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If you happened to walk through Mantor hall in the past few weeks, you may have noticed something unusual... read more

Dr. Bruner's granddaughter visits Kearney
Erik Dodge
Antelope Staff
Courtesy Photo
Granddaughter of Dr. William E. Bruner, Susan McKenzie and her husband, Patrick, visited the Bruner Science Complex. Susan said she had only visited a couple of times between 1970-2000.

Susan McKenzie traveled more than 1,250 miles to Kearney to discover more about her grandpa, Dr. William Bruner.

“For me it was part of a personal journey of learning as much as I can about my grandparents and my mom. After my mom died, I realized I didn’t know everything I wanted to know,” she said.

McKenzie, 63, visited the William E. Bruner Science Complex on Sept. 24. The Sparks, Nev., resident also looked over keepsakes of “Grandpa Bruner” from the Calvin T. Ryan Library archives.

At UNK she learned that she shared Bruner’s concern for the environment. Biology lecturer Brian Peterson gave Susan and her husband, Patrick, a tour of the science complex that was originally dedicated on April 26, 1967.

Archived papers, personal notes, letters, graduation robes and college grades of Bruner were laid out for Susan in the Alice Paine Room. “That was just wonderful, because I’d never seen those things,” she said.

She was able to touch and look at everything, which gave her some of the information she came to find.

“It was just really wonderful to fill out parts of Grandpa Bruner I didn’t know,” she said of the experience.

Bruner’s tenure as part of the biology department at Kearney State College lasted from 1932 to 1965. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in 1929, was a member of at least nine science and education organizations and served as chairman of the biology department.

His notes in the archives reveal that he was concerned with the tilling and tearing up of native prairies, according to Peterson.

McKenzie is not sure where her stance on the environment started, but she does share Bruner’s concerns.

“I don’t know if that came from Grandpa Bruner,” she said of her views. “It might be in my DNA, but it just makes sense to practice what we’re living. It’s not real hard.”

The McKenzies cut their water bill in half by replacing their unnatural Nevada lawn with grass turf and pay only $8 a month in electric costs, because they installed solar panels.

Susan McKenzie was born in Kearney but moved to California in 1954, which kept her away from Bruner except during summers. “My family did not go back to the Midwest a whole bunch, but Grandpa and Grandma Bruner would come out and visit a lot of summers,” she said.

They still managed to write, and as a middle school student McKenzie asked for help to pick a science project for the science fair. “He made a suggestion. I did it, and it won an honorable mention,” she said.

Her project was growing beans in different conditions.

McKenzie said she had a wonderful experience on campus where she could “just feel the energy.” She plans to come back to Kearney and see a planetarium show in the future.

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