In the offices of DA Davidson, overlooking an ever-developing Canopy Street in the Haymarket, Tom and Lisa Smith recently reflected on what drives their personal missions to serve their community.
“I just love Lincoln. I love Nebraska,” said Lisa.
“People in Lincoln are good people – as good as you can find in the country,” Tom agreed. “It’s simple, this is home.”
Together, Lisa and Tom have established a legacy as heart-forward philanthropists who give freely of their time, talent, and treasure to the many causes and organizations they care about. This spring they will be honored with the 2022 Charity Award at the Lincoln Community Foundation’s annual Donor Recognition Event.
The Charity Award was established by the Foundation as a gift to the community. The award recognizes Lincoln’s most generous citizens for their leadership and philanthropy.
“As a community, we’re indebted to Tom and Lisa Smith for their many contributions,” said Alec Gorynski, Foundation president. “The Charity Award is a meaningful demonstration of our appreciation for their dedication and commitment to the growth and prosperity of Lincoln.”
Married in 2004, both Tom and Lisa have always had a passion for philanthropy, and this commitment became even stronger as a couple. Tom hails from Hastings, Nebraska, and came to Lincoln on a football scholarship from the University of Nebraska. Upon graduation from the College of Business in 1968, he called Lincoln his home permanently and has grown his family and businesses here for the past 55 years.
Lisa was born and raised in northeast Lincoln and grew up learning the value of kind and charitable gestures towards fellow community members.
“My mother was very charitable and said something that stuck with me,” Lisa reflected. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we would do things always, always for other people. And she would say, ‘We’re doing it just because we can.’”
Like Tom, Lisa also graduated from the University of Nebraska’s College of Business – a philanthropic thread that ties them together. The University was Tom’s entry point for giving back to the community. In 1983, Woody Varner reached out to Tom and his business partner, Chuck Burmeister, about contributing to the first computer laboratory at the University.
“Woody was certainly a mentor to me,” said Tom. “He helped me see the path of philanthropy.”
That philanthropic path with the University led to longstanding relationships with, and contributions to, the University of Nebraska Foundation (both currently serve as Foundation Trustees and Lisa served as founding chair for Women Investing in Nebraska), College of Business (both serving on the Alumni Advisory board with Lisa currently serving as chair), Lied Center, Sheldon Art Gallery, and Nebraska Athletics.
Service is a strong pillar of Tom and Lisa’s philanthropy. Madonna was the first organization they worked with together and has become one of their great philanthropic passions for the past 27 years. Tom first joined the Madonna Hospital board in 1995 and served nine years as chairman, then came back a year later and served an additional term as chairman. Lisa served on the Madonna Foundation board for 10 years.
Lisa remains passionate about senior care and currently serves on the Tabitha Hospital board.
“The seniors in our community have been impacted by the pandemic in ways I can’t explain,” she said. “Aging can be terribly lonely. Bringing back joy to our seniors is close to my heart.”
The Smith’s charitable impact and service can be felt throughout our community. For example, the Child Advocacy Center is the first stopping point in Lincoln for children who have been victims of sexual abuse, child abuse, witnessed a violent crime or are victims of a violent crime. Lisa is very passionate for the work of the Child Advocacy Center, currently serving as a board member and actively fundraising for a much-needed building expansion.
Art is another passion for the couple. Lisa is the current treasurer for the Joslyn Art Museum board and has also served Public Art Lincoln and the Sheldon Museum of Art. Being extremely involved in several organizations has never phased Lisa. In fact, she hopes to lead by example and inspire others to get involved in their community.
“When I first started working in banking, I met others by serving on boards and volunteering,” she said. “Taking the time to give back to the community has made all of the difference.”
Tom echoed this sentiment. “Attending the meetings, showing up, and doing the work really sets the tone for your service and for others,” he said. “When I serve on a board, I implore myself to make the meetings.”
Tom has certainly set the tone for leadership as past chair of the Lincoln Community Foundation board of directors and in his work developing South of Downtown. His involvement with South of Downtown started on the ground level – partnering with fellow philanthropists, consultants, and the Lincoln Community Foundation to make improvements to the neighborhood, including investments in housing.
What resulted was the creation of the South of Downtown Community Development Organization (SODO), which enriches quality of life for residents of Near South and Everett neighborhoods through collaboration, economic opportunities, and community development. Tom currently serves as SODO board chair.
Seeing brick-and-mortar housing projects and improvements come to life through his philanthropy is not the only impact of his work in South of Downtown that hits home.
“The most notable impact for me has been understanding the community,” he said. “If you speak with someone who lives in the area, they know that SODO has their back and their interest at heart. This work is not only about affordable housing but addressing the many elements that make a community successful.”
Beyond city neighborhoods, Tom and Lisa’s interests also expand to conservation-based organizations including Audubon Nebraska, the Jackson Hole One Fly Foundation, and Ducks Unlimited.
“We are so fortunate to have Tom and Lisa investing their time and hearts into the organizations and causes that improve our quality of life in Lincoln,” said Alec Gorynski. “Their charitable impact has shaped this city for the better and will be felt for generations to come.”
Previous Charity Award honorees include:
Ed and Mary Copple – 2012
James and HK Stuart – 2013
James and Rhonda Seacrest – 2014
Alice Dittman – 2015
Jim and Mary Able and the Abel Family – 2016
Donna Woods – 2017
Robert and Karen Duncan – 2018
Dr. Tom and Nancy Osborne – 2019
Duane and Phyllis Acklie – 2020
Community of Lincoln – 2021