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Centennial Mall construction

University of Nebraska students Andrew Markham (left) and Marcus Kamrath walk next to the ongoing construction project after having lunch downtown March 1, 2013, at the nearby Fuzzy's Taco Shop on Centennial Mall between P and O streets.

Glenn Korff, a Nebraska native whose great-grandparents settled in the state, is giving $2 million to the Centennial Mall campaign, enough to reach the $9.6 million goal.

Like many Nebraska kids, Korff remembers waiting for the Capitol to appear on the horizon as his family headed into Lincoln from Hebron for the day.

"The newly renovated mall will link the state Capitol, one of the most significant pieces of architectural achievement and beauty of its time and the center of our state government, with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the pride of every Nebraskan," Korff said in an email response to questions about his gift.

Campaign leaders gathered at the Capitol on Friday to announce the gift and the final chapter in the fundraising campaign that began in 2009.

The contribution from Korff, now of Boulder, Colo., will allow final construction of the mall to begin this summer and be completed in spring 2015, in time for the Nebraska sesquicentennial celebration in 2017, campaign leaders said.

Raised in Hebron, Korff graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1965 with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry.

After earning a master of business administration degree from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, he worked for Salomon Brothers from 1969 to 1974 and Goldman Sachs, 1974-92, in New York City.

From 1967 to 1973, he served in the U.S. Army Reserve. Upon completion of his active duty, he was cited as a military honor graduate.

Since 1992, Korff has been semi-retired, managing Korff Holdings, a personal investment company.

He is a fourth generation Nebraskan, with all four sets of his great-grandparents arriving between 1855 and 1888.

His mother's grandparents all settled in Crete. One set arrived by covered wagon in 1888 from Keokuk, Iowa. The other settled in Crete in 1881 from Beardstown, Ill.

His dad's grandparents came from Germany, one set settling in the Nebraska Territory in 1855 and the other settling near Lanham in the 1880s, Korff said in the email.

His parents, Esther and Paul Korff, spent their married lives in Hebron. His father had a lumberyard in Hebron, which he sold when he retired in 1971. It is managed by Sack Lumber of Crete.

Korff said he is happy to be a part of the mall project.

"This is a project that sells itself," Korff said. "The renovation of the Centennial Mall will benefit the state of Nebraska, the city of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus for generations to come.”

Korff said he maintains a strong connection with the University of Nebraska through the NU Foundation.

"I have many friends in Nebraska, and I still feel strongly connected to my hometown of Hebron."

"Glenn’s gift, combined with others from across the state, will make this mall beautiful, educational, historical and accessible for everyone,” Patty Pansing Brooks said in a release. She is co-chairwoman of the statewide campaign committee, along with Roger Larson and Mary Arth.

“This gift, the largest ever to the Lincoln parks system, allows us to reach our initial construction goal and to revitalize this mall so that all Nebraskans will enjoy it for many years to come," Pansing Brooks said.

Envisioned by Capitol architect Bertram Goodhue, the mall was built in 1967 to commemorate the state’s centennial year.

The new Nebraska’s Centennial Mall will have durable accessible walkways and has been designed to accommodate a variety of activities and uses.

Last month, the campaign unveiled plans for a new interactive education system that includes QR, or quick response code technology that will give users access to more in-depth information about historic events, notable state leaders and Nebraska heritage.

Students and other visitors will be able to scan QR codes to view information on featured displays via smartphone or tablet computer. Educators can access the same website for use in classrooms.

Plans also are underway to enhance social interactivity and other attractions along the mall through the installation of Wi-Fi and broadband systems.

The campaign will continue to raise money to underwrite additional enhancements to the initial construction plans.

Other major partners include the city of Lincoln, state of Nebraska, Union Pacific, Windstream, the Lincoln Community Foundation on behalf of the Sheila Dickinson Dinsmore Graf Fund, the Lancaster County Visitor Improvement Fund, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the Sunderland Foundation, the Dillon Foundation, Ameritas, First National Bank, State Farm, the Cope Foundation of Kearney and the Junior League of Lincoln, as well as private donors.

The project is sponsored by the Lincoln Parks Foundation.

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Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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