The University of Nebraska at Omaha has a new $1 million endowment from UNO alumnus John Morgan to create one of the campus's highest-ranking endowed faculty positions, one focused on inspiring entrepreneurship.
The gift establishes the John Morgan Community Chair in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Franchising in the UNO College of Business Administration.
The position is the sixth community chair at UNO funded through the University of Nebraska Foundation's Campaign for Nebraska and the first endowed chair in the business college.
Morgan, a graduate of Omaha North High School, said his recent gift as well as his previous support of UNO enable him to give back to the community where he grew up and to the university where he earned his degree in 1969. He is CEO and chairman of Minneapolis-based Grow Biz International Inc., now Winmark Corp., which is the parent company of Play It Again Sports, Once Upon a Child, Plato's Closet, Music Go Round, Wirth Business Credit and Winmark Capital.
“I feel privileged to be part of an effort to reach out to young people and to promote interest in careers that are similar to mine,” Morgan said.
“The success of the program will rely on the number of students attracted to it” and this will help it grow, he said.
UNO College of Business Administration Dean Louis Pol said the college will have a search for someone to fill the position this spring, and someone within or outside of the college could be hired. “We just want to make sure we cast a net, but there are strong candidates here,” he said.
The position will include leading UNO in engaging the community by connecting with school-aged students in local schools; generating interest in entrepreneurship; overseeing the center's academic and research programs; and overseeing the college's various summer entrepreneurship camps and programs for middle and high school students.
The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services also recognized Morgan on Thursday, along with several UNO faculty and staff, with its Partnership Award. This honor will acknowledge many UNO programs, including the Transformation Project, which was established in 2009 with a gift from Morgan. UNO developed the program with a goal to help inmates transition into the community from prison, based on the life experiences of Omaha native Malcolm X.