A deep devotion to his late wife, and a genuine loyalty to the university they attended, make retired Army Maj. Thomas A. Spencer one of the most generous supporters of the UNO College of Business Administration (CBA).
The Spencers' legacy at CBA includes two scholarships and the Spencer Professorship in Government Accounting. Spencer is a member of the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Presidents Club and the UNO Chancellors Club. The Spencers were inducted into the Lucas Society at CBA in 1998.
Spencer and his wife, Beverly Ward Spencer were members of the United States armed services when they met during tours of duty in Spain. Mrs. Spencer was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
Married in 1966, Mrs. Spencer left the Air Force to follow her husband on his reassignments. In 1971, the Spencers came to Omaha, where Spencer enrolled in the University of Nebraska at Omaha Bootstrap program for military personnel. The government initiated Operation Bootstrap in the late 1940s to provide commissioned officers a chance to "lift themselves up by their bootstraps" by completing a college degree. The program was introduced at UNO in 1951.
"Being stationed all over, we took whatever courses we could take," Spencer recalled. "When I only had a semester left to go, the courses I had taken didn’t fit the criteria of most colleges. Besides UNO, there were only two other colleges in the U.S. willing to accept us."
Spencer earned his bachelor’s degree in business, and later earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Boston University. "It was a big bonus to me that UNO, through the Bootstrap program, was willing to accept the hodge-podge of courses I had taken," he said. "With my bachelor’s degree, I was able to continue to progress in the Army."
Mrs. Spencer also enrolled at UNO, where she earned a Bachelor of General Studies degree in accounting in 1972, compiling a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
After their graduation from UNO, the Spencers moved to Germany before returning to the U.S. Mrs. Spencer held numerous government positions related to accounting and obtained her Certified Public Accountant license while living in Texas. Spencer held several commands and receive an impressive list of military decorations, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star of Valor and Meritorious Service Medal, before retiring from the Army in 1976. He went on to serve as an Emergency Planner and Management Analyst for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, finishing with 32 years of federal service.
After his retirement, the Spencers founded a small finance and management consulting firm. Mrs. Spencer died in an accident in 1983.
Spencer subsequently established the Beverly Ward Spencer Memorial Accounting Scholarship in appreciation for the support provided by the university to the Bootstrap program, and to encourage excellence among young accounting students. He later established the Maj. Thomas A. Spencer Business Scholarship and the Spencer Professorship in Government Accounting.
A resident of Arlington, Texas, Spencer said he visits family in Omaha every year or so, and checks in at college. "It’s a far cry from when I went there," he said. "Back then, there were only five buildings and some Quonset huts."He said that when he returns to the campus, he usually meets with the scholarship winners in the dean’s office at CBA. "I enjoy getting together with the students, and I have continued to correspond with a few through the years," he said. "I am very happy with the caliber of students and graduates the college is producing. I think Beverly would be, too."