Philanthropist Alice Williamson dies at 83Was lead donor on low vision center at UNMC and longtime supporter of University of Nebraska
Alice Williamson, a lead donor on the low vision center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, died Tuesday at the age of 83.
Williamson and her sister, Beth Weigel, along with their husbands, Robert Williamson and Dr. Harry Weigel, provided the lead gift to build the Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation on the UNMC campus.
The Weigel Williamson Center opened in 2008 and is located at 704 S. 38th Ave. It provides assistance to more than 400 people with low vision each year, said the center’s director, John Shepherd, M.D.
Earlier this year, Dr. Shepherd said the program was expanded to serve patients in greater Nebraska with the opening of a weekly low vision clinic in Hastings.
“Those with low vision couldn’t have asked for a better advocate than Alice Williamson,” Dr. Shepherd said. “She was incredibly passionate about their care and treatment. Alice was an amazing person and will be missed greatly.”
In an interview during the opening of the Weigel Williamson Center, Williamson said, “Our hearts go out to people who have had problems with their vision. I know the frustration one feels when faced with low vision. You don’t truly understand until you experience it. It’s wonderful how much this facility will help people.”
Williamson underwent multiple eye surgeries herself, and her mother had macular degeneration.
“It was so frustrating to her,” she said. “We know her last days would have been so much happier if she had been able to see well enough to read. So the Weigel Williamason Center for Low Vision at UNMC was a good fit for our philanthropy.”
Williamson recalled a phone call from a woman regarding a friend who had gone through rehab at the low vision center. The caller told her: “Alice, this woman is a different person now. She said, ‘I now have hope.’”
Williamson was grateful for the corrective surgeries she received at UNMC from her ophthalmologist, Thomas Hejkal, M.D.
A 1950 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in education, Williamson credited her philanthropic nature to her parents, Irene and Winslow Van Brunt, who had a strong belief in giving back to the community and helping others.
Over the years the Williamson and Weigel families generously supported the University of Nebraska. Among their gifts, the families funded the Van Brunt Visitors Center, which serves as the front door to the UNL campus.
Williamson taught in Omaha for five years and then went on to pursue a graduate degree at Columbia University. While in New York she worked at NBC Studios for nine years in the areas of literary rights, production and also as a liaison between the Writers Guild and NBC.
She eventually moved to Houston, where she enjoyed a career in real estate. Robert Williamson graduated from Omaha University in 1948 with a degree in psychology. He went on to become a district manager for Owens Corning. The Williamsons lived in Houston until 1993 when they returned to Omaha.
A memorial service for Alice Williamson will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at Dundee Presbyterian Church, 5312 Underwood Ave. Memorials should be made to the University of Nebraska Foundation.
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