Hugh and Bonnie Campbell Boosted Bellevue and Bellevue University

By Bill Wax

Builders of Bellevue University: Across the Years and Generations

Hugh CampbellThe support of thousands of individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations has helped make Bellevue University Nebraska’s largest private college or university. As the University celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look at a few of the key individuals and organizations whose financial support helped make it happen. Known as a booster of the Bellevue, Nebraska, community, the late Hugh W. Campbell was a founder and long-time supporter of Bellevue University.

 

Hugh and Bonnie Campbell Boosted Bellevue and Bellevue University

Hugh and Bonnie CampbellClay Center, Nebraska, native Hugh W. Campbell was among the first local business and community leaders who put their names, reputations and money on the line to launch Bellevue College. For three decades, he and his wife, Bonnie, were stalwart supporters of the College, which became Bellevue University in 1994. Their family has established a permanent scholarship fund at the University in their honor.

In 1966, Campbell and fellow members of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce went door-to-door in the community to raise start-up funding of $280,000 for the College. One of two bank presidents who served on the College’s founding Board of Directors, he was Board Treasurer from its shaky, sometimes insolvent, beginnings to an era of budget surpluses. In its early years, emergency Board meetings sometimes were necessary to resolve fiscal crises. “We had a rough time. If we had known what we knew later on, we never would have started it. We went through some really lean years,” Campbell said in a 1985 interview, looking back at the College’s first two decades.

Hugh and Bonnie Campbell 2Service was always a big part of Campbell’s life. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, receiving the Bronze Star Medal for “meritorious achievement as a Commanding Officer” during the Allied assault on Okinawa 1945.  After the war, he returned to Nebraska and co-founded the Bank of Bellevue in 1951. He was known as a driving force and booster of education and economic development in Bellevue, a small, Omaha suburb of 15,000 when the College was founded. Today the population is more than 50,000. He was President of the Bellevue Industrial Foundation and served on the Bellevue City Council and the Bellevue Public Schools Board of Education.

He received the Bellevue Junior Chamber of Commerce’s “Boss of the Year Award” in 1960. In 1975, the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Chamber’s highest honor, the Harlan Lewis Memorial Award for Distinguished Service for “outstanding contributions to the Bellevue community.” He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Bellevue College in 1985 in recognition and gratitude for his efforts on behalf of the College and community. Campbell, who also served a term as Chairman of the Board of the College, remained an Emeritus Director until his death in 1996.

Dr. Bart and Audrey Campbell
Dr. Bart and Audrey Campbell

Hugh’s wife Bonnie was equally supportive of the University and community and the two quietly made an impact on both. The University’s Hugh and Bonnie Campbell Language Lab in the Dennis Learning Center is named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell. Their son, Dr. Bart Campbell, and his wife, Audrey, of Nashville, Tennessee, and their son, Steve, and his wife, Claudia, of New Orleans, contributed to a permanent Hugh and Bonnie Campbell Memorial Scholarship Fund in their honor, to provide ongoing support for the University’s students. “My mother and father believed strongly in education and would be quite pleased with this endowment,” Bart Campbell said when the fund was established in 2010.

Steve and Claudia Campbell
Steve and Claudia Campbell during campus visit in Summer 2016

In summer 2016, after a long absence from the area, Steve and Claudia Campbell visited the Bellevue University campus during a family vacation. “We were both incredibly impressed not only by the physical growth that has occurred since we last saw the school but also by the tremendous breadth of course offerings and in the size of your student body,” Steve said. “It is impressive that the University now serves over 13,000 students each year, many of whom are first-generation college students. I truly believe that mom and dad would be amazed at what has been accomplished since their initial involvement in its founding in 1966!”

Mike Simmonds Tapped into the American Dream and Made Life Better for Many

By Bill Wax

Builders of Bellevue University: Across the Years and Generations

In celebration of Bellevue University’s 50th Anniversary, we take time to recognize some of the many individuals and organizations that have helped to build the University into Nebraska’s largest private college or university. Bellevue University has entrepreneurial roots, and the late Michael H. “Mike” Simmonds personified that spirit as a Builder of Bellevue University.

