Humanitarian, Mayor to be Honored at 129th Commencement
Natalie Hahn, a humanitarian whose work with United Nations programs has empowered women across Africa and beyond, will deliver the address at Nebraska Wesleyan University’s 129thcommencement on Saturday, May 5.
Her address will be shared with 500 undergraduate and graduate students who will receive degrees. Commencement begins at 1 p.m. on Taylor Commons.
Hahn, who grew up in Polk, Neb., initiated programs for rural youth in East and Southern Africa and organized programs empowering women with access to savings and bank loans. In Nigeria she worked with agronomic teams to introduce improved and more nutritious food crops to rural families. For this success, the Yoruba Peoples honored Hahn with a chieftaincy and bestowed the title, Balogun Iyalaje, meaning “the person who empowers.”
As UNICEF Representative to Malawi, she organized the UNICEF campaign, Democracy Is Good for Children. School fees and uniforms had kept countless children out of school as families could not afford the costs. Through UNICEF’s campaign, school enrollment jumped from 1.2 million to 3.2 million children. With World Bank assistance, Hahn organized a project to install water pumps in Ndirande, Malawi. Managed by women, the initiative benefited 300,000 persons.
Her determination to serve her home state of Nebraska by giving back became evident in 1998 when she launched the Malaika Foundation to enhance global education initiatives in Nebraska schools and universities. Since then, more than 2,500 teachers have attended global education workshops.
African art is one of Hahn’s great interests. She has supported many young African artists, primarily in Nigeria and Malawi. She has donated multiple works of African art to Nebraska Wesleyan.
Hahn will be honored at commencement with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
An honorary Doctor of Laws degree will be bestowed on Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler. A longtime civic leader and public servant, Beutler was elected Mayor of Lincoln in May 2007 and re-elected in 2011 and 2015. He led the successful campaign to build Pinnacle Bank Arena, a project that has spurred rapid development of the new West Haymarket Area, with millions of dollars in new private investment.
Beutler is credited for correcting the City budget’s structural imbalance and has made significant investments in public safety, infrastructure and technology. During his tenure, Lincoln has earned a reputation as a hub of the Silicon Prairie; the city continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation; and is ranked as a top five city for quality of life.
The university will also honor two retirees. Michael Reese, associate professor of theatre arts, is retiring after 15 years at NWU. He has served as the technical director and scenographer for the NWU Theatre Department, designing nearly 200 main season productions ranging from musicals and operas, Shakespeare productions, to A Christmas Carol. In addition to his work as the technical director and scenographer, Reese also taught courses on scenography, computer-assisted design, stage management, lighting and sound. His service to the university includes serving as the Theatre Department chair from 2011-2014, on the Academic Standards Committee, and as chair of the Faculty Evaluation Committee.
Loy Watley, professor of business administration, is retiring after 21 years of service. Watley served as the faculty parliamentarian from 2013-2016 and as the faculty athletic representative from 2005-2016. He also served as the faculty advisor and professional division chair for Omega Alpha Chi Fraternity and on the General Education Revision Process Team, Curriculum Committee, and University Judiciary.
He has advised nearly 800 business administration, accounting, and economics students. He assisted students in becoming involved in the local American Marketing Association Chapter and was named the Nebraska Wesleyan Outstanding Advisor in 2010. His service to his department includes revising courses for the Archway Curriculum and updating the international business major.
Commencement Day begins with the traditional Final Walk through campus at 9:40 a.m. followed by a baccalaureate service at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist Church.
See a complete Commencement Day schedule of events.