BU Professor Passionate About Serving, Preserving History
Eric L. Ewing has dedicated his life to service -- family, country, and community.
The Omaha native served 20 years in the Navy, caring for sick sailors and traveling the world, before planting roots back in his hometown.
“I joke and say I would have stayed forever if I could take my family members on deployment with me,” says Ewing, a husband and father of three adult children.
Fortunately, Ewing’s military experiences have served him well in the years since his retirement.
Armed with a medical background, teaching skills, and rock-solid work ethic, Ewing received a job offer from Bellevue University within hours of returning home.
“I thought it was some of my friends calling me from Washington joking around,” he says.
Realizing the offer was real, Ewing accepted, officially joining BU’s academic advising team. This February, he will celebrate 14 years at the university.
While advancing in his advising role, Ewing jumped at the chance to continue his education, eventually earning a master’s degree in management.
“It was very convenient,” he says of his time as a staff member and student at BU.
As soon as he finished his degree, Ewing found himself in the front of a classroom, filling an open position. Through the years, he’s taught leadership and healthcare management.
Currently, Ewing teaches undergraduate-level healthcare management. The most rewarding part, he says, is helping students reach their goals, find hope, and achieve upward mobility.
Another tool in Ewing’s portfolio is a graduate certificate in life coaching, also from Bellevue University.
The certificate fits perfectly with his personality and appetite for learning, Ewing says. “It went along with who I am as a person as far as liking to coach people and helping others reach their goals.”
Outside the classroom, Ewing volunteers his time mentoring young men and women, as well as sitting on several boards, including At Ease USA, 100 Black Men of Omaha, and Men Against Domestic Violence Action Coalition, among others.
“I feel that you’re either part of the problem or you’re part of the solution,” he says. “I want to be part of the solution.”
Ewing emphasizes that community engagement is key. To that end, he spends most of his time pouring himself into his full-time role at the Great Plains Black History Museum.
Serving as the museum’s executive director for nearly four years, Ewing rolls up his sleeves daily to raise funds, develop exhibits, and act as a resource for the city and surrounding region.
Raised in North Omaha, Ewing is personally invested and dedicated to preserving and sharing the rich history of African Americans with the community.
To commemorate Veterans Day in 2020, he organized a military exhibit to honor African American veterans. The exhibit pays special homage to the 17 Nebraskans who were among the first black military aviators, known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Other recent exhibits include Night at the Dreamland Ballroom, located above the museum in the historic Jewell Building; Hate and Hope; Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow; and 24th and Glory.
For Ewing, his role as curator has proved “very eye opening” and even “a little disappointing,” he says. “The things that I’m leaving now are things that I feel should have been part of my education when I was in the K-12 system.”
Learning about history helps build pride, he explains. “But if you don’t know of any greatness of someone who looks like you, it makes it harder for you to even imagine achieving greatness.”
Ewing has worked tirelessly to change that. Amid the pandemic and in response to nationwide conversations surrounding social injustice, Ewing offered the museum as a resource.
“God provided me with lemons,” he says about the challenging circumstances of 2020. “I’ve decided to make lemonade.”
In response, virtual traffic has soared along with attendance records. The museum has reached hundreds of students from Hawaii to Maine. Ewing has also initiated virtual luncheon tours for teams and organizations.
Looking toward the future, Ewing hopes to continue expanding the museum’s local and national footprint while ensuring these vital parts of American history are preserved for generations to come.
“I always tell people, if you come here and you can’t remember my name, I’m fine with that. Just as long as you remember the name of the museum.”
Learn more and plan a visit at gpblackhistorymuseum.org.