Mike Simmonds Tapped into the American Dream and Made Life Better for Many

Santa Monica, California, native Mike Simmonds’ journey to business success began with a single bite of a Whopper sandwich. That fortuitous experience led to a lucrative restaurant career, and eventually, it led him to support and serve on the Board of Bellevue University.

MSimmonds 96 ppiSimmonds’ own college career followed a path similar to that of many Bellevue University’s students. In the 1970s, while completing a bachelor’s degree in Business at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Simmonds, then a young U.S. Army veteran, husband and father, worked as a manager trainee job in a Decatur, Alabama, Burger King Restaurant.

After graduating in 1976, he and his wife, Lin, moved their growing family north, and he opened a Burger King in Fremont, Nebraska. For the next three decades plus, the family owned Simmonds Restaurant Management, Inc., grew rapidly, at its peak operating more than 90 Burger Kings, Taco John’s, and Jimmy John’s stores and employing more than 2,800 people. During that period, he was consistently recognized as one of premier Burger King franchise owners.  After selling the restaurants in 2008, he pursued other business ventures, including real estate, the security industry, and a concierge medicine start-up company.

Simmonds joined the Bellevue University Board in 2001 and made an immediate impact, helping provide direction and keep the University true to its original educational mission and vision. He was Chair of the Board for two years, and supported facilities and program development and student scholarship initiatives.

He served and supported many worthy non-profit causes in the greater Omaha area. He was on the Board of Methodist Hospital Foundation, the Salvation Army, CUES and Merrymakers. “America is truly a land of opportunity,” Simmonds said in 2009, when he and his wife, Lin, received the 2009 Outstanding Philanthropists Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Nebraska chapter. “Lin and I and our family have been able to tap into that and live the dream…the causes we support are helping to make life better.”

In 20Simmonds Hood 96 ppi14, Bellevue University awarded Simmonds an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree in recognition of his business accomplishments, philanthropy, and civic engagement.

 

 

Unpretentious Approach Leads Professor to Bellevue University

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

A welcoming atmosphere was a one of the things that attracted Dr. Julia Cronin-Gilmore to Bellevue University in 2007. Ten years later, she still works hard to project that atmosphere into both her online and in-class students.

Cronin-Gilmore exemplified those attributes by earning top honors in the United States Distance Learning Association’s (USDLA) 2017 international awards program. Cronin-Gilmore received the USDLA Excellence in Teaching/Training Award in the category of Online Technology – Higher Education.

“I found out I was being nominated and helped prepare the entry. It started out as a paragraph and was 13 pages when I completed it,” Cronin-Gilmore said. “At Bellevue University, we are very innovative using engaging and interactive tools/assignments. I provided links and examples of what my students were completing so there was evidence in the application. Plus, I am sure it was kind of fun for the reviewers to actually walk through some of the assignments and see firsthand what it was like for the students.”

Bellevue University President Dr. Mary Hawkins praised Cronin-Gilmore for the excellence that led to earning the USDLA award.

“Dr. Cronin-Gilmore’s approach to supporting the needs of learners excelling in the constantly changing career of marketing exemplifies Bellevue University’s commitment to innovative learning models. Cronin-Gilmore was one of five educators nationwide honored with an award of excellence, and according to Dr. Hawkins, “she effectively combines technology-based instructional strategies with learning outcomes, and a true love for teaching both undergraduate and graduate students.”

The award was also recently noted by the Women in America Report.

Cronin-Gilmore, Professor in the College of Business and the Director of Marketing degrees embraces the flexibility offered by online learning.

“I want students to learn, have an opportunity to practice their skills, and create new skill sets,” Cronin-Gilmore said. “The advantage of taking courses online is that it works with your schedule and is available where there is an Internet connection. People work, travel, and take courses.”

Cronin Gilmore
Cronin – Gilmore with her family from left: Collin Gilmore, Julia Cronin-Gilmore, Alan Gilmore, Anna Gilmore, and Garrett Gilmore.

