Philanthropist Dave Van Meter leaves behind a tremendous legacy of improving OPS sports

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No sports facility is named after Dave Van Meter, although many could be.

The retired business executive, who lived in Omaha for 47 years, has repeatedly led fundraising efforts to improve the figurative playground in underserved areas, especially in Omaha public schools. Omaha.

One estimate is that the involvement of Van Meter and his wife, Carol, amounted to more than $42 million in sports-related projects – weight rooms, football and soccer stadiums, baseball and softball fields, among others.

Dave Van Meter says his wife Carol “was a passionate and tireless supporter of inclusion and tolerance in all aspects of life”.


“Dave was a once-in-a-generation person,” said retired OPS athletic director Bob Danenhauer. “He and Carol were very nice people. Always very empathetic.

Dave Van Meter, 86, died of cancer May 11 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee had moved to be with his family. His wife died in 2016 of a brain aneurysm.

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A native of Mount Vernon, Iowa, Van Meter completed high school at Lake Forest Academy in suburban Chicago. At Colorado College, he was a unanimous all-conference tight end pick that the Los Angeles Rams won in the 18th round of the 1959 NFL Draft.

He was an Army veteran who served at Fort Benning in Georgia.

The Van Meters, who married in 1960, moved from Denver to Omaha in 1968. Much of his career was spent investing at Chiles, Heider & Co. and its successor companies until his retirement. in 2004. Until 2000, he was co-owner of Travel and Transport, which the investment company acquired in 1974.

Their first athletics-related donation, in 2000, was to the Mount Vernon High School weight room. Then there was the weight room at Omaha Central, where sons David (Bo) and Jim had played football.

Then, all OPS middle and high schools—18 at the time—received Van Meters weight room upgrades. Ditto for several clubs Boys & Girls Clubs of Omaha.

“What encourages someone to keep going is that you get so many thank you notes from the kids,” Dave Van Meter said in 2014. “It makes you want to do it again.”

While the Van Meters spent over $600,000 on OPS weight rooms, their larger projects such as Collin Stadium for Omaha South and Seemann Stadium were public-private partnerships, many of them by the intermediary of the donor group Heritage Services (now Heritage Omaha).

“Dave changed the landscape of OPS athletics because one of our strategic goals was to improve our facilities for our coaches and student-athletes,” Danenhauer said. “I truly believe our student athletes and coaches felt the love from Dave and Carol Van Meter and they were inspired because (the VanMeters) cared so much.”

Danenhauer said that every year while he was with OPS, he and Van Meter met with then-Superintendent John Mackiel and Assistant Superintendent Jerry Bartee about what to do next for the schools.

“We did the outdoor facilities, including Omaha City and recreation grounds used by OPS sports and the community,” Danenhauer said. “If it was an OPS facility, then Dr. Mackiel and Dr. Mackiel would determine how committed OPS would be. If it was a city-owned facility, then (Van Meter) would collect 100% of what was needed.

Van Meter was handy. He oversaw the projects. A senior engineer said in 2014: “When we work with him, he understands projects from start to finish. He is involved every step of the way.

One of the couple’s last projects before Carol’s death was to help rebuild the Christie Heights Community Center and adjacent fields at 36th and Q streets.

Dave Van Meter was predeceased by his wife and son Bo. Survivors include his son Jim. A memorial service could be held this summer.​

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