Alumni Board Awards announced

Clockwise from upper left: Maurice M. Dixon, Jr.; Robert Krueger; Kara Thomson; The Johnny Carson Foundation with Dean Chuck O'Connor and Carson Center Founding Director Megan Elliott.
Clockwise from upper left: Maurice M. Dixon, Jr.; Robert Krueger; Kara Thomson; The Johnny Carson Foundation with Dean Chuck O'Connor and Carson Center Founding Director Megan Elliott.

The Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts Alumni Board has announced their alumni board awards for 2020.

Due to COVID-19, the College will not be having its annual Honors Day celebration. These awards will be recognized at a later date. Additional Honors Day awards will be announced on our website and social media @UNLArts on April 24.

Award of Merit: Johnny Carson Foundation.
Alumni Achievement Award in Art: Maurice M. Dixon, Jr. (B.F.A. 1970; M.F.A. 1973)
Alumni Achievement Award in Music: Robert Krueger (B.M.E. 1984; M.M. 1994)
Alumni Achievement Award in Theatre and Film: Kara Thomson (M.F.A. 1998)
Student Leadership Award: Terry Ratzlaff, School of Art, Art History & Design

Johnny Carson Foundation:
The Johnny Carson Foundation’s Board, which includes Allan Alexander, Larry Witzer, Jeff Sotzing, Lawrence Heller and Steve Sotzing, have transformed not only the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, but the entire University of Nebraska–Lincoln with their philanthropy.

It all began with Johnny Carson himself making a $5.3 million donation in November 2004 to renovate the Temple Building (the very building where he studied radio while he was a student at Nebraska in the late 1940s). An additional $5 million gift was received shortly after his death in January 2005. The university renamed the Department of Theatre Arts to the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, recognizing the importance of the growing film and new media program and giving a nod to Johnny’s expertise and achievements in television.

Later in 2011, the Johnny Carson Foundation announced a $1 million gift to create the Johnny Carson Opportunity Scholarship Fund and made an additional $1.25 million gift later to support these scholarships.

Then, in November 2015, the Johnny Carson Foundation made their largest and most transformative gift yet—a $20 million gift to create an academic program and facility focused on interdisciplinary learning, creativity and research in emerging media that would be called the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts and would be located in the former Nebraska Bookstore location at 13th and Q streets.

During the planning process for this new program, the members of the Johnny Carson Foundation told us they were interested in investing in us, but they didn’t want to build a program that gives our students something everyone else has. They challenged us and pushed us along the way so that what we have created would be the very best.

And that’s exactly what we have built. The Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts opened its doors this fall. Center was dedicated with great fanfare and enthusiasm in November. Additionally, it earned a Hewlett Packard/Educause Campus of the Future designation, the first in the Big Ten to do so. It’s a partnership with a global, Fortune 100 corporation that will give Nebraska access ot the latest high-tech equipment and put Nebraska in the company of MIT, Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth in investigating ways augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D scanning and printing technologies can benefit teaching, learning and research.

They have been generous in other ways, both on campus and in the community, including donations to the Lied Center for Performing Arts, Lincoln Children’s Museum, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, and various charities in Johnny’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska, among others.

Their investment in us is not just about money. They have also generously given their time, energy and support, meeting with students and faculty regularly. The Johnny Carson Foundation genuinely cares about our students, faculty and staff and are our biggest fans, wanting us to be successful while carrying on the legacy of the great Johnny Carson.

Maurice M. Dixon, Jr.:
Maurice Dixon received his B.F.A. and M.F.A. from Nebraska, where he studied painting, ceramics and art history. Since his graduation, he has accumulated an extraordinary and diverse record of achievement. Simply put, he is a renaissance man.

Since his graduation, he has concurrently been a rancher, businessman, entrepreneur, developer, curator, designer, painter, master tinsmith and scholar.

He has resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for more than 40 years and is immersed in the historical and contemporary culture of the region. It was in the mid 1980s when his interest in the tinwork of Territorial New Mexico began. He not only diligently researched the subject, but taught himself to become a master tinsmith whose artworks appear in many public and private collections.

