Originally published: April 30, 2022
Marian Andersen, volunteer and widow of World-Herald publisher, dies at 93
OMAHA — It wouldn’t be hard to compile a long list of community causes that thrived on the dedication of Marian Andersen.
It would be harder to come up with a list of groups she didn’t help.
But both would be dwarfed by the accolades and gratitude she earned as a longtime Omaha community volunteer.
Andersen’s life of service ended Thursday when she died in her sleep at her home. She was 93, and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a month ago.
The former Marian Louise Battey was born in Lincoln, the daughter of C. Wheaton and Freda Battey.
She graduated from the University of Nebraska, where she met her husband, future Omaha World-Herald publisher Harold W. Andersen, in 1950. They had two children, son David, of Omaha, and daughter, Nancy, of Denver. The couple had been married 63 years when Andersen, the World-Herald’s publisher from 1966 to 1989, died in 2015.
Marian Andersen was a Phi Beta Kappa honoree and president of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
After graduating with a degree in journalism, she worked briefly for the Lincoln Journal Star, then launched her career as a volunteer.
“Marian is a remarkable woman who could have been successful at almost any endeavor she chose,” her husband said in 1995 when she was honored as the Omaha Arthritis Foundation’s Woman of the Year. “Her choice was to serve a variety of worthy causes — local, state and national — while still finding time to do a wonderful job as a wife and mother.”
Marian was the first woman to chair the University of Nebraska Foundation. She was a board member for a number of local and national groups, including Doane College, Joslyn Art Museum, the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Public Broadcasting System.
In 1984, she was elected to the national board of governors for the American Red Cross. She became vice chair and was responsible for hiring Elizabeth Dole as the organization’s president in 1991.
Andersen was named the United Way of the Midlands Citizen of the Year in 1994. With her husband, she was a co-founder of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, a group of contributors who donate a minimum of $10,000 to the annual United Way campaign.
She also received the Distinguished Nebraskalander Award from the Nebraskaland Foundation and was named outstanding sustainer by the Junior League of Omaha. She was a past president of Planned Parenthood and co-chair — along with her husband — of Nebraska Shakespeare.
“She liked to say she broke the glass ceiling for her husband, Harold, who became chair of our board later, in 1991 through 1993,” Brian Hastings, the president and CEO of the Nebraska Foundation, said in March. “She and Harold were the volunteer chairs of a comprehensive campaign that ran from 1993 through 2000. The goal was to raise $250 million for the University of Nebraska. It raised $727 million — due to Marian and Harold’s leadership. She is one of the foundation’s and university’s most ardent and faithful supporters.”
She accomplished much of that while suffering from arthritis. Friends said she approached various arthritis-related operations with the determination that there would be temporary breaks in her volunteer work.
Andersen appeared frequently in her husband’s newspaper column, where his admiration for her spirit and achievement was evident. Readers got a glimpse at their private life, including their six grandchildren and their cocker spaniels.
Marian was a serious baseball fan. Major League ballparks frequently were on her vacation itinerary. She attended games in every MLB stadium, as well as 2021’s Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa. She also was a voracious reader who loved books and read six different newspapers daily until the day she died.
In an interview with the World-Herald in March, Andersen said she’s most proud of two things.
“I think my family,” she said, “and the fact that I have maybe made a difference in some of the organizations.”