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2024 Legacy Scholarship Winners Announced

The Dana College Foundation Board of Directors met on April 13th to review applications and select this year’s Legacy Scholarship winners. Two applicants clearly stood out among all others to receive $5,000 each to help them achieve a college experience similar to Dana.

Camille Renken
Camille is from Gretna, Nebraska, and attends Millard West High School. She intends to enroll at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN, and study Nursing. She is the daughter of Tyler and Robin Renken. In addition to standout academics, Camille participated in several varsity sports, worked in daycare, and volunteered for Special Olympics. Her father, Tyler, and grandfather, Douglas Renken, are Dana alumni.

Hannah Peatrowsky
Hannah is from Omaha, Nebraska, and attends Mercy High School. Her college choice is Creighton University where she intends to study Biochemistry and Pre-Pharmacy. Her parents are Cory and Laurie Peatrowsky, both of whom are Dana alumni. She also had two aunts and an uncle graduate from Dana. Hannah’s academic credentials were the highest of all applicants. She also participated in varsity sports and several student organizations in addition to working in child care, elderly care, and as a soccer referee.

The Dana College Foundation Legacy Scholarships are awarded to two descendants of Dana alumni, faculty or staff. Applicants must attend a college or university similar to Dana. That is, a private, four-year liberal arts, Christian-affiliated institution.

The scholarships are funded through the generosity of alumni, donors and estate gifts. The application period is announced at the beginning of each year. Students are judged on academic preparation, participation in activities, special accomplishments or honors, employment, volunteering, and an essay.


Alumni Attend Dana Village Ribbon-Cutting
by Kori Archbold

The former Dana College Campus was abuzz with activity on Friday, February 9th as people from all across the state filled the gymnasium to see a new beginning. Abundant Dana alumni were present, as well as multiple media representatives, government officials, a great number of LFS staff, and many more from the Blair community and beyond - to see the new ‘Dana Village’ officially come to life.

Chris Tonniges, President and CEO of Lutheran Family Services kicked off the event, welcoming all to the “life altering” ribbon-cutting that the campus has been patiently waiting for after nearly fourteen years. He began with sobering facts surrounding the reality of foster youth and other vulnerable populations in the state, including statistics stating that many end up homeless in as little as six months after their 19th birthday, when they are legally released from the system. He went on to say, “I think you and I can agree that this is not ok—additionally too many of our elderly don’t have resources or opportunities for affordable housing either. These people are Nebraskans, and Nebraskans don’t treat Nebraskans that way. We just DON’T. That’s what makes this place special.”

Ed Shada and Angels Share was given a deserving round of applause and thanked profusely, highlighting their dream and ultimate goal - support for former foster youth who have no where to go. Thankfully they were able to partner with a much more able body to carry on this grand plan. Lutheran Family Service's ten year plan includes much needed connection and benefit to the local community, including job opportunities and career development.

Tenants will be able to move into any of the 61 finished units in Blair and Mickelsen halls by the end of February. Tours were available to the public to view the studio, 1 and 2 bed room units. All quarters are accessible, and have a washer and dryer in-unit. The beautifully updated apartments still share the same views as former students once enjoyed over the campus. George Achola, V.P. and General Counsel of Burlington Capital Real Estate Investment was invited to speak to the renovation of the new units and what their impact will be on the community. “When you open that door, you will know that you are not forgotten…. this day will hopefully be the genesis for a transformation of somebody’s life.”

Mayor Mindy Rump, Senator Ben Hansen, and Governor Jim Pillen also spoke, marking an exciting and incredible day for the city of Blair, and the state of Nebraska. The historic past and the emotional loss of Dana were acknowledged, but not without mentioning future-forward solutions the new village will solve: preventing homelessness, workforce development, and reactivating the beautiful campus. As a last minute gesture, Rump also gifted a symbolic broom to Mr. Tonniges, thanking him and LFS for being stewards of the community — also a nod in jest to the amount of cleaning up that still needs to be done.