Cronin-Gilmore first came to Bellevue University in 2007 attracted by the opportunities the school offered in the online arena.

“I moved to Bellevue University because online was growing and I knew it was the next big thing in education. The move also allowed me to teach at the graduate level,” she said. “What I love about Bellevue University is that it is for the everyday person. It’s not pretentious. The university and our professors are approachable and being in an online class is comfortable because things are established. We have been doing this for quite some time and have it figured out. Students also consistently tell me they fit in and feel connected to their professor and fellow students.  We have the range of very successful business people to someone who might have been out of the workforce for some time. All take classes together and it works.”

 

George Venteicher Helped Facilitate University Outreach to West Omaha

By Bill Wax

Builders of Bellevue University: Across the Years and Generations

In celebration of Bellevue University’s 50th Anniversary, we take time to recognize some of the many individuals and organizations that have helped to build the University into Nebraska’s largest private college or university. Helping find a west Omaha satellite location and improve its athletic facilities made Omaha attorney and real-estate developer George W. Venteicher a Builder of Bellevue University.

George Venteicher Helped Facilitate University Outreach to West Omaha

George & Susan V PhotoBellevue University is one of many beneficiaries of George W. Venteicher’s professional expertise, generosity and involvement. His highly successful career began more than 50 years ago. After an exemplary record in college and law school, he served as an assistant Attorney General of Nebraska from 1964 to 1967. He left the public sector to found a successful Omaha law firm which specialized in real estate development and developed millions of square feet of commercial and residential space. In 1981, he and business partners founded KVI Associates, which developed Omaha area including Oak View Mall and North Park, as well as developments in Iowa, Arizona, and Colorado.

In the mid-1990s, Bellevue University was leasing classroom and student support space in a strip mall near 120th and Center streets and was actively evaluating several sites for a permanent west Omaha location. Venteicher made an affordable building site available in North Park, near 120th and Miami streets, which ultimately became the University’s Lozier Professional Center. Since opening in 1998, the 20,000 square-foot Lozier Professional Center has been a mainstay for the University, providing classrooms, computer labs, faculty and administrative space to serve about 1,000 students per year in a range of programs, from professional certification through the master’s degree level. The facility also provides a quality venue for dozens corporate meetings and training sessions and other events throughout the year.

Since joining the University’s Board of Directors at the urging of friend and Board Member Fred Hawkins, Sr. in 2001, Venteicher has supported several program and facilities development initiatives. “I liked the University because of its mission and because it serves a special niche—the second-chance students and others who deserve an opportunity,” he said. “It has a definite place and the community benefits from it. If it wasn’t here, a lot of those students wouldn’t be getting their education, and education is really important.”

Venteicher and his wife, Susan, were major contributors to the 3,000 square-foot Venteicher Wellness Center addition to the Gordon Lozier Athletic Center, which was completed in 2003 on the main campus in Bellevue.

Venteicher Wellness Center ExteriorKnown as someone with a strong character who “does business on a handshake,” Venteicher also supports outreach initiatives of the University’s American Vision and Values program, which emphasizes America’s founding principles of freedom, personal responsibility, free-enterprise, and involved citizenship. “Bellevue University teaches values, and that’s how you become a good citizen and benefit your community,” he said.

In 2007, Bellevue University presented an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree to Mr. Venteicher in recognition and appreciation for his professional accomplishments, philanthropy and service to humanity.

Lyman-Richey HR Finds a Fit with Bellevue University Grads

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

SONY DSCLyman-Richey’s Human Resources department has developed into a bit of a Bruin den. Three employees, Angela Conner, Kelly Hayduk, and Kathy Snoddy, all have earned degrees at Bellevue University.

Conner, who has been with Lyman-Richey, one of the region’s leading concrete and construction materials providers, for nine months as a Human Resources Generalist. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Management of Human Resources in 2011, after first acquiring an Associate’s degree through Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

“I had been looking at HR Programs throughout the Omaha area and found that the accelerated program fit the bill for me. I had talked to a few other graduates and really thought they had a good outlook after graduating. It seemed like Bellevue was perfect for me,” Conner said.

