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2007.05.17 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu

New Book by Pollak, Valentine Highlights UNO History

Omaha - Pictures tell stories.  A century’s worth of stories unfold in the new book University of Nebraska at Omaha, authored by Oliver Pollak and Les Valentine.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), inaugurated in 1968, emerged from the Municipal University of Omaha, established in 1931, which grew out of the University of Omaha founded in 1908.  The publication of Pollak’s and Valentine’s book has become part of a slate of UNO Centennial happenings, events and celebrations.  The UNO Centennial Celebration will officially launch in the fall of 2008.

Pollak said he describes the book as a memory book or a gift book.  People who have been at the university will go through it to look for familiar people, places and events.  Pollak, holder of the Martin Chair in History, has taught at UNO since 1974.

“There’s a play between the pictures and the captions,” he said.  Those captions, some 20,000 words, put the nearly 130 pages worth of black and white photos into a larger context of time and place, and importance. 

“For every photo in there you have 30 or 40 that went unused,” Valentine said.  He came to UNO in 1972 as an undergraduate, went on to receive his graduate degree and has served as the university’s archivist since 1986..

Valentine selected the photos while Pollak wrote the text and worked with Arcadia Publishing, the publishers of University of Nebraska at Omaha.  Valentine said finding a representative selection of photos across the decades was important. The chapters of the book divide the history of the university into six eras.

“Some of the better photos didn’t make it into the book due to issues of balance,” he said.  The format of the photos came in all types, as well.  Negatives, photos, slides and digital images were used.  Some of the earliest pictures came from private student scrapbooks that are now in the university’s archives.

Much of the material and the history of the institution have gone unrecognized, Pollak said.  What is commonly known or part of the oral history of a campus is not often studied. 

Pollak has authored previous history books on the Jewish community in Omaha and Lincoln, and of Nebraska courthouses. “So often we ignore the home place, where we work,” he said.

The cover photo of the book, a 1971 jazz concert on the steps of Arts and Sciences Hall, is a piece of iconic recovered history.  The sprawling image of a huge crowd was on a small, and mostly forgotten, negative.

Pollak and Valentine spent most of the fall of 2006 putting together the pieces of University of Nebraska at Omaha.  The book is now on sale in major and small bookstores in the metropolitan area, on campus and online.

“Lots of good things have happened,” Pollak said.  “We haven’t covered up the bad things – economic struggle, the suicide of a (university) president, a parking lot that took years to get built.”   There was a murder on campus in the 1950s, too.

There are recurring types of photos in the book – groundbreaking and construction, athletics and candid pictures of student life (including registration lines and full parking lots.)

“Everybody who looks at this book will get something out of it,” Valentine said. For more information, call (402) 554-3502.

* * *

The University of Nebraska At Omaha will celebrate its 100th Anniversary beginning on October 8, 2008.  This celebration will recognize the partnership among the City of Omaha, its citizens and UNO to build a vibrant, and dynamic community.  The centennial theme will be UNO: Central To Our City Since 1908. This theme acknowledges the past contributions of UNO to the community and sets the stage for great things to come.

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