During the Scholarship Luncheon Phoenix Academy presents two awards honoring individuals who make an impact in the metro in the area of literacy.
Mactier/Clark Literacy Educator Award
To achieve an education, every child must first develop reading skills; reading proficiency is the foundation for all forms of educational literacy. The Mactier/Clark Literacy Educator Award recognizes work that advances proficiency in literacy and education. Efforts to advance the effectiveness of teacher training, curriculum, instruction, leadership, tutoring, and mentoring – whether on an institutional level or through direct-service to others – are all building blocks of educational literacy.
Holland Literacy Advocate Award
The Holland Literacy Advocate Award is given for advocacy work that creates and increases awareness, resources, and dedication to advancing literacy and education. Efforts to enhance the expertise of educational institutions, provide meaningful professional development, support essential research, and grow societal support for improving academic achievement of children in our community are all important aspects of advocacy work.
2018 Literacy Award Recipients
The Mactier/Clark Literacy Educator Award recognizes work that advances proficiency in literacy and education. Efforts to advance the effectiveness of teacher training, curriculum, instruction, leadership, tutoring, and mentoring – whether on an institutional level or through direct-service to others – are all building blocks of educational literacy.
Today, Jessie Rasmussen, is being honored with the award recognizing her contributions to the Omaha community. Jessie Rasmussen’s career has focused on improving outcomes for children and families, first as an early childhood practitioner and administrator and later as a Nebraska state senator and state human services director in both Nebraska and Iowa. At the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, she played an instrumental role in the development and passage of legislation that established a $60 million early childhood endowment funded through a public and private partnership. She is now president of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, where she manages early childhood investments.
The Holland Literacy Advocate Award is given for advocacy work that creates and increases awareness, resources and dedication to advancing literacy and education. Efforts to enhance the expertise of educational institutions, provide meaningful professional development, support essential research and grow societal support for improving academic achievement of children in our community are all important aspects of advocacy work. Today, the Holland Literacy Advocate Award is being presented to Mildred Brown for her dedication and support to improve educational opportunities for Omaha’s youth.
Mildred was born in 1915 in Alabama to a prominent black family. She graduated from Miles Memorial Teachers College at age 16, and in 1938, after moving to Omaha, she and her then-husband launched the Omaha Star. After the couple divorced, Mildred continued publishing the paper, building it into one of the most successful weekly Black newspapers in the country.
The Star was filled with positive, upbeat stories about the Omaha Black community. Through the paper, Brown gave countless young people their first opportunity to hold down a job. She instilled in them a sense of responsibility and hard work. She always encouraged them to further their education and provided scholarships for those interested in going to college. Throughout her life, Mildred Brown worked tirelessly for the cause of racial justice and community pride. She died in 1989.
2017 Literacy Award Recipients
Eugene Willis Skinner
The late Eugene Willis Skinner, was honored with Mactier/Clark Literacy Educator Award recognizing his contributions to the Omaha education system. Eugene Willis Skinner was Omaha Public Schools’ first African-American teacher and went on serve as its first black principal and assistant superintendent. Throughout his 39 years working in the school system, Skinner pushed for social change internally. He made it his mission to get black teachers into predominately white schools, and he fought to get the 1976 desegregation order implemented. Skinner, an accomplished and trailblazing educator, died in 1993 at age 79.
In the fall of 1996, Skinner Magnet Center opened at 4304 North 33rd Street with a K-6 curriculum emphasizing Math, Technology and Performing Arts.
Charles M. (Mike) Harper
The Holland Literacy Advocate Award was presented in honor to Charles M. (Mike) Harper for his dedication and support to improve educational opportunities for Omaha’s youth. Charles M. “Mike” Harper was the chief executive officer of ConAgra, Inc. for 17 years. During this time, ConAgra’s sales increased from $600 million to $21 billion. Following a heart attack in 1985, he and his wife Josie initiated the Healthy Choice line of low fat foods that generated sales of $1 billion within 3 years. He retired from ConAgra in September of 1992 and was recruited for the top job at RJR Nabisco, Inc. in May 1993. After successfully transitioning RJR from a heavily leveraged LBO to a financially sound company, he retired in December 1995.
Mike accomplished much in his business career and shared his time, talent and resources with many organizations and nonprofits during his life. He established a family foundation in 1992 and has supported numerous causes and organizations relating to education, cancer care and research, nursing, hospice care and patriotism. Many organizations have benefited from his generosity in the Omaha area, as well as in Minnesota, Indiana and Chicago. He passed away on May 28, 2016, but his legacy of leadership, philanthropy, sense of humor and kindness continue to touch all who knew him.
2015 Literacy Award Recipients
Dr. Maryanne Stevens, RSM
At the 2015 Annual Scholarship Luncheon, Dr. Maryanne Stevens, RSM, was honored with the Mactier/Clark Literacy Educator Award recognizing contributions to Omaha’s secondary school and university communities. Dr. Stevens took the helm as President of College of Saint Mary (CSM) in 1996. Dedicated to creating an environment to call forth potential and foster leadership, CSM has developed several innovative programs under the leadership of Dr. Stevens, specifically, a residence hall allowing single mothers of college age to live with their children on campus; Marie Curie scholarships for low-income women majoring in science or math; the Latina and African-American Summer Academies for ninth and tenth grade high school girls and the development of a unique online doctoral program for educators. Dr. Stevens’ passion for the education and advancement of women cannot be more evidenced than by her leadership of numerous capital campaign and scholarship initiatives that have allowed College of Saint Mary to take its rightful place in the regional landscape of higher education.
