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Dr. William “Bill” Fleming: Helping Provide College Access for Deserving Students

By Bill Wax

The support of thousands of individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations has helped make Bellevue University Nebraska’s largest private college or university. As the University celebrates its 50th anniversary, we look at a few of the key individuals and organizations whose financial support helped make it happen. Dr. William M. “Bill” Fleming and his wife, Pamela, donated scholarship funding to enable minority and low-income students to earn a college degree.

Dr. William “Bill” Fleming: Helping Provide College Access for Deserving Students

At age 11, he decided to become a medical doctor, and at 12, he chose surgery as his specialty. Columbus, Ohio, native William H. “Bill” Fleming, M.D., did both and built a leading regional pediatric heart surgery program and a life of civic involvement and philanthropy, including a scholarship benefiting deserving low-income and minority students at Bellevue University.

Fleming mug BEST"I received a good education, but I couldn't have done it without scholarships," said Dr. Fleming, who learned the importance of financial support first-hand as a college undergraduate and medical school student. He decided to contribute to the University’s South Omaha Outreach Program because of its emphasis on strong academic performance. An honors graduate at Yale University, Dr. Fleming completed Columbia University Medical School in 1961, followed by six years of residency in New York City hospitals and two years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, first in Washington, D.C., at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, then in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star medal.

After being discharged from the military, Dr. Fleming continued to build an impressive resume. He was Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Atlanta and taught surgery at Emory University School of Medicine for five years. In 1976, he moved to Omaha and became Nebraska’s first and only congenital heart surgeon dedicated to treating children. His dedication and collaboration with other pediatric cardiologists laid the foundation for a regional heart program at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, which today is one of the best programs of its kind, nationally.

View YouTube Video on Dr. Fleming’s Life and Career.

Since retiring from the operating room in 2003, he has remained involved in family activities and business interests, including service as Medical Director of one company and chairing or serving on the Boards of several others. He also has volunteered his time and talent in the non-profit sector, co-chairing the successful multimillion-dollar fund-raising effort to build the Children's Specialty Pediatric Center at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, completed in 2010. He has served on the Boards of the Omaha Symphony Association, the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center of Omaha Foundation, and along with his wife, Pamela, served on the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Trustees.

Dr. and Mrs. Fleming were recognized by the Nebraska Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (2010) during its annual "National Philanthropy Day” luncheon for providing scholarship support benefiting minority and low-income students at Bellevue University students. "I believe that the future of our country will be determined by what happens in the lives of our top people. If people have the work ethic, desire, and brain power to do it, I think we ought to make it possible, regardless of the student's social or ethnic background,” he said.

Dr. Fleming received an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree from Bellevue University in 2011. He was recognized for professional achievements, entrepreneurship, community service, and philanthropy, including scholarship support for the University's South Omaha Outreach Program.

[caption id="attachment_2237" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Bill Fleming and Daughter Dr. Bill Fleming with his daughter, April Brizendine, who completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Behavioral Science in 2011.[/caption]