The largest single gift to the University of Nebraska Athletic Department was received on Wednesday from Charles and Romona Myers. Athletic Director Steve Pederson accepted their $5 million gift toward the Memorial Stadium Expansion Project at a Dec. 8 press conference at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The Myers were also honored for their gift with a private dinner attended by Husker student-athlete representatives and also during the Nebraska - Minnesota Men's Basketball game Wednesday evening.
A native of Davenport Iowa, Charles founded Superior Industries, Inc., in 1964, a company that designed and built refrigerated structures and facilities. In addition, Charles owned and operated Freezer Services, a cold-storage warehouse company with 11 facilities in 10 states. In 1998, when Charles sold Superior Industries, Inc., and Freezer Services, the consolidated company sales hit the $800 million mark while combined employees numbered 5,000. In 1983, Superior Industries, Inc. was listed as one of the top 100 fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine.
Married for 52 years, Charles and Romona reside in Omaha and Scottsdale, Ariz. Together they have three children, 12 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. The Myers family has a history of philanthropic endeavors, having gifted $7 million for the library at the University of Dubuque (Iowa), where Charles has an Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree. Romona is an honorary alumnus of the University of Dubuque and has a Learning Center named in her honor. The Myers have also committed $8 million to the University of Dubuque for the construction of a Teaching and Administrative Center, which is scheduled for completion in July of 2006.
Charles and Romona support numerous charitable organizations, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Make-A-Wish Foundation of Nebraska, Inc., Child Saving Institute, Christian Family Care Agency, Nebraska Special Olympics, American Lung Association "Camp Super Kids," and Quality Living. In 2003, Charles successfully received from his granddaughter, a liver transplant.
A longtime season football ticket holder and Directors Club member, Charles and Romona have been attending Husker football games for more than 30 years, and Charles was honored by the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1993 with the presentation of its Clarence E. Swanson Memorial Award.
"Romona and I have always felt fortunate to have received, but we have always felt that it is much more important to give back," Charles said. "Our gift represents many years of great memories from watching Nebraska's football team. We hope this gift helps continue the great tradition of Nebraska football, while helping to create more memories for Nebraska fans."
Athletic Director Steve Pederson said the athletic department appreciates the Myers' generous gift and in their honor, will name the performance level (first floor) of the new Osborne Athletic Complex, The Charles and Romona Myers Performance Center for Student-Athletes. The performance level features the main areas where Husker student-athletes of all sports will focus to achieve their championship goals.
The Myers Performance Center will include the strength complex, the athletic medicine facilities and the football team locker room.
"The same way that the Hewit Center has helped our student-athletes achieve legendary success in their academic goals, the Myers Performance Center will provide our student-athletes the opportunity to achieve their goals in their respective sports," Pederson said. "I believe that for years to come, our student-athletes will view the Myers Center as the place where championships are earned."
The Memorial Stadium Expansion Project includes an indoor field house and Championship Wing, that will feature a full-length football field (to be completed in the fall of 2005); the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex, that will house The Myers Performance Center for Student-Athletes (to be completed in the fall of 2006) and the North Stadium expansion, which will raise the stadium's capacity to 80,000 (to be completed in the fall of 2006).
The Athletic Department continues to accept gifts toward the building project. To date, the project has received more than $20 million in private gifts toward the $50 million project.
For complete transcripts of today's press conference, or to listen to it on replay, please visit Huskers.com.
Q & A with the Myers
On the amount of the gift and why the athletic department
(Charles Myers) "We think it's ok to receive, but also you ought to give something back. To us, that's really what we are doing here. The numbers just happen to be something that fit and what they are doing here as far as the facility."
On why the University of Nebraska
(Charles Myers) "There's a lot of reasons for that. One of those reasons for that or two are behind me over here (gesturing to Harvey Perlman and Steve Pederson). The other reason is that we have lived here since 1958. We came from Davenport, Iowa. The old story, we got to the Missouri river, ran out of fuel, didn't have any money so we figured we might as well stay."
"For about thirty years or so, we have been involved in football, mostly on the sidelines watching it, but belong to the director's club and a few other things. So, we felt that with this new facility, it's something that we are excited about. We are excited for the University. We are excited for the state and we feel that it's a real necessity to bring together all of these different functions and activities together instead of the way it is today, split up."
On seeing this donation as a confidence booster for the athletic department
"I absolutely believe that. Ramona and I had the privilege of having dinner with a group of students here tonight. It's just amazing to me. They care. They want to grow and need tools to grow with and part of the tools (are) facilities."
On the lackluster season for the football team impairing the fund raising.
"Oh, it probably does, but at least from my perspective, there's roughly eighty thousand people that come to these games. I don't care if we win, lose or draw or whether they are angry or not angry, they are still here."
"That makes us do some of the things we are doing for the University as well. That probably bothers a little bit, but I think we will get over that hurdle."
On the donation possibly prompting others to donate substantial sums.
"We certainly hope so. That's certainly part of our goal."
To Ramona on her interest in the program
"I love the color."
On what they feel is special about how athletics are conducted at the University of Nebraska that would make them want to continue their support.
(Charles Myers) "That's kind of hard for me to answer. In my mind I go back several years and think of the first time in the Devaney-era came here and toured the athletic department. I was amazed at all the equipment and the people that were using that equipment. I guess I really don't know how to answer that properly."
