Visionary Don Pederson’s Legacy Lives in Perpetuity

Visionary Don Pederson’s Legacy Lives in Perpetuity


In Don Pederson’s 90 years as a Nebraskan, he accomplished many things. The lawyer who grew up in Omaha and practiced law in North Platte for more than 40 years, was a dedicated public servant in the state legislature from 1996 to 2007. He made an impact on those he met, and thousands of Nebraskans who never met him, thanks to his work to passing legislation that created the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

“Don’s work in laying the architecture for the passage of the bill which created the public-private vehicle for the Nebraska Cultural Endowment truly set a wonderful action in motion,” said Kyle Cartwright, Executive Director. “I imagine it was no small feat, and his efforts made it happen. Nebraska is a better place thanks to him.”

Pederson, one of the Endowment’s principal visionaries and founders, passed away June 2, 2019 of pancreatic cancer. Don was a Legacy Donor to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, having directed a personal gift to the Endowment that will have a lasting impact on arts and humanities across the state.

Don was on the Humanities Nebraska board from 2003 to 2010, serving as chair in 2007. Don’s late wife Virginia was serving on the Humanities Nebraska board when she became ill and she asked him to take her place. Before her death, they were married 49 years.

In 2010, Don received the Nebraska Sower Award from Humanities Nebraska for his service.

“Words fail me that adequately express what Don Pederson has meant to all of us involved in the humanities and arts in Nebraska, or for me personally,” said Chris Sommerich, Executive Director of Humanities Nebraska.  “The incredible mark he left on both organizations, and on all of us who were fortunate enough to be alongside him, cannot be overstated.”

On November 14, 2003, he married June Remington in a ceremony at the State Capital. “He looked back on his career of service, from school board member, community college trustee, state senator and member of the Humanities Nebraska and NCE boards as opportunities to accomplish important things that could make a difference for the people in Nebraska,” June said. “Creating the first state Cultural Endowment in the nation was a significant achievement.”

You too can make a lasting impact on arts and humanities in Nebraska as a Legacy Donor. Contact Kyle ( or 402-595-2722) to learn how.

Make Mistakes Big

Learning to play the cello with the String Sprouts program at the Omaha Conservatory of Music has brought about changes in Charlie, (8) and Tegan, (6) Hess that may be a bit surprising. In the process of learning to practice, they have learned it is okay to make mistakes. What has changed exponentially is the fear of failure is no longer an issue, in extracurricular activities and even in their friendships. During practice they are encouraged to ‘make mistakes big’ by cello teachers Molly Rezich and Candace Jorgensen – and it shows in a big way!

“It has been an amazing experience to watch them go from tears at having to practice, to loving to practice” says Neidy Hess, Charlie and Tegan’s mom. “It is quite an experience to see your children play Ode to Joy. They are excited they will have the opportunity to play with the Omaha Symphony this year.”

According to their mother, learning to play the cello has also made them more advanced in reading skills for their ages and their computation skills in math have also been affected positively. Their mental arithmetic is off the charts thanks to thinking in terms of beats and measure in music.

Charlie chose to play the cello because his grandfather plays the cello. Tegan really wanted to play violin but plays cello with her brother. They learned of the Sprouts program when a family member took them to one of Omaha Conservatory of Music’s Family programs since Charlie was interested in music. There they saw the ad for String Sprouts and immediately applied. The family is incredibly grateful for String Sprouts and the investment made in their children’s lives.

String Sprouts was founded in 2013 by the Omaha Conservatory of Music and has since blossomed to 1,300 students. Spring Sprouts brings music education through free violin, viola, cello, and bass classes to preschool-aged children in underserved areas. Once a year, students play with the Omaha Symphony and perform in Sprouts in the Park.

“The Omaha Conservatory is so grateful to the Nebraska Cultural Endowment for their investment in Strings Sprouts,” said Ruth Meints, Program Creator and Executive Director at OCM. “These funds support the Omaha Conservatory’s commitment to providing accessibility to musical excellence for so many children living in poverty or under-resourced areas. The study of music makes positive changes in brain connections and improves academic outcomes, which is so important for children in poverty or under-resourced areas who often enter kindergarten a year or more behind their peers.”

Your donations through Nebraska Cultural Endowment help bring the wonders of music into the lives of young musicians that would not have had this opportunity otherwise. Please consider helping make an impact for Nebraska’s future virtuosos.