The University of Nebraska’s most prestigious award, the Regents Medal, was presented July 15 in honor of the late Robert B. Daugherty of Omaha, the legendary irrigation pioneer and founder of Valmont Industries Inc. whose charitable foundation provided a $50 million gift last year to establish the university’s global Water for Food Institute.
NU President James B. Milliken presents the Regents Medal to Robert Daugherty's son Tim and other members of the Daugherty family View larger
In presenting the medal, Regent Jim McClurg noted that Daugherty clearly fit the criteria of the Regents Medal, which the Board created in 2006 to honor individuals whose service to the university has significantly furthered the goals and mission of the institution.
“The gift that Bob Daugherty made last year to the University of Nebraska is a wonderful platform from which the university and the state can foster historic change in water resources and food production everywhere in the world,” McClurg said. “Bob and his family, his colleagues at Valmont, and the Daugherty Foundation have my deepest respect and gratitude for setting the course for this initiative.”
McClurg added, “I have the highest expectations that we will look back at this time as a significant inflection point in the global impact of the University of Nebraska. The work of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute will benefit billions of people. We are so fortunate to be at one of those special times when the right issue, right people, right resources and opportunity have converged.”
In addition to founding Valmont, the world’s most successful irrigation company where he served for more than five decades, Daugherty was a leading figure in the Omaha and Nebraska communities throughout his career. He became a mentor to many civic and business leaders in Omaha and contributed generously to educational and other causes in which he believed. He served as director for a number of Omaha corporations and, through the creation of his namesake charitable foundation, became well-known as a philanthropist as well as an innovator and entrepreneur.
The gift from the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation to establish the Water for Food Institute, announced in April 2010, is one of the largest in NU’s history. It is one of the hallmark gifts of the Campaign for Nebraska, the University of Nebraska Foundation’s ongoing comprehensive fundraising campaign for which water for food is one of six priority academic areas. The Board of Regents voted earlier this year to name the Water for Food Institute in Daugherty’s honor. The institute is a university-wide, interdisciplinary research, education and policy analysis center dedicated to the efficient use of the world’s freshwater resources to feed a growing global population.
Among the successes of the Daugherty Institute during its first year:
Milliken added, “Bob Daugherty was a true pioneer and visionary who saw that the University of Nebraska was in the right place at the right time to become a global leader in the use of water for agriculture. We will do all we can to fulfill his vision of creating an institute where the world’s best minds come together to find solutions that will improve the quality of life for people around the world.”
The first Regents Medal recipient was the late Charles W. Durham. In 2009, the medal was awarded to Omaha philanthropists Ruth and Bill Scott.