On feeling that it's a combination of the enthusiasm for athletics and the balance with academics
"I think it probably does. I think absolutely that when you think of the word, athletics, that covers quite a spectrum. I just know this than in our homes, we have a couple of them that have fitness centers in the home and I know how well I feel every day that I exercise when I am done."
"I feel it makes my mind sharper. I guess if I was a student, I think it would help me in my classroom, so I think so."
On the amount of five million dollars
"These fellows standing behind me, they came up with some numbers which I know what those numbers are for. That's to give you an idea of ‘we hope we get that much, but if we don't, we'll still be happy with what we get."
"I took an in-between, well Ramona and I did, number and say it's a pretty healthy number. If that doesn't help get this kicked off and get people to come back and help us fund this project, I don't know what would."
"That's probably the correct way."
On thoughts of this being the largest single donation in N.U. Athletic dept. history
"Truthfully, we never gave that a thought. I don't even think we were aware of that at the time we made the contribution. In fact, I know we weren't."
On the amount and for that amount, did he have any plays for Bill Callahan
"I think I better leave Bill Callahan alone. In fact I haven't met him yet. I look forward to that. It's not his fault, it's mine that I couldn't attend a meeting or dinner that they had."
"I think I better leave that alone and let him speak for himself. My personal feelings are that he is going to do a great job and is doing a great job. Let him grow a little bit."
On having his name in the complex along with Tom Osborne's and him knowing Osborne
"I know him very well. I really hadn't discussed it, hadn't thought about it."
To Steve Pederson on what kind of jump start he thinks this does for the project and a possible timeframe
"We're excited because obviously when you get a gift of this magnitude, I think it escalates everything. What I appreciate so much is that Charley and Ramona did not choose to do this when we were coming off winning national championships. They chose to do this at a time where it was very necessary to move our program forward."
"It's kind of interesting when I hear questions about the season. In all the discussions we had, Charley never talked about the season or how we were doing. He just talked about how he could support what was going on here."
"So, we will forever be grateful for that, because this is not a time a lot of people choose to jump in and help, but it's the time that is the most necessary. So, what they are doing here I hope will create the kind of great Nebraska enthusiasm we need to keep carrying us forward and be able to let us achieve all the things we want to achieve."
"We have high goals and great dreams here and these kinds of gifts help make that possible."
To Pederson on his patience with the process of the program improving and fans' patience possibly running out
"To me, I am sure there are people who's patience has run out. I feel bad about that and I feel sorry for them. But, it's like anything else. If you want something to be great, that doesn't happen overnight."
"We tell our athletes all the time that it's the investment you make away from the game itself that makes the real difference. We like to say and this facility will be the place where it happens, that champions are made when no one is watching. It's kind of like the golfer who goes out and decides he wants to golf, but he never practice leading up to that and wonders why he has a lousy round."
"You have to do all the things that it takes to put yourself in a position to be great and win championships. That starts every day, every minute, we have a plan here. Part of that plan was to get the facilities done. Some places would have chosen to wait and do these facilities once they had a large percentage of the money raised."
"But, we needed to get going on this. I am so appreciative of Chancellor Perlman and the board of regents for allowing us to move forward, because what that would have done is delay the process of moving our program back to where we want to get."
"We could have spent two years raising money, two more years building that and now you are four or five recruiting classes from where you need to be. We are rolling right now in recruiting. We are rolling right now in recruiting, because coach Callahan and his staff can say ‘look what's going up. Let's walk down to the north end and see what's happening'."
"And, it will get better as we build it. It will get better when you can walk into it and it will get better when it's finished. So, thank heavens for people that have jumped behind this thing get headed into the right direction so we can use this and capitalize on this."
"Everybody we are competing against is going fast. They are going fast. They are going direct, they are going right at it and we've got to to."
"Nebraska has always been the leader in these areas. We were the first one with a great big fabulous strength complex. We were the first ones with big screens in our stadium. We were the first ones to build a training table and a academic study area."
"We can't become the first ones to watch the world go by. We've got to stay out in front of this and we've got to keep going. We are doing that and fortunately we have a lot of great people that are helping us do that and that makes us all the difference in the world."
To Carl and Ramona on this donation being a statement of support for the program
"I am also involved in the University of Debuque in Debuque, Iowa. Ramona and I built them a library and put a second story on the library. When we made that commitment, I had two visitors come to Scottsdale (Arizona) to see me, the new president and the old president."
"They said ‘we are in financial trouble. We can't rightfully take this money from you'. At that point, it was three and a half or four million and with the addition, it was seven or eight. ‘We are ninety days from bankruptcy.' I didn't say I was smart. Maybe (it's a ) gut thing or things you do from your gut perhaps. I said I want you to say the course, get back to Dubuque and get this library built, because I walk through this campus and saw the broken sidewalks and the buildings that needed a face-lift inside and outside. I am going to steal this from a movie made in Iowa ‘if you build it, they will come' and by-golly they have."
"Now, that University is overloaded and now they are building another building which is somewhere between eight and eleven million."
"So, what I am trying to say is when things are on the bottom, it's time to stand up. When our team isn't doing well, that's not the time to give them hell, that's the time to stand up and support them. So, that's what we decided to do here. We think that's the time."