The Charity Award (left) by artist Larry Roots and the JoAnn Martin Civic Leadership Award (right).
Nearly 300 community members gathered in early May at the Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center for the Foundation’s annual donor recognition event. This year the event included two awards that celebrate extraordinary displays of generosity and leadership.
Presented to Bill and Marilyn Cintani, the Charity Award recognizes the outstanding philanthropic contributions of an individual or couple in our community. And this year the Foundation added a new award, the JoAnn Martin Civic Leadership Award, presented to Dr. Mae Colleen Jones, which recognizes and celebrates exemplary community leadership. The honorees for both these awards were selected by the Foundation’s Nominating Committee from an extensive list of worthy leaders in our community.
The Charity Award
Bill and Marilyn Cintani became the 12th recipients of the Charity Award. Bill and Marilyn are known for their generous contributions to so many areas of the community, and for their work in partnership with the Lincoln Community Foundation.
With the help of Tom and Lisa Smith, the Foundation approached Bill and Marilyn about the award before Bill’s passing in December.
“We are honored they accepted, and that we have the opportunity to celebrate Bill’s legacy as a community leader and philanthropist and as our trusted advisor and friend,” said LCF President/CEO Alec Gorynski. “His deep love for Lincoln is carried on through Marilyn, their children, and their grandchildren, who are here with us today.”
Bill brought his vision and leadership to the Foundation’s board from 2012-2017. During this time, he saw the positive influence matching gifts can have in encouraging donations via Give to Lincoln Day. Inspired by this concept of leverage, Bill and Marilyn pledged matching dollars from their personal fund for new donor advised funds established at the Foundation.
Bill and Marilyn’s son, Brian, shared that leverage was often something Bill would consider with his charitable giving.
“It was important to him that there be a multiplier effect on the some of the donations he’d make,” said Brian. “He felt like if he could use the money at the Raikes school to fund a summer internship, it would function as an investment and not just a grant. He wanted to see it grow and multiply.”
By contrast, Marilyn’s heart guides the issues she supports, focusing her philanthropy on children and young families by extending resources to support those enduring challenging situations.
“My dad had passion in philanthropy, and so does my mom, but they varied,” said daughter Laura Frantz. “My mom’s main passion in her life is her family so I think that trickles down to where she’s passionate about giving.”
Bill and Marilyn’s understated approach to philanthropy has been steady and caring, emphasizing new opportunities for those who might not otherwise have them. They epitomize what it means to give, act and lead.
“The Charity Award was really established so the community had a way to thank an individual or a couple for their wonderful leadership, their philanthropy and their service,” said former LCF President Barbara Bartle. “When I think about those criteria, I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Bill and Marilyn. They fit in every category.”
The JoAnn Martin Civic Leadership Award
The JoAnn Martin Civic Leadership Award was established to recognize an individual who has demonstrated a strong commitment to civic leadership. The Nominating Committee defined this as an individual that possesses servant leadership qualities and expresses their servant leadership through volunteer service to our community, including leadership service with nonprofit and civic organizations.
A group of community leaders, including leaders from Ameritas and NRC, first approached the Foundation about presenting this award to JoAnn Martin shortly before her passing in 2021. NRC also created an endowed fund at the Foundation to sustain JoAnn’s leadership legacy. This endowment will grow and sustain the Women in Business Leadership program in partnership with the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.
JoAnn Martin was a member of the Foundation Board of Directors and was to serve as board chair in 2022. For this reason, and in recognition of the Foundation’s emphasis on community leadership, the award founders and the Martin family agreed that the Foundation’s annual donor recognition event was the perfect backdrop for the JoAnn Martin Civic Leadership Award.
Now retired, Dr. Mae Colleen Jones devoted her career to academia, serving most of those years at UNL. Dr. Jones’ legacy of leadership throughout her professional career as well as her extensive history of extraordinary community service qualified Dr. Jones as the ideal candidate for this award.
The Nominating Committee identified nearly 20 unique instances of Dr. Jones’ formal community service, including volunteer leadership roles with the United Way, Leadership Lincoln, Friendship Home, the Sheldon Art Museum, the Lied Center, and the Lincoln Community Foundation.
“In fact, in early conversations about Dr. Jones as the potential recipient of this award, we would often hear folks exclaim, ‘Of course, Colleen is involved in everything’,” said Alec.
Colleen is a founding chapter member and officer with her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and President of UNL’s Melvin W. Jones Scholar Community, named for her late husband. Cynthia Milligan, who served as Dean of UNL’s College of Business Administration when Colleen was a faculty member in the Management Department, commented on her impact and her influence.
“I think her major contribution was the Jones Scholars,” Cynthia said. “I suspect if one had the opportunity to talk to those students, they would say that she was one of the major people in their lives giving them the impetus to stay and do well at the University and to move on.”
As Dr. Jones became the second recipient of the JoAnn Martin Civic Leadership Award, she reflected on the journey that brought her and Melvin to Lincoln. They had both decided early on to support one another’s professional paths and “bloom where they were planted.”
“When Melvin died, I was reminded of a Maya Angelou quote, ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them’,” she said. “It was not difficult for me to step up and become more visibly active in Lincoln – because the perspectives of Black people, women and ‘transplanted’ new Nebraskans are essential to the health, growth, and future of this community.”
Colleen’s sorority sister, Karen Williams, commented on how Colleen’s leadership mirrors that of the award’s first recipient and namesake.
“I believe one of the things that JoAnn Martin said was that it only takes one person to volunteer to make things happen, and Colleen is definitely proof of that,” Karen said. “The philosophy that she shares with so many people, the hard work that she’s done for so many organizations and just the woman that she is with the biggest heart and the kindest spirit – I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”