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Landscaped corner transforms med center's southern entrance

Image with caption: From left, Robert and Polina Schlott, Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., and Nebraska Medicine CEO James Linder, M.D.

From left, Robert and Polina Schlott, Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., and Nebraska Medicine CEO James Linder, M.D.

UNMC and the Nebraska Medical Center have a new front door.

On Tuesday, campus leaders and invited guests gathered to thank philanthropists Bob and Polina Schlott for their contributions in making possible the new southern entrance, which has been named the Medical Center Plaza.

The greenspace and lighted walkway, located on the northwest corner of 42nd and Leavenworth streets, features 18 ceramic columnar sculptures created by Omaha artist Jun Kaneko. The sculptures are incorporated into a grove of mature trees. Benches line the walk and provide visitors, medical center employees and students the opportunity to seek calmness and beauty amid a tranquil park-like setting.

See photos from the event.

"For the first time, visitors who travel up 42nd Street to our campus will have a first impression that matches the extraordinary patient care, research and education that takes place within our campus," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

Two monument signs stand across 42nd Street, on the northeast corner, in front of the Dr. Edwin G. & Dorothy Balbach Davis Global Center, welcoming visitors to a campus that also has been transformed thanks to generous donors and public-private partnerships.

"We now have an entrance -- a gateway, if you will -- that matches the high quality of this campus's work," said University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen.

"UNMC represents the best of what's going on in Nebraska," said Bob Schlott. "It is truly an amazing facility with a lot of momentum."

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Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., spoke at the event.

During Tuesday's ceremony, the Schlotts unveiled a plaque in honor of Polina's mother, Larisa Poluektova, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the UNMC Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Neuroscience and co-director of the Translational Mouse Model Core Facility. The plaque recognizes Dr. Poluektova for "serving others at UNMC for more than two decades" and identifies her as a: relentless investigator, pioneering discovery and advancing biomedical research.

Bob Schlott said the project was personally meaningful because it featured artwork as its centerpiece; highlighted the work of Kaneko, a long-time acquaintance and business neighbor; and provided an opportunity to honor his mother-in-law, who "brought me my wife."

Dr. Poluektova and her family left Riga, Latvia, in 1996 to come to Nebraska -- first to Creighton University and then to UNMC. Her laboratory provides the biomedical community with environmentally, genetically and xenotransplantation-modified mice for the study of human immunity and vaccines.

And as medical research transforms lives, so, too, does artwork, Dr. Gold said, noting that the medical center has one of the largest Healing Arts Programs in the country.

"We all want to make the world a better place and Jun strives for that in his practice," said Susan Schonlau, who represented the Jun Kaneko Studio.

The 13-foot columnar sculptures, hand-painted slip and glaze on high-fire ceramics, each weigh 3,000 pounds, Schonlau said. "They can be appreciated as individual pieces as well as a collective, scaled larger than humans to be uplifting yet similar enough to be personal."

"Columns and towers watch over us and inspire us to reach higher and achieve more," said Jim Linder, M.D., CEO of Nebraska Medicine.

Kaneko's columnar sculptures, a public art project titled Origin, are only the latest addition to a campus that also features the "Hope Tower" by world-renowned artist James Carpenter and "Search" Tower, also by Kaneko.

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Jun Kaneko attended Tuesday's event.

About the Schlotts

Robert Schlott is the CEO and owner of Omaha-based Warren Distribution, the largest North American manufacturer of private label lubricants. He received his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Iowa State University and his Master of Business Administration from Harvard University. The Council Bluffs, Iowa, native has led a life of building community, serving on the boards of nonprofit social service and arts and culture organizations.

Polina Schlott had a career as an acquisition professional for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that spanned more than 15 years, including deployment in support of disaster relief efforts. She has continuously grown her engagement and volunteerism in Council Bluffs and Omaha. Born and raised in Riga, Latvia, she came to the United States with her parents in 1996 and received her citizenship in 2002. She attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where she received a bachelor's degree in marketing and a master's degree in public administration.

She is vice chair for the Phoenix Academy and also serves on the board of directors for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands, Children's Square U.S.A., Lauritzen Gardens, Council Bluffs Bridges Out of Poverty Executive Committee and PACE Board of Directors (Pottawattamie Arts, Culture and Entertainment). She also is a longtime mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands.

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