Olga Strimple truly is a legendary woman. As one of the first graduates of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), Olga continued to dedicate herself to the success of the University well after her graduation. Writer, mother, wife—Olga took on many roles, all of which she took on with passion and met with excellence. Because of her exhaustive efforts to build UNO’s Alumni Association, Olga was named UNO’s Legendary Woman of 2010, a title that she undoubtedly deserved. Olga leaves behind a legacy that cannot be ignored, as well as her poetry and a family who will always refer to her simply as “mom.”
Olga Jorgensen Strimple, also known as “Jorgy” to her classmates, attended UNO from 1915 to 1919, when it was only known as Omaha University (OU). At that time, OU was located on 24th and Pratt, and held its first classes in the Redick Mansion. It was a time when women wore long skirts with boots and neat, wide brimmed hats, when getting an education was an honor and a privilege for which students fought. Olga started her journey at OU and stayed true to her school; she became one of the most well-known and involved alumni in UNO’s rich history, and her legacy resonates even today.
Known as a good student and talented editor, Olga was president of her class of 19 students, as well as a member of several extracurricular groups. She studied the arts while still finding time to
Olga Strimple was born on June 6, 1898 in Kennard, Nebraska. She received her education at Florence Grade School, Central High School, Omaha University , and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. On a break from school, she met Cecil Strimple, a former soldier who fought in World War I, and the love of Olga’s life. They married in June 1925 and made Omaha their home.
Thor Strimple lives in the home his mother occupied overlooking Hanscom Park. He is one of two sons born to Olga and Cecil Strimple, though his brother, Henry, passed in his twenties. Thor speaks of his mother with a wide smile and he laughs often. He remembers that “mom” was always waiting for the boys when they arrived home from school. For a woman who contributed so much to the world, it amazes me how
Olga’s unpublished book of poetry begins with a sworn affidavit stating that she, the author, attended an archeological dig in approximately 1906, which resulted in the discovery of the remains of an Indian Chief named Snow Storm and his young son. Olga would have been ten years old, and this event would be known in the scientific community through a paper titled “Evidence of Man in the Loess Hills,” published in 1907. The paper describes the location of the burial mound as well as the size, shape, and location of various bones. Olga tells a much deeper story, of a man who lost a son too soon–A mighty warrior, a chief, dreamily imagining the past, and reflecting on how quickly things change.
This theme is one that would follow Olga throughout her life. She witnessed the world change through war, technology,
Olga demonstrated her strength, kindness and poetic nature in an article for the Gateway entitled “Our Changing Future,” which was published on October 2, 1942. This article reads more like a letter to the students and staff of UNO, urging them to meet the tough times brought on by World War II with “fortitude” (Strimple, Gateway archives). Olga writes, “Our world is changing faster than it ever has….Often we are resentful of changes and cling to the old familiar ways,” yet explains that Americans must learn to adapt to the changing world around them: “We must have faith—faith that beyond this war lies peace” (Strimple, Gateway archives). The spirit of perseverance is one that seems to follow Olga throughout her poems and throughout the both rewarding and devastating moments of her life.
But time goes on,
It is not long
For those who
Olga returned to UNO as President and Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association in 1941, and remained president until 1944; she was their first paid employee. In her years on the board, she worked to gain accreditation for the Omaha chapter of the American Association of University Women. She later became the Executive Secretary of the Association, and its first paid employee. Olga was awarded a lifetime membership in October of 1945; her contributions were so significant that her resignation in 1948 was rejected by the Board. Instead, she was granted a six-month leave of absence. Minutes from the meeting include the notes from the actual discussion, and report “Dr. Thompson said that Mrs. Strimple had developed this association work, had taken it on a part time bases [sic], but gave full time service and that we owe her gratefulness
Henry Strimple, the oldest son of Olga and Cecil, was often doted upon. In 1935, when Henry was eight, Olga presented him with a brand new globe. The boy exclaimed: “You bought the world for me!” and a new poem was born. Olga’s dedication to Henry was published in the Omaha World Herald and recognized by a globe company who asked to use the verses in future advertising. The company presented Henry and Olga with a brand-new, larger globe.
Sadly, in 1949, Henry Strimple took his own life at the age of 22. It is difficult to know how Olga went on after such a tragedy. Her poems, paintings, and continued love for her family are evidence that she did in fact move forward. Like Snow Storm, Olga, the chief of her own tribe, persevered.
When I too suffer loss,
In strength I
In March 2009, Olga Strimple was honored by the Chancellor’s Commission in the Status of Women with the Legendary Women of UNO Award. The number of poems, paintings, drawings, and other artistry provided by her family, not to mention the number of family members in attendance was overwhelming. Olga’s great-granddaughter, who bears her name, said that she knows Olga through her poetry. Olga’s great grandson, Victor, spoke eloquently for the family as he accepted Olga’s award. A single cliché comes to mind: “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”
So much of Olga’s art revolves around her true loves: her family and the outdoors. A chapter of her poem “These Are Our Hills” talks of her father, Thor Jorgensen, the man who carried a gun with no ammunition as he walked through the open prairie with his two red