the greatest husband-and-wife scientists since the Curies. Of course they could not be considered under the existing statute, which should be changed. If nothing else, the statute should be amended to allow the Commission to select a small number of new honorees that have been overlooked.

Another solution would be to give more recognition to those who reach the "finalist" stage of consideration. The Commission appropriately winnows out nominees who do not meet the admittedly tough qualification standards, suggesting that those who make the final cut are, in its opinion, worthy of honor. The Commission already has a web page of honorees; it could also permanently maintain a web page of finalists, which would be an honor in itself.

This is already happening to some extent. A new Wikipedia web page on Edith Clements notes that she was nominated for the Nebraska Hall of Fame. This new web page employs and cites her nomination materials. I hope the Commission discusses a permanent finalist web page option during its upcoming deliberations, so more people can become acquainted with Nebraska's greatest citizens whether they are in the Hall of Fame or not.