NORFOLK, NE – The late Duane Acklie fondly remembered growing up as a young boy in Madison County. From selling produce his family grew at his favorite corner on U.S. Highway 81 at the age of 10 to establishing one of America’s largest privately-owned trucking companies with his wife, Phyllis, he understood the importance and the role of education as the couple established a foundation that bears their last name.
Now, the Acklie Charitable Foundation (ACF) is supporting a major initiative at Northeast Community College that will its ensure agriculture students have opportunities to succeed in their education as they train to become future employees in Nebraska’s number one industry.
“You here in this room know better than most about the pivotal role Nebraska agriculture plays in not only feeding the world, but in also propelling Nebraska’s economy,” said family member Halley Acklie Kruse in announcing a $5 million gift from the ACF during a kickoff celebration for a capital campaign to construct Northeast’s new Agriculture & Water Center of Excellence. “(Agriculture) does so through exports and providing jobs not only in the fields, but in warehousing, transportation, financing, and service industries. When Nebraska agriculture succeeds, Nebraska thrives. That is why ACF believed it was important to invest in the future of Nebraska’s next generation of farmers, ranchers, and community leaders.”
The Agriculture & Water Center of Excellence is a multi-phased project, and funds are currently being solicited through a capital campaign called “Nexus” for $23 million for initial construction of the new center. Northeast has set aside $10 million of its capital funds to help establish the project, while the remainder will be raised privately.
Initial construction planned for the Agriculture & Water Center of Excellence includes a new farm site with farm office and storage, large animal handling facility and other farm structures. In addition, the plan calls for a veterinary technology clinic and classrooms. The new facilities will be located near the Chuck M. Pohlman Agriculture Complex at the intersection of E. Benjamin Ave. and Highway 35 in Norfolk. The vet tech building will be located west of the ag complex, while the farm site and animal handling facilities will be behind the tree line that is north of the current complex.
Duane W. and Phyllis Acklie grew up on farms near Madison and Meadow Grove, respectively, and later attended Norfolk Junior College, a predecessor institution of Northeast Community College. They went on to establish Crete Carrier Corp., which has grown into a transporter of virtually any product and operates more than 5,000 tractors and over 13,000 trailers throughout the continental United States.
The company’s corporate headquarters are based in Lincoln. The Acklie Charitable Foundation was founded by Duane and Phyllis Acklie and their daughters, Dodie, Laura and Holly. The family has been involved in many business and philanthropic ventures over the years.
Acklie Kruse, ACF vice president and general counsel, said her grandfather spoke of the importance of education and shared his wish that their foundation could be used to help Nebraskans attain quality education.
“I believe that Duane’s desire to support education was, in part, due to his understanding of the trans-formative role higher education played in his life,” she said. “And for Duane and Phyl, it all started at Norfolk Junior College.”
Acklie Kruse said Nebraska is fortunate to have an institution such as Northeast Community College as a partner in developing the center of excellence and what it will mean for the future of agriculture. She said it was a natural decision for her family to contribute to the campaign after seeing what the center’s role will be in developing a future workforce.
“Northeast has long had a reputation of quality in its agricultural programs, not only throughout Nebraska, but on a national level. Northeast has the dedicated faculty and expertise to teach our next generation farmers and ranchers and the goal of the Nexus campaign is to build the facilities, infrastructure, and technology to match the quality of instruction.”
But Acklie Kruse said it is more than Nebraska’s future; it is also about feeding the world.
“Northeast must prepare the next farmers and ranchers for the innovations and developments of the next eighty years, not only for the success of these individuals and their families, but for the success of our state, and the people of the world who eat from Nebraska’s fields.”
With the Acklie’s contribution to the campaign, Northeast will be naming its new College Farm after the family.
“The Acklie Family College Farm will provide a lasting legacy to the family for their commitment to agriculture in northeast Nebraska,” said Dr. Tracy Kruse, associate vice president of development and external affairs and the executive director of the college foundation. “We are so proud to name the College Farm in honor of the Acklies, and after the legacy of Duane, Phyllis and their family. What a testament to the strong value Northeast played in their own lives, as well as the college’s value to the community as a whole. This gift will make a strong impact for generations of Nebraskans to come.”
“So, this family history and connection to Madison County and Northeast Community College brings me to where we are today, the Nexus Kickoff,” Acklie Kruse said. “Certainly these family connections played a role in the Acklie Charitable Foundation’s decision to support the Nexus campaign. But, just as the Nexus campaign is about what is next – next for sustainable agriculture, next for Nebraska’s workforce, next for innovation – an important factor in ACF’s decision to support the Nexus campaign was also the consideration of Nebraska’s future.”