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Kelly: 'Global game-changer' who helped UNMC expand its reach is retiring
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Kelly: 'Global game-changer' who helped UNMC expand its reach is retiring

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Nizar Mamdani of Omaha is retiring after helping take the University of Nebraska Medical Center to the world.

A native of Tanzania who was educated in Tokyo and is fluent in seven languages, Nizar (Nee-ZAR) has served since 2000 as executive director of the medical center’s international health care services.

Traveling extensively, he established partnerships with 133 institutions in 45 countries and brought in hundreds of patients from 57 countries for treatment. A UNMC publication this week called him “the global game-changer.”

A former businessman, he was living in Atlanta when he brought his first wife, Nancy, to Omaha in 1998 for cancer treatment. She died a year later, but he was so impressed with the skill and compassion in Omaha that he persuaded med center officials to let him start the international program.

I’ve written two columns over the years about Nizar, now 72, who married Marsha Davidson 13 years ago. They plan to move to Naples, Florida.

Meanwhile, Tom O’Connor, UNMC’s senior associate director of public relations, wrote this week that the face of the medical center is changing: “The retirement of baby boomers — folks born between 1946 and 1964 — is in full swing.”

UNO student named after Sosa, McGwire has a ball at CWS

Working at the College World Series this month was Sammy McGwire Crick — named after former major league sluggers Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

Samantha was born in 1998, the year the St. Louis Cardinals’ McGwire hit 70 home runs and the Chicago Cubs’ Sosa hit 66. Her parents, Doug and Rachel, respectively are Cardinals and Cubs fans.

In a notebook column when Sammy was 3, I mentioned her distinctive name. Since then she has lived a sports-filled life, and as a senior for Cozad High School in the state softball tournament, she hit a grand slam .

Academically, she earned a Susan Buffett Scholarship and attends the University of Nebraska at Omaha, hoping eventually to work in marketing for a big-league team.

A Kansas City Royals fan (and second cousin to former Husker football players Jared Crick and Chris Dishman), Sammy sold CWS merchandise in the concourse behind home plate. She also met former major leaguers Roger Clemens and Ryan Howard.

Said mom Rachel: “She had the time of her life meeting new people and seeing some of the friendly folks supporting their teams.”

Sportscaster says CWS is 'one of the coolest experiences'

While in Cincinnati for a niece’s wedding, I heard a popular sportscaster raving this week about his first visit to the CWS.

“I’m telling you,” Mo Egger said, “it is one of the coolest experiences as a sports fan that I’ve ever had.”

On WCPO’s “Sports of All Sorts” television program, Egger said: “It’s a little bit of everything — one part sporting event, one part baseball convention, one part party. “

He lauded the “civic pride” of Omahans who “wrap their arms around this event.”

Egger added: “The ballpark is beautiful, and it’s not that expensive to go to. There are a lot of cool places to go to around Omaha. The vibe was great. I cannot recommend that trip enough.”

UNL grad wins top writing honor at Hearst competition

An article by Marcella Mercer, a 2018 journalism graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, won first place among 605 entries at the 58th annual Hearst National Championships in San Francisco.

The story, “Fathers and Sons,” chronicled the poignant relationship between a father and his dying son in Uganda.

Her award marks the second year in a row that a UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications student has won the Hearst “best article of the year.” Lauren Brown-Hulme won last year for her profile of a young street preacher in Whiteclay, Nebraska.

This year Tyler Schank took second place in multimedia, and Chris Bowling joined Mercer as a finalist in the writing category. UNL finished third in both the writing and multimedia competitions, and fifth overall among 105 college journalism programs.

Mercer, from Nebraska City, will begin a nine-month Fulbright Program in September in Malaysia.

'Navy Band' won't be in George Boulevard parade this year

For the first time in 37 years, the J.E. George Boulevard Fourth of July Parade will be without its “Navy Band.”

Mainly from the Omaha Press Club Show, the musicians have played “Anchors Aweigh” and other patriotic songs while a motor vehicle pulled them on a trailer. The “Navy” name was a humorous nod to the fact that a “Lake George” long ago sat nearby.

Ken Molacek, who plays sousaphone, says too many band members had conflicts this year. Parade organizers said they instead will play recorded music.

The neighborhood event mainly features kids on bicycles and tricycles, though politicians often stop by. The boulevard is short, extending only a few blocks from Western Avenue to Underwood Avenue, and the parade ends in Memorial Park.

The police mounted patrol guards the traffic crossing on Underwood, and prizes are given for the best decorations on bikes.

John Edward George was a real estate developer, and the boulevard with his name is at the equivalent of 60th Street. This year is said to be the “68th annual” parade, though organizers say the history is uncertain.

A 1970 World-Herald article called that year’s parade part of a “third annual Independence Day fiesta.” That tracks with the memory of Letty VanKleeck, a former Omahan who wrote to me that neighbors started it in the late 1960s.

Mitzi Johnson, a co-chair of this year’s parade, found a 1977 article in the old Sun Newspapers that said the parade was a long tradition that had died but was revived. Some say it originated around 1950. But there apparently was a lull.

michael.kelly@owh.com, 402-444-1132

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