Gretchen (Hollman) Lainson, born January 25, 1916, in