In 1990, he co-authored with Lane Coulter the book New Mexican Tinwork 1840-1940 that has since become an influential reference source for artists and scholars. As a result of additional research, he authored in 2015 the book The Artistic Legacy of Higinio V. Gonzales: A Tinsmith and Poet in Territorial New Mexico. The book received extensive critical acclaim, numerous awards and resulted in the exhibition “The Artistic Odyssey of Higinio V. Gonzales” at the Albuquerque Museum, which he curated. He is currently working on a new book about the work and life of Southwestern ceramicist Rick Dillingham.

Robert Krueger:
A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (B.M.E in 1984 and M.M. in 1994), Krueger began his teaching career in 1984 at Omaha North High School. In 1985 he accepted a position as Director of Instrumental Music at Lincoln Southeast High School and is now in his 35th year with the Lincoln Public Schools.

Krueger currently directs Jazz Ensembles I and II and the Jazz Combo at Lincoln Southeast High School and teaches Beginning Band to 5th graders at Kloefkorn and Maxey Elementary schools in Lincoln. Under his direction, the Southeast Jazz Ensemble I has achieved national acclaim, qualifying as one of 20 national finalists in the 1999 Jazz at Lincoln Center Essentially Ellington Competition. Some notable alumni include James Valentine (guitarist with the Grammy Awarding winning group Maroon 5), Dr. Chris Steinke (IAJE Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Award winner), Paul Krueger (Downbeat and ASCAP awards for jazz composition, Jazz Studies Instructor at the University of Oregon), and many other music educators and performers around the country.

Krueger has been the recipient of several teaching awards, including the Nebraska State Bandmasters Association Jack Snider Outstanding Young Band Director Award and the American School Band Directors Association Stanbury Award as the nation’s outstanding young band director.

In addition to his teaching duties with the Lincoln Public Schools, from 2001-2004 Krueger was the interim Director of Jazz Activities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he directed the UNL Jazz Ensemble I. He has served as the brass coach (1987-2001), assistant conductor (2001-2002), and from 2004-2007 was the Music Director of the Lincoln Youth Symphony. In 2005 Krueger took the Lincoln Youth Symphony on a concert tour of Austria, with performances in Vienna, Salzburg, Graz and Innsbruck.

Krueger also serves as the Music Director of the Lincoln Municipal Band, is Vice President of the Capital Jazz Society, and performs on trumpet with the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra, the Nebraska Trumpet Ensemble, the Lincoln Municipal Band and with Broadway musical pit orchestras and commercial ensembles as a freelance trumpet player.

Next winter he will assume a new position with the Nebraska Symphony Chamber Orchestra as conductor of the orchestra for the Midwest Ballet Company’s performance of The Nutcracker. He has served as a clinician, adjudicator and music camp instructor in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Kara Thompson:
Kara Thomson is Faculty and Head of the Theatrical Design, Technical and Management program at Mesa Community College’s Department of Theatre and Film Arts. In 2011 she received the Kennedy Center Excellence in Theatre Education Award.

She has designed for Arizona Broadway Theatre, Actor’s Theatre, The Bridge Initiative, The Nebraska Repertory Theatre, The Illinois Shakespeare Festival, University of Nebraska, 24th Street Theatre of Los Angeles, Dolly Parton, and Arizona State University.

Her television work includes more than 4,000 aired hours for the television networks ABC, NBC and CBS. She has received Emmy honors for her work on Days of Our Lives and an Emmy nomination for her work on General Hospital. Other awards received for Scenic Design include ariZoni for Alice in Wonderland, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Miss Saigon and The Lion in Winter; and the Romulo Soldevilla for The Importance of Being Earnest.

For the Maricopa Community Colleges District Fine Arts, she has served as vice-coordinator and assistant producer for both the Artist of Promise and Elemental Arts showcases. She is a member of the Art Directors Guild, IATSE Local 800 and a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Currently, she serves as Region VIII Chair of Design, Technical, and Management for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Thomson holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Arizona State University.

Terry Ratzlaff:
Terry Ratzlaff is completing his second year as a Master of Fine Arts student in the School of Art, Art History & Design in the area of photography. He is a member of the College Curriculum Committee and Graduate Student Advisory Board. He is also a member of the College’s Mental Health Advisory Committee. He is also president of the UNL Fine Art Photography Club and co-leader of the UNL Social Practice Club.