President Carter announces 2021 Presidential Medal of Service recipients
University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter announced today the three recipients of the 2021 Presidential Medal of Service, an annual honor that recognizes Nebraskans’ support and advocacy for the NU system.
This year’s honorees are Wendy Birdsall, president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce; David Brown, president and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce; and Dana Bradford, president and CEO of C3 Brands in Omaha.
All three are strong champions of the university and the vital role that higher education plays in growing the state’s economy and well-being, Carter said.
“The University of Nebraska is fortunate to have the support and partnership of so many incredible leaders across our state. Wendy, David and Dana are shining examples,” Carter said.
“Thanks to their efforts, we are in an even stronger position to serve our 51,000 students and people around the world through affordable, accessible, quality education. It’s an honor to publicly recognize their leadership and service.”
Created in 2018, the Presidential Medal is the highest honor that the NU president can bestow upon a community member. Carter opened a call for nominations for the medal this fall.
More information about the 2021 recipients follows.
Wendy Birdsall, the first woman to lead the Lincoln Chamber, has served at the chamber for 30 years, the past 15 as president. She has announced plans to step down at the end of the year. As president, she oversees the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau and is president of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. In those roles, Birdsall has been a vocal champion for the university’s role in growing the economy, attracting and retaining talent, and enhancing the city and state’s diversity and vitality. She has testified before the Legislature numerous times on the university’s behalf on key budget and education issued, and worked closely with university leadership on a number of projects, notably the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Nebraska Innovation Campus. Birdsall, a UNL graduate, has a strong relationship with UNL’s College of Business and helped develop the college’s annual Women in Business leadership seminar.
David Brown works with Omaha Chamber staff and volunteers on behalf of more than 3,000 member business in the Omaha area, advocating for a strong business climate, new business connections, job growth and leadership development. In that work, he has been an advocate for a strong university because of its importance to the growth of the Omaha area, state and nation. Brown has been especially engaged in the university’s efforts in workforce development, world-leading medical research, and national defense. He works closely with the NU president and chancellors to make connections with businesses and elected leaders that yield investment and growth. Brown has testified on the university’s behalf, written letters of support, and partnered on business development and personnel searches. He is currently a leading strategic partner on the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Project NExT.
Dana Bradford, a lifelong Nebraskan, is an entrepreneur and private equity investor who has had a significant impact on Omaha, the state and the University of Nebraska. He is a longtime member of the Nebraska Innovation Campus Board of Directors and has been instrumental over the past several years in helping to drive innovation and growth at NIC. Bradford is also a past chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and supported the university through legislative testimony and public advocacy. His support for scholarships for students in high-demand, high-skill, high-wage areas in particular helped create the Nebraska Career Scholarships, a new state scholarship program aimed at attracting more college students to high-growth areas. As chairman of the Aksarben Foundation, Bradford also worked closely with the university to form new public-private partnerships focused on IT workforce development, rural development and internships.
Birdsall, Brown and Bradford will be publicly recognized at the Feb. 11, 2022 Board of Regents meeting.