Hayduk earned her Bachelor of Science in Management of Human Resources in 2014 and has been with Lyman-Richey for nine months, as well.

“Bellevue offered night and online classes, which was a huge plus for me. I was working full time and had 3 kids so I needed flexibility.”

Snoddy is the veteran of the group, having been at Lyman-Richey for almost four years. She earned her degree in 2013.

“The accelerated program prompted me to visit and attend Bellevue University,” Snoddy said. “The professors were great.”

Conner and Hayduk both praised the Kirkpatrick Signature Series. The series focuses on various institutions and traditions of Western Civilization that have achieved unprecedented success in the United States. It explores the intellectual, social, and cultural progress resulting through the productive tensions that can arise among tradition, change, freedom, and responsibility. Conner said her professor, adjunct Chip Greene, made the material come alive for her.

“His way of teaching and constant questions made me really appreciate his teaching style,” she said. “He came in with a bright outlook on life and was constantly teaching us to question life and everything else. It really made me appreciate the classes and enjoy my time in the Kirkpatrick Series.”

Hayduk’s Signature Series classes were taught by the late Dr. Ed Rauchut.

“He has since passed away, but he made many of my classes a positive experience,” she said.

A varied work experience each day is what keeps the three engaged at Lyman-Richey.

“I enjoy the diversity of my job, claim resolution, different projects,” Snoddy said. “I have experience and knowledge of all aspects of HR being with the same company and being here the longest.”

Conner echoed those sentiments, “The fact that no two days are the same. Things are constantly changing and moving and no incident is like the one before. I like having some variety and seeing what a new day will bring. It’s never boring.

“Receiving my degree in Human Resource Management really allowed me to advance further then I could have otherwise,” said Conner. “I learned so many life lessons from Bellevue and it really helped me grow into the person I am today. It was an amazing experience and I loved the fact that the people they have teaching their classes have real life experiences. They teach because they enjoy it, but they have the life skills and experience to know what they are talking about.”

 

MCC Advisor Sets Example for Students

By Dan Silvia

“Just do it!”

That’s the advice that Yolanda Robinson, an academic advisor at Metropolitan Community College (MCC), passes on to those seeking advice about continuing their education. Robinson knows of what she speaks. She is in the final stages of completing her Master of Public Administration degree at Bellevue University, having already earned her undergraduate degree at Kansas State.

Yolanda1Born and raised in Omaha and a graduate of Burke High School, Robinson has always been aware of Bellevue University, but her job at MCC really opened her eyes to the possibilities.

“The active relationship Bellevue University has with MCC really led to me finally returning to earn my graduate degree,” she said. “Everyone that comes here to support the students’ transition to Bellevue University has been very helpful and encouraging. Their honest feedback and genuine interest in me reaching my goals — it was an easy decision for me.”

MPA Graduates

Robinson is close enough to completing her degree to have walked in the spring commencement ceremony and she’ll complete her last few classes this summer.

“The whole experience has been a good one.  All my professors were experts in the field and open and helpful instructors,” Robinson said. “My last professor, Les Tighe, stands out for several reasons.  He also teaches some courses at MCC and gets the culture and all the major changes happening here right now.  He was always helpful, encouraging, understanding and will to work with me and my needs. For that, I am truly thankful to him.  His constant words of encouragement and availability were priceless in the time where I struggled to finish.”

Robinson relishes her role at MCC helping students reach their goals.

“I assist students with developing and maintaining their education plan to reach their desired goals here at MCC.  I am an advocate for their success in school and life,” she said. “I enjoy being a part of the growth, development and education of the students here at MCC.”

 

Boldt Builds Career at Nebraska Furniture Mart

By Dan Silvia

Tony Boldt is a mover, shaker, and leader. Those attributes have helped him climb the ranks to the top rungs at Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), the Omaha-based home furnishings giant. He took over for Ron Blumkin as President and Chief Operating Officer in June 2017.