Pastor Kip Tyler shared a homily that left no dry eye in the room as he recounted the day that Dana closed. From another pastor friend, he was reminded, “Kip - remember, our God does his best work in death and resurrection.” Those words obviously resonated with the crowd as the tissues came out of their pockets.

As an alum, he quoted portions of the third and fourth verses of “Hail Dana” :

…. “And when we launch our little barks on destiny’s deep sea, as Ivy to thy walls do cling, our hearts will cling to thee…Oh Hail fair Dana, hail to thee, though time thy walls may claim, thy spirit live another throng, rise up and sing our song!”

Other plans moving forward will include intergenerational, community-driven spaces, physical and mental health access, outreach programs, and other sporting and arts events, thankfully revitalizing the campus once again. Eventually, the goal of the village is to be a destination location for the entire region. The launch of a solution for people in need, the city of Blair, the Dana Campus, and the entire state, ultimately was born out of the death of our beloved college. A solution that is hopeful to last for seven generations, and beyond.

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Homecoming 2023 a Rousing Success

Homecoming started off on Friday, October 6th, with a 50-year reunion dinner for the class of 1973, held at the Blair Marina. A record number of classmates attended, 41 in all, plus spouses and several well-wishers.

Dana College Foundation president Bob Coffey and Alumni Association president Sandra Jensen were on hand to talk about campus progress and to hand out Venerable Viking medallions to all attendees. The event was hosted and planned by Patricia Rahn who, though she was in the class of 1972, made sure the annual reunion happened.

Saturday provided multiple opportunities for alumni to reconnect and relive their days at Dana. The day began with Kringle and Mingle at the Danish American Archives and Library in downtown Blair. Visitors could see the Dana Room, containing Dana artifacts, photos, and documents.

The on-campus activities took place in the atrium between Borup Coliseum and Gardner-Hawks Arena, thanks to the generosity of Angels Share as campus owners.

The morning also provided an opportunity for shoppers to browse the Dana Bookstore for gifts, logo gear, old yearbooks, and more.

The Alumni Association hired Smoke on Arrival to serve as the official food truck at Homecoming for the traditional Tailgate Lunch. Following lunch, the program began with welcomes from the Dana College Foundation and the Alumni Association. Foundation president Bob Coffey recognized this year’s scholarship winners and 50-year class reunion attendees while Alumni Association president Sandra Jensen emceed the program.

Toni (Ahrendt) Jensen received the Distinguished Alumni Award for her outstanding career in social work and having established Nebraska’s only current accredited Social Work Program at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Toni’s father, Paul Ahrendt (’68), was a previous recipient of the award. It’s believed to be the first time that two generations of the same family have received the honor.

Due to a scheduling conflict, the Dana Athletic Hall of Fame award had to be set aside until next fall.

Following the program, alumni and guests were treated to a cocktail gathering in the Atrium before heading out to class reunions scattered throughout Blair.

Next year’s Homecoming event will be held on Saturday, October 5, 2024. It’s always the first weekend in October, so place it on your calendar and plan to be there!

Alumni First to Hear of Angels Share, Lutheran Family Services Merger

Homecoming attendees were privileged to hear the first public announcement that Angels Share, Inc., owner of the Dana campus, has merged with Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. The merger signals further redevelopment of the campus as a place to serve some of society’s most vulnerable populations.

Ed Shada of Angels Share introduced Chris Tonniges, chief executive officer of LFS to the audience. Chris pointed to the reconstruction work on Blair and Mickelsen Halls and told the crowd to expect more of that to happen. Their ten-year plan includes more restoration and repurposing of some campus buildings as well as potential new construction to provide a total of as many as 400 housing units on the campus.

Chris also promised to hold an open house at the renovated dorms prior to accepting their first tenant in January.

He explained that LFS’ first task is to open offices for practitioners to provide appropriate services on campus for its current residents, youth who have aged out of the foster care system. Services will include behavioral health, financial literacy, counseling and more.

Alumni gave rousing applause when Chris also revealed that the new name for the campus and its programs is to be Dana Village, a fitting tribute to the college that was here, and the new community that will serve others who need help to become productive citizens.

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