Gift honors Husker Alex Kearns with focus on student well-being, suicide prevention

Dan and Dorothy Kearns, center, with Big Red Resilience & Well Being Director Connie Boehm, left, and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, right. The Kearnses presented a $25,000 gift to the university on April 18 in memory of their son, Alex Kearns.
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Husker Alex Kearns would have been a senior this year and preparing to graduate in a few weeks from the University of Nebraska‒Lincoln College of Business. Sadly, he died by suicide on June 12, 2020, after misunderstanding information he was seeing online about a financial transaction that was not what it appeared to be.

While the circumstances vary, too many young people find themselves in situations that may seem impossible. The Kearns family is doing what they can to prevent the loss of lives to suicide and helping to share the important message that there are many places to turn for available help.

Alex Kearns

Alex’s parents, Dan and Dorothy Kearns, of Naperville, Illinois, and his sister, Sydney Kearns, who’s currently a freshman at Nebraska, have established the Alex Kearns UNL Memorial Fund with a $25,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The fund will provide expendable financial support to the Big Red Resilience & Well Being program at UNL.

Dedicated to the well-being of all Husker students, the program offers a variety of resources aimed at helping students understand emotions, manage stress, build strength, connect with others, develop grit and navigate life transitions.

“We established this fund to honor Alex’s legacy of kindness, selflessness and his desire to help others,” Dorothy Kearns said. “We want it to increase mental health awareness and provide students like Alex with the tools and mechanisms to effectively deal with the well-being challenges they face, now and in the future.”

Dan Kearns said the fund will support REACH suicide prevention training and other initiatives that support mental health and well-being, suicide prevention, and overall student wellness and connectedness.

“Treating mental health shouldn’t be taboo, yet the stigma surrounding it prevents those suffering from seeking treatment,” Dan Kearns said. “Learning the warning signs and risk factors is vital to saving lives. Suicide is preventable.”

On April 18, the Kearns family gathered on campus to present their gift to the entire support staff at Big Red Resilience & Well-Being and were joined by UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green.

“We have the Kearns family and other families in our thoughts every day as we help and serve fellow Huskers,” said Connie Boehm, director of Big Red Resilience & Well Being. “Students who need support for their mental health motivate us and remind us of the importance of our outreach, and we’re incredibly grateful for the support from the Kearns family.”

Contact Big Red Resilience and get involved at resilience.unl.edu.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for confidential support anytime.

Counseling services are available at no cost to UNL students through Counseling and Psychological Services at the Student Health Center. Information and help is at caps.unl.edu.

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