Honoring Our President of Nearly a Decade
What a leader contributes shapes an orgnizations's future. Because of Dr. Louis Burgher, the legacy of Clarkson College will not only live on, it will continue to move forward.
A Tribute & Dedication
In recognition of his service as Clarkson College President for the past nine years, more than 100 faculty, staff and Board of Directors members gathered for a reception on campus on July 21 to celebrate Dr. Louis Burgher's transition to President Emeritus, made official on Aug. 1.
As guests filled into Howard Hall for a slideshow presentation featuring photos of Dr. Burgher as a child, student, physician, family man, entrepreneur and Clarkson College President streamed across a projector screen.
To welcome everyone to the celebration, Board of Directors Chair Reverend Thomas J. Hurley delivered a jovial message, praising Dr. Burgher for building a durable foundation for the College and expressing his faith in former Vice President of Operations Dr. Tony Damewood to lead the College into the future as he steps into the presidential role.
Next, the College debuted a professionally produced video featuring several of Dr. Burgher's closest constituents during his term as President. One by one, they expressed their gratitude to Dr. Burgher for entrusting his confidence in them as colleagues and applauded his nobility and professional guidance.
Dr. Damewood thanked guests for attending the celebration and extended his personal gratitude to his mentor, Dr. Burgher, for being such an exceptional role model to him over the years. He then presented Dr. Burgher with a signed and framed photo of Clarkson College faculty and staff taken during the spring 2015 Employee Pride Day.
Somewhat overcome by the reverential comments made about him by his cohorts, Dr. Burgher very unassumingly expressed his own gratitude for those who have and continue to shape his life's journey. With that, he shared how his "interim" role as College President manifested from being an anticipated three- or four-month-long appointment to a nearly 10-year-long vocation that has brought him a great deal of fulfillment.
In closing, he reassured the College community that, despite his transition to President Emeritus, the best years of Clarkson College are yet to come.
Dr. Louis & Susan Burgher Board Room Unveiling
Two weeks prior to his celebration reception, Dr. Burgher and his wife, Susan ('70), were the honorary guests for the unveiling of the newly-remodeled Clarkson College Board Room, which was named after the Burghers for their many years of service to the College.
In addition to Dr. Burgher serving as Clarkson College President since 2007, Susan is also a proud Clarkson School of Nursing alumna. Individually and together, the Burghers have supported the College Mission for many years through their longstanding relationship with Nebraska Medicine and Clarkson Regional Health Services.
Shortly after Dr. Burgher announced his plans to step down as President last January, Dr. Damewood, presented the idea of remodeling and renaming the Board Room as a tribute to Dr. Burgher for his many years of service to the College. After receiving approval and support from the College Board of Directors, plans for the remodeling project kicked off in late March. The renovation project began in mid-May and took nearly six weeks to complete.
Updates made to the space include new paint; replacement lighting; the addition of a 30-foot-long custom cut conference table; new black leather chairs and black leatherette table pads; charcoal stone coasters; and an acrylic print adhered to the wall that features a photo of Dr. Burgher and one of his most prized quotes, “Always remember, the work you are preparing to do is a scared trust.” The exterior of the Board Room features a dibond-printed image of Dr. and Mrs. Burgher, accompanied by a written description of their many contributions to the College.
According to Facilities Director Chuck MacDonell, the last time any updates were made to the Board Room prior to this project was in 2006 with the addition of new chairs. Thus, the full-scale remodel brings a fresh look and feel, while also paying a special tribute.
“The dedication of the Board Room is a gesture of gratitude to Dr. Burgher for everything he has done for Clarkson College," said Dr. Damewood. “Words simply aren’t enough to convey the lasting impression he will leave on those of us who were fortunate enough to work under his leadership.”
Following the ribbon cutting, guests expressed their thanks to Dr. Burgher and Susan for the continual support they’ve provided the College over the years.
Noteworthy Accomplishments Achieved Under Dr. Burgher's Leadership
- Establishment of a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a specialization in Nurse Anesthesia
- Implementation of the first ever doctorate degree programs to be offered at the College: Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor in Health Education and Leadership
- Development of two high-fidelity, on-campus simulation labs to enhance student learning experiences and outcomes
- Continued impact of the Gateway to Success Minority in Nursing Scholarship program, which Dr. Burgher led the development of in 2000 while serving as CEO at Nebraska Medicine
- A multitude of national awards and recognitions that highlight online learning efficiency, student success outcomes, affordability and support for active-duty military and veterans
- Implementation of annual College-wide strategic planning process
A Final Token of Appreciation
Following his “semi-retirement” reception and Board Room ribbon cutting ceremony, the College had one last surprise honor to present to Dr. Burgher for his unremitting service to Clarkson College prior to, during and now following his role as College President.
The Otto Bauer Humanitarian Service Award was created in 1999 to honor Dr. Otto Bauer, former Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at the University of Nebraska–Omaha, for his many years of demonstrated leadership and dedication to Clarkson College.
Dr. Bauer’s affiliation with Clarkson College began in 1981 as a consultant. He then became a member of the Board of Directors in 1992 and Chair of the Board of Directors
in 1997. His mentorship played a major role in helping the College transition from a diploma-granting nursing school to a fully accredited institution offering associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and post-master’s certificates.
Established with the idea that only a fixed number of honorees would ever receive the Otto Bauer Humanitarian Service Award, the College felt it was only appropriate to present the final medallion to Dr. Burgher. The timing of the summer 2016 graduation commencement ceremony came just five days after Dr. Burgher’s transition to President Emeritus. In front of the hundreds of students, faculty and guests attending graduation, Dr. Damewood presented his predecessor with the award.
“On Aug. 1, our leader of the last nine years transitioned into his new role of President Emeritus and will also continue to offer his support as a member of the Clarkson College Board of Directors,” shared Dr. Damewood. “I speak on behalf of the entire College when I say we are humbled by his service and truly appreciate his commitment to the College, its traditions and its students."
"It is because of his guidance that I can step into this role with the confidence and wherewithal to move Clarkson College forward."
Following the Legacy of an Accomplished Leader
The Clarkson College Board of Directors knew the individual it approved to supersede Dr. Burgher would need to possess a wide-ranging list of sound leadership qualities and professional accolades to even be considered for the presidency role. Likewise, it would need be someone who understood the importance of high-quality education with respect to its impact on the future of health care. These criteria left little room for debate when Dr. Burgher recommended Vice President of Operations Dr. Tony Damewood take over as the next President of Clarkson College.
Dr. Damewood is one of the longest-standing employees at Clarkson College. He first began as the Director of Admissions in 1998 and was promoted to Dean of Enrollment Management and Student Services in 2001. A restructure of leadership in 2005 led to his next appointment as the Vice President of Operations—the position he held until assuming the role of President.
Dr. Damewood’s career in higher education began shortly after receiving a B.A. degree in psychology from Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa in 1990. After graduating, he worked for five years as the Director of Admissionsand was also the head baseball coach at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. His success with the baseball program led him to a new opportunity as the head coach at Bluefield College in Virginia.
After earning his MBA degree in 1998 from Averett College in Danville, Va., Dr. Damewood returned to the Midwest to join the Clarkson College community. From 2008–2012, he coached baseball for the Millard Athletic Association and also spent several years coaching Little League. In 2014, he furthered his education and earned his Ph.D. in Human Capital Management from Bellevue University.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude to Dr. Burgher for serving as my trusted mentor and role model over the years,” said Dr. Damewood. “It is because of his guidance that I can step into this role with the confidence and wherewithal to move Clarkson College forward for many years to come.”