UNMC History 101: UNO addition sparked changes to NU, UNMC

by John Schleicher, McGoogan Library of Medicine | August 06, 2013

Image with caption: Chancellor and future chancellors at merger convocation:  Clifford Hardin, Ph.D., UNL; Kirk Naylor, Ed.D., UNO; Cecil Wittson, M.D., UNMC; November 29, 1967.

Chancellor and future chancellors at merger convocation: Clifford Hardin, Ph.D., UNL; Kirk Naylor, Ed.D., UNO; Cecil Wittson, M.D., UNMC; November 29, 1967.

Before 1968, the Omaha campus of the College of Medicine was administratively part of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

In 1968, plans were made to add the Municipal University of Omaha to create a new NU system.

The resulting administrative reorganization officially recognized the Medical Center as a semi-autonomous unit of that new system.

Omaha University (OU) started in 1908 as a private, non-sectarian institution. In 1931, by a narrow margin, the voters of Omaha approved taking over OU, to become the Municipal University of Omaha. By the late 1960s, the Municipal University had increasing financial problems. Its president, Kirk Naylor, Ed.D., sought merger with the University of Nebraska to gain state tax support for OU. The merger was encouraged by NU Chancellor Clifford Hardin, Ph.D., in Lincoln.

picture disc.
Omaha students rally in support of the proposed merger

The resultant merger in 1968 profoundly changed higher education in Nebraska. Naylor insisted that the merger be approved by the voters of Omaha before it could go into effect, and state government would have to first give its approval to merger. All of these provisions were incorporated in a bill (L.B. 736) sponsored by State Sen. Terry Carpenter. The legislature adopted the bill on a 31 to 18 vote, and it was signed by Gov. Norbert Tiemann on April 24, 1967.

According to the law, the state would assume control of the municipal university July 1, 1968, if Omaha voters approved the merger in a special election -- which they did in December 1967, by a 4-to-1 margin. The Omaha Sun newspaper declared it was unclear whether the people voted heavily for merger "in a flush of enthusiasm for improved education or in a rush to rid themselves of responsibility for OU's upkeep."

In October 1968, the Board of Regents reorganized the university's structure to reflect the merger. A system administration was established, composed of semi-autonomous degree-granting institutions: UNL, UNO, and UNMC (Kearney State College was added as UNK in 1991). Chancellor Hardin was appointed as chief administrative officer of the system. To administer each campus, the regents created three presidencies (changing that title to chancellor in 1971): Dr. Wittson at UNMC, Dr. Naylor at UNO, and Joseph Soshnik, Ph.D., over the Lincoln campuses and outstate activities.

On July 1, 1968, at the ceremony transferring the Municipal University to the state, Sydney Cate, a member of the University's Merger Committee, called the merger "the greatest educational gain in this city's history."

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Jerrie Dayton
August 06, 2013 at 8:20 AM

Great History Lesson Professor Schleicher!