Jane Hood
Jane Hood (Courtesy photo)

When Jane Renner Hood came to Nebraska in 1987, the state Humanities Council's budget was less than $500,000.

More than two decades later, with Hood at the council's helm, that number has increased to $1.6 million, and the amount of private support is almost six times greater than before.

Hood will retire as executive director at the end of the year, the council announced Thursday.

"Jane is passionate about Nebraskans' access to public humanities programming," Kim Robak, president of the Nebraska Foundation for the Humanities, said in a release. "She works tirelessly to build a broad base of funding and to ensure statewide outreach.

"Jane is a legend in humanities circles. She will truly be missed."

During Hood's 23 years in the position, the council developed a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution to bring national exhibits to small museums in rural Nebraska.

In 1996, the council started the Governor's Lecture in the Humanities, with Nebraska author and presidential speechwriter Ted Sorensen as its first speaker.

And, in 2004, the council and the Nebraska Library Commission started offering a bilingual reading program to libraries in communities with schools that have low reading scores, including Lincoln, Crete, Schuyler, Columbus, Grand Island and Omaha.

"It has made a significant difference in thousands of children's lives," Hood said in the release.

Before returning to Nebraska, her home state, Hood spent 10 years in Chicago serving as assistant director of the Illinois Humanities Council. She was involved in getting the Illinois council's first state appropriation.

Within three years of her move to Lincoln to become executive director, the Nebraska council had its first annual state appropriation: up to $75,000, based on the amount of private funds the council raised.

"That was a terrific boost for our fundraising," Hood said.

The boost led to the activation of the then-defunct Nebraska Foundation for the Humanities.

"It will be so interesting to see where the council and foundation go in the future," Hood said. "The NHC/NFH is fiscally sound, has a terrific staff and boards of directors, its programming is first-rate, and the people of Nebraska have been so loyal.

"It is going to be really exciting to be a beneficiary of its future rather than an actor in it."

Reach Zach Pluhacek at 473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

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