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It was graduation time -- 1974 -- and Kent Broyhill was ready to collect his diploma from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

But before the university would turn it over to him, the Dakota City native had to pay the parking tickets collecting dust in his glove box.

“It wasn’t like I collected dozens or hundreds of them,” Broyhill said, laughing. “I had several -- it was a handful -- from trying to find a place to park or maybe staying at a meter too long.”

When he stopped by the campus police station to pay the fines, the officer noted that they only accepted cash -- not checks. And Broyhill's pockets were empty.

The officer gave him a pass on one condition: He had to promise to pay the fines as soon as possible.

Then the excitement of life beyond college, a new apartment and other beginnings got in the way.

More than 40 years later, in conversation with college buddy Roger Knudsen, Broyhill realized he hadn’t made good on his promise.

“I can’t remember how many tickets I had, or what I owed, so I got out my checkbook and sent (UNL) $100,” said Broyhill, who lives in South Sioux City.  “I promised I would pay them. It was the right thing to do.”

He said he learned from UNL English professor Wilbur Gaffney that no matter how long it takes, one should follow through on commitments and do the right thing.

During his senior year, Broyhill recalled, he insisted he had turned a term paper in to Gaffney but the professor said he hadn't.

“Back in the early ’70s, it wasn’t like you had a laptop you could just print the paper from, and you weren’t making carbon copies of your work,” he said. “I didn’t have any proof except that I told him, ‘I know I turned it in.’”

The two parted ways without agreeing, and Broyhill went on to graduate from the College of Arts and Sciences before becoming publisher of the Dakota County Star in South Sioux City and the president of Studio B Graphics.

A decade after graduating, Broyhill got a letter from UNL saying he had in fact turned in the paper and in a shuffle between folders and file drawers, it had slipped out of a stack of student papers and fallen to the back of a cabinet.

Gaffney found it when he was cleaning out his desk upon his retirement, notified the college and changed Broyhill's grade to an A.

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“He remembered me, and could have easily slid that under the table,” Broyhill said. “It was very admirable of him to step up to the plate.”

The example set by an old UNL professor, Broyhill mailed his check along with a business card and a note explaining the situation to UNL’s Parking and Transit Services, where it landed on the desk of Director Dan Carpenter.

The parking staff checked files but couldn’t find Broyhill’s name anywhere, he said.

“We don’t have records of paper tickets written back that far, so we had nothing to apply it to,” Carpenter said. “It was probably deemed ‘uncollectable’ sometime in the 1970s or ’80s.”

Besides, Broyhill’s tickets -- $1 for an expired meter or $3 for parking in a no-parking zone -- would hardly have added up to the $100 he sent, so they sent the check back, thanking him for the gesture and telling him he need not worry. 

“We got a kick out of it, that’s for sure,” Carpenter said.

Broyhill, whose family donated money for the fountain near the Nebraska Union in memory of his sister Lynn, who died in a 1966 car crash, said trying to pay the fines put his mind at ease – even 40 years later.

“We were busy at graduation, and all this stuff was adding up, and it just kind of slipped my mind,” he said. “But I paid them.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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Higher education reporter

Chris Dunker covers higher education, state government and the intersection of both.

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