The University of Nebraska gives Nebraskans a sense of pride—and exposes students to experiences that will impact them forever. I’m grateful for what I have received and believe my experiences allow me to better help others.
I graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln thanks to the support of my Aunt Grace E. “Betty” Clements (’39), a remarkable woman who was a teacher, aviator and physician. She encouraged me to not restrict my thinking and to believe that anything was possible.
Aunt Betty graduated from UNL as a physical education teacher in 1939. She taught in Hastings, Neb., and piloted planes as a hobby. In 1943, she was recruited to be in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program with the U.S. Army, which tasked civilian women with noncombat military flight duties during World War II.
She graduated as a WASP pilot in 1943 and was one of the first women to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress, the largest plane in existence at that time. Aunt Betty also flew B-25s and AT-10s for engineering tests, instrument flight checks, and ferrying planes.
When the WASP program disbanded in 1944, she took Red Cross training at American University in Washington, D.C. and served as a hospital worker in a U.S. Army hospital in the Philippines. Aunt Betty then attended the University of Nebraska Medical Center, graduating in 1952 and going on to be a neurologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, at the Mayo Clinic and in London at the National Hospital’s Neurological Institute. She rounded out her career in 1962 at the Barrow Neurological Institute.
"When it comes to providing a skilled workforce for Nebraska, investing in our young people is important—just like Aunt Betty invested in me."
Aunt Betty died of lung cancer in 1965 at the age of 47. She received a Congressional Gold Medal for her service as a WASP in 2010; that same year, she was inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame. An education trust she established helped her younger brother and her nephews to attend college—including me.
When it comes to providing a skilled workforce for Nebraska, investing in our young people is important—just like Aunt Betty invested in me. At the end of the day, the University of Nebraska educates young men and women from every corner of the state—just like my family—who will help Nebraska grow and succeed.
Robert Clements graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 1973. He is currently a Nebraska State Senator for District 2 and Chair of the Appropriations Committee, as well as an Executive Vice President at American Exchange Bank in Elmwood, Nebraska.