Tony BoldtBoldt, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Management at Bellevue University in 2011, will oversee store operations in all regions, with responsibilities including human resources, security, finance, customer care, and information technology. Boldt will also work with the Chief Executive Officer, Irv Blumkin, on corporate strategy.

“It takes a large team working together seamlessly to provide the customer experience we are looking for,” said Boldt, a graduate of City High in Iowa City, Iowa. “With the thousands of positive customer surveys we get, these are great examples of a solid team working together to achieve what we value most which is customer appreciation.  I also enjoy constantly looking for better ways to do things.  Thinking outside the box on how we can engage our customers in an experience they value.  I am very passionate about having fun with our customers and with our staff.  We really believe that happy staff equals happy customers.”

Boldt started his NFM career at Homemakers Furniture in Des Moines, Iowa, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NFM, about 15 years ago. He moved up to Warehouse Manager at NFM of Des Moines, Flooring Builder Sales Manager, and then to Des Moines Store Manager.  After about four years in that role, he moved to Omaha and was the Appliance and Electronics General Sales Manager for two years before moving to Kansas City to be the NFM Kansas City Store Director.

NFM“When I started my career at NFM, I did not envision that I would be in the role of President of NFM someday,” Boldt said. “I have been incredibly fortunate that I have had great mentors that have helped me grow as a leader.  I am a very driven person and I have always wanted to broaden my circle of influence to continue to build an environment where people want to work and shop.  I am looking forward to my new role so that I can continue that evolution for me and my team.”

Boldt took advantage of the partnership between Bellevue University and NFM to earn his degree.

“I was looking to finish my degree and NFM had built a great relationship with Bellevue University, so I decided to give it a shot. It was a great experience.” Boldt said. “I was part of an online cohort program.  I was in class with several of my fellow NFM teammates from different regions.  We could independently write papers about our experiences and some of the leadership situations that we faced. It allowed us to bond and brainstorm some bigger ideas to continuously improve at NFM.”

Boldt said he was able to take what he learned in the classroom and apply it on the job.

“The more information that you can get and apply, the more it all makes sense,” he said. “Leadership is always evolving in all of us regardless of title and it is important to keep learning and practicing your skills.”

Juggling school in addition to work and family responsibilities can be challenging, but it is manageable, Boldt said.

“I hear from a lot of people that, ‘they just don’t have time,’” he said. “At the time I went back to school, I had two kids, a wife that was working very hard at her career, and I was running the Des Moines Store. It does take time management and discipline, but it can be done if you commit to it. I think it is safe to say that I would not be in my role had I not finished my degree. It was an important part of my development.”

Armstrong McDonald Foundation: Focusing on Student Learning

By Bill Wax

The support of thousands of individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations has helped make Bellevue University Nebraska’s largest private college or university. As the University celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look at a few of the key individuals and organizations whose financial support helped make it happen. For nearly three decades, The Armstrong McDonald Foundation has helped to build a quality learning environment for the University’s students.

Armstrong McDonald Foundation: Focusing on Student Learning

Since 1989, the Tucson, Arizona-based Armstrong McDonald Foundation has been a stalwart supporter of education innovation at Bellevue University, including gifts for science lab equipment, library and computer technology, the campus Writing Center, and classroom equipment and furnishings.

Mike and Laurie BouchardNamed for the late J.M. and Josephine (Armstrong) McDonald, Armstrong McDonald is a “family” foundation in the truest sense. The Foundation’s current President, Laurie Bouchard, is J.M and Josephine’s granddaughter. Laurie’s husband, Michael “Mike” Bouchard, is Secretary-Treasurer of the Foundation. Other family members, great grandchildren, continue to serve as Foundation Trustees and Officers.

James M. “J.M.” McDonald Sr., was a Missouri native and a successful retailer and entrepreneur. After retiring as a vice president at J.C. Penney in 1929, he purchased the 13 store Brown company which became the Hastings, Nebraska-based J.M. McDonald Company, department store chain under the leadership and management of J.M. McDonald, Jr.. In 1952, Mr. McDonald started the J.M. McDonald Foundation funding it with a million dollars of company stock. The J.M. McDonald Company was acquired by another retail firm in 1968, and J.M. McDonald-branded department stores continued to operate in Midwestern and western states until 1982.