Michael B. Yanney
On October 2, 2015, the Holland Literacy Advocate Award was presented to Michael B. Yanney for his efforts to improve educational opportunities for Omaha’s youth through deliberative policy discussions and implementation. Mike Yanney is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of The Burlington Capital Group LLC, formerly America First Companies. For more than 25 years, he has given his time, energy and resources to disadvantaged youth. In 1989, Yanney co-founded what is known today as Partnership 4 Kids, which has grown to provide goal setting, mentoring, and college access programs for more than 5,000 students in 21 Omaha Public Schools. Yanney currently serves on the boards of directors of several prominent civic and community organizations including as Chairman of the Board of Building Healthy Futures, a non-profit organization created to improve health for our community’s underserved children and youth through thoughtful collaboration and advocacy; as a Director Emeritus of Heritage Services; and as a Director of Open World. In addition, Yanney is a past president of Junior Achievement of Omaha and also served as a Director of the Horatio Alger Association, one of the nation’s largest providers of privately funded, need-based scholarships, having awarded more than $100 million to more than 20,000 students.
2014 Literacy Award Recipients
Father Timothy R. Lannon, S.J.
At the 2014 Annual Scholarship Luncheon, Fr. Timothy R. Lannon, S.J. was honored with the Mactier/Clark Literacy Educator Award recognizing contributions to Omaha’s secondary school and university communities. Serving as Creighton University’s 24th president since 2011, Fr. Lannon is the first Creighton alumnus to head the University. He also served as president of Creighton Preparatory School from 1988 to 1995. Fr. Lannon was ordained a priest in 1986 at St. John’s Church on the Creighton campus. He began his professional career as an admissions counselor at Creighton and honed his educational and administrative skills as an instructor and assistant principal at Marquette University High School, an instructor at Boston College, and an assistant professor at Marquette University. Fr. Lannon serves on the boards of Marquette University, Santa Clara University, Boston College and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) of which he was chair from 2009-2011.
Katie Weitz Ph.D.
The Holland Literacy Advocate Award was presented to Katie Weitz, Ph.D. for her efforts to improve educational opportunities for Omaha’s youth through deliberative policy discussions and implementation. Katie believes that education is the surest path to social justice and equality, and through her work for The Sherwood Foundation, she facilitated service-learning partnerships between OPS magnet schools and corresponding departments at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She also coordinated a cultural proficiency program to help teachers create lesson plans that reflect the experiences of Omaha’s large African-American and immigrant populations. Katie was also a key driver in the “greening” of OPS as a strategy to save general operating fund dollars and build a healthier district. She is active with numerous charitable organizations throughout the community, including Girls Inc., Building Bright Futures, and the Regional Education Lab for the Midwest.
2013 Literacy Award Recipients
Del Weber was selected to receive this award and is being recognized for his drive to advance proficiency in literacy and education. As Chancellor for twenty years, Del was successful in transforming the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus and curriculum, making it one of the leading institutions in the Midwest. Because of his determination to provide high-quality, well-rounded higher education, Del managed to more than double the number of full-time faculty with doctorate degrees, cultivate over $60 million in new buildings and renovations, and initiate development of the university’s first residence halls, along with many other feats. Del further cultivated support for local organizations and non-profits in his professional life as the President of the Omaha Community Foundation until 2002, and, personally, he continues to be an agent of change as a volunteer and community leader.
John Gottschalk is this years recipient because of his effort to spread awareness about little-known shortcomings in the US educational system and his resolve to combat such trends. Among other notable achievements, John championed improvement of local K-12 education by serving for a decade as the Chairman of the ‘Omaha 2000’ steering committee formed by the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. By propelling classroom performance to the top of metro agendas for businesses, families and educators, John’s diligence was a catalyst for improvement. He continues to counsel community leaders engaged in the education field and serve on several national and local non-profit boards. John’s heartfelt interest in public education, as well as his commitment to action, has been an integral force in the betterment of education for children and families, both city and nationwide.
2012 Literacy Award Recipients
Ann Mactier received the Literacy Educator Award for her dedication and ﬁnancial contributions to the Phoenix Academy and for her 30 years on the state and local school boards. The Ann Mactier/Patti Clark Literacy Educator Award will be given annually to an individual in the metro area whose work directly advances literacy skills necessary to navigate and be successful in the world.
Patti Clark was passionate about education. When helping after school with a program called Great Books, Patti saw that children were falling seriously behind in reading. Patti set out to find a way to help. She discovered an Orton-Gillingham program called Spalding. In 1990, at the age of 67, Patti followed her dream by opening the Phoenix Academy with one student and one teacher using the Spalding program. Working out of a bay in the Rockbrook Village Shopping Center, the school grew and with her guiding hand reached thousands of students through the day school and summer school programs. Patti passed away in 2008 while still serving as the Phoenix Academy Executive Director.
Dick Holland received the Literacy Advocate Award for his dedication to educating children in Douglas and Sarpy Counties. The Richard Holland Literacy Advocate Award will be given annually to an individual in the metro area who advocates and increases awareness for the promotion of literacy.