by Bob Volk
From 'History of the UNL Nebraska Water Center, from 1964 to 2008', School of Natural Resources: Karen E. Stork and Steven W. Ress, p. 51.
Director from 1990-1999
My year in Washington D.C. (1989-1990) working with the Cooperative State Research Service while on sabbatical from the University of Missouri had a big impact on my thinking regarding research and the importance of knowing more about our water resources. I was part of a program granting several millions dollars a year to researchers from across the U.S. on competitive bases. This program introduced me to Nebraska research in water sciences, and it was easy to see how Nebraska would be very competitive for these grants. The faculty wrote very skilled, insightful and superb proposed research that won a number of these grants.
At this time I was made aware of the open position as Nebraska Water Center director at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I applied for the position and was fortunate to be hired in July 1990. Nebraska was an excellent place to be since the onset of the Nebraska Research Initiative support provided over $1 million dollars in new research funds to the Nebraska Water Center. These funds had been used to hire faculty in the Departments of Agronomy; Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife; Entomology; and Geology. Descriptions were also being written for new faculty in the Departments of Agronomy and Biological Systems Engineering.
One of the greatest joys in administration is the hiring of faculty with the challenges of interviews and then the ultimate hiring. We were fortunate in attracting top individuals for these positions, and I know that outstanding and very productive scientists staff all of the positions established by the NRI.
The Nebraska Water Center also established a competitive grants program in water sciences, which was widely applauded by faculty throughout not only the Lincoln campus, but also research centers in other locations in the state. We also entertained research proposals from faculty at other state universities. The research proposals were competitive and of very high quality thus making decisions difficult.
One of the most interesting people I had the good fortune to work with was Bob Kuzelka. I mention him because he was most energetic and fun to be around. One of his tasks was to organize and run a water tour every year. This tour took us all over the state and surrounding states to see water resource projects. He was tireless in his quest for excellence and sometimes brought us to argue over what might be best for the Nebraska Water Center. His advice and council over the years was a real help to me. The water tours gave us all an insight into water problems and opportunities in Nebraska and surrounding states.
The Nebraska Water Center also published a research report every year with details of research programs and progress on water activities in the state. I was able to initiate major changes in reporting by publishing a water tabloid on a quarterly basis. We printed these as a means to get the word out on what the university was doing with regards to water resources. This was a very popular publication and received many requests from state and local agencies for copies to distribute. The first editor of the paper was a newsperson from a small town in Nebraska. She brought a breath of fresh air to all of us with a perspective we did not have. After she left. I hired a newsperson from Lincoln who performed equally well and was very professional in preparing, writing, and seeing that the tabloid was published on time. Steve Ress was very helpful to the staff and me and was excellent in preparing the tabloid and other special publications.
Water is everything to Nebraska agriculture. We have an abundance of groundwater that must be used carefully. The Platte River and all of its tributaries need special treatment to preserve them as a water source as well as a resource that must be protected for their beauty. Nebraska has an environment that is unique, and only through research and education can our way of life be preserved.
After leaving Nebraska in 1999, I spent several years at the University of Kentucky and then decided that life was too short to be pushing any more paper. I became part of a small missions organization in Wilmore, Ky. called Evangelism Resources where I never had more enjoyment going to work. Following that I became a Foreign Resident Ambassador for Bible Study Fellowship and lived in Budapest, Hungary working as a missionary for several years. I now reside in Omaha.