The Armstrong McDonald Foundation was incorporated in the State of Nebraska in 1986 after assets of the original J.M. McDonald Foundation (now based in New York) were divided. Armstrong McDonald awards approximately $1 million in grants annually, with programs and projects at non-profit educational institutions receiving about half the grant funds. The Foundation supports public and private institutions of higher learning and special projects related to education. Additionally, support goes to non-traditional providers of education for at-risk kids and after-school mentoring programs. The Armstrong McDonald Foundation also makes program and project grants for several other initiatives, including medical, children and youth, animal welfare, relief and social, and special needs.

Although it is now headquartered in Arizona, the Armstrong McDonald Foundation continues to remember its Midwestern roots and supports a number of non-profit organizations there, including Bellevue University. In 2009, Laurie and Mike Bouchard accepted on behalf of the foundation the University’s Mallory Kountze Award. The Mallory Kountze Award is presented periodically to individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations that have provided substantial long-term support for the University and its educational mission.

Mother of Nine Named Student Speaker

By Dan Silvia

You never stop being a mom — especially when you have nine kids.

StudentSpeakerMelanie Standiford, the student speaker at Bellevue University’s Spring Commencement, juggled her duties as a mother, while earning her Bachelor Science in Leadership.

How did she do it?

“A lot of late nights,” she said. “Luckily, I don’t require a lot of sleep.”

While several of her children are grown and have kids of their own, that just brings grandma responsibilities into the picture as well.

“I find that my grown children actually need more of my time,” she said. “Like help with babies or questions on how to do things with kids.”

Standiford didn’t just scrape by en route to graduation. She earned Summa Cum Laude honors with a 4.0 GPA.

“I like to give one hundred percent if I can. It’s a huge priority,” Standiford said. “If you do your work, follow instructions and give the professors everything they ask for, it’s done. That’s what I expected of myself.”

Standiford praised the work of her Student Coach, Hollie Richie.

“She was just amazing. We would talk sometimes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours,” Standiford said. “She really made me feel like I mattered.”

Standiford earned her associate’s degree at Mid-Plains Community College and learned about Bellevue University from Stan Wudtke, Bellevue University’s Outreach Manager at the North Platte, Nebraska school.

Wudtke, whom Standiford knew as a counselor and coach at her high school, steered her toward the Leadership program after learning about what she was looking for in a bachelor’s degree.

“Probably the best educational advice I’ve ever received,” Standiford said. “He just really took the time and really walked me through what I would need to do and how the program worked.”

In addition to being a full-time mom, Standiford also works part time as a photographer and a florist. Following graduation, she is considering pursing a master’s degree.

Gold Star Wife Earns Ph.D.

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

No survivors.

That’s the message delivered to Kimberly Vaughn on August 6, 2011 when a Chinook helicopter, call sign Extortion 17, was shot down in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan. Her husband, U.S. Navy Seal, Aaron Vaughn, was on board along with 29 other military service members.

With a nine-week old daughter and a son under two-years old, Kimberly Vaughn had to survive, and, eventually, recover, strive, and achieve. On Saturday, June 3, 2017, she’ll reach a milestone in that effort, graduating with her Ph.D. in Human Capital Management from Bellevue University. Her degree was made possible in part by a grant from the Special Operations Fund.

VaughnFamily“In the first few years after Aaron’s death I was in a daze. I was basically trying to make sure my kids were bathed, fed, in bed, that there was food on the table, clean laundry, and all the normal day-to-day activities that now seemed insurmountable,” Vaughn said. “But, slowly, I realized I wanted to live the life worthy of Aaron’s sacrifice; and the sacrifice so many military make for us. I wasn’t going to turn down any opportunity provided to me, including the one offered to advance my education.”

Vaughn, a Senior Program Manager for CACI International, Inc., in Norfolk, Virginia, had already earned her Master of Science in Organizational Management (MSOM) from Bellevue University in 2008 and holds a bachelors of business administration in computer information systems from James Madison University.

“In 2006, I received an email that introduced a new partnership between CACI and Bellevue University regarding a new MSOM degree,” she said. “The next thing I know, I had signed myself up and was enrolled in the first cohort.”

Vaughn took on the challenge again, starting her Ph.D. program in 2013.

“Earning my Ph.D. was a self-discovering process.  I already knew I had a ‘never-quit’ attitude and this process reminded me that I enjoy challenge,” she said.

Vaughn’s dissertation, Productive Humor and Leadership Effectiveness:  A Grounded Theory Ethnography, was inspired by a weekend retreat for Gold Star Wives with humorist Ron Culberson.

“For the entirety of his time with us, I couldn’t stop laughing.  This was a welcome relief from all the grief and tears that accompany loss and that is when I knew I wanted to study something that made me smile and laugh,” she said. “Considering the long hours I knew were going to be put toward this great effort, to enjoy the journey I would need to be enthusiastic about the topic.”

Dr. Stephen Linenberger served as dissertation chair for Vaughn and gives her rave reviews.

“She was a very good student, very focused and very organized,” he said. “She was an absolute pleasure to work with. She did a very cool study and it was very well received by our committee. She sailed through it with flying colors.”

While the grant helped take care of the financial end of earning the degree, the task of tackling a Ph.D. program, while working full time and raising two young children, required a team effort.

“I have an amazing support system. My parents were supportive from the start and offered to help with my children (more than they already do) as my Ph.D. workload increased,” Vaughn said. “As I flew from Virginia to Omaha for the on-campus residencies, they cared for my children and made sure all was taken care of on the home front.  Not to mention, they made sure I had a quiet house during tests and, of course, the comprehensive exams and dissertation defense. What a relief!”

Kimberly’s dad, Retired Navy Commander Alan Linberger, earned a special shout out.

“My father has, by far, been my biggest champion with my academic and career endeavors. Don’t get me wrong, I have had a lot of support and cheerleaders along the way, but he’s always reminded me that education is something that can never be taken away from you,” Vaughn said. “Here I am, graduating, 20 years after starting my career with CACI as Dr. Vaughn. Thanks for instilling in me a love of learning, Dad!”

Vaughn was born in Guam and, growing up, lived in Hawaii, Florida, Maine, Spain, and Virginia. After her marriage to Aaron, the couple lived in California and she and her children currently make their home in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“Having grown up in a military family, I was instilled with respect for those who serve this great land we live in,” Vaughn said. “Of course, I also remember to honor, and respect, not just my husband, but all those who gave their lives protecting it; not just on Memorial Day, but every day.”

Navy-SEAL-Aaron-VaughnAaron and Kimberly met while she was performing on a United Services Organization (USO) tour, part of her role as a member of the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders. She was a member of the squad from 1998 through 2007.

“I was on a tour with a stopover in Guam which just so happened to be where he was deployed.  He came to a show… we chatted… next thing you know, we exchanged emails… emails led to phone calls… and years later we were married!” she said. “So, suffice to say, I took a lot away from my cheerleading experience!”

Today, Vaughn’s biggest cheerleaders are her son, Reagan, now 7-years old, and her daughter, Chamberlyn, now five. Mom will be walking across the stage as Dr. Kimberly Vaughn in just a few short days.

“Becoming Dr. Vaughn is amazing!  I wanted to yell it from the mountain tops, but I’ve been reminded that when you achieve any great accomplishment humility is key. Don’t get me wrong; one of the first things I did was update my workplace email signature block and make a Facebook posting or two, but I also try to keep in mind what I learned from my late husband,” she said. “He was a US Navy SEAL with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as SEAL Team 6).  When asked what he did for a living, he’d simply reply ‘I’m in the Navy.’  I’ve learned that, although I’m honored to be amongst a distinguished group of individuals, I don’t need to tout my accomplishment.  I will still introduce myself as Kimberly Vaughn… and sooner or later, when people find out I have my Ph.D., it will speak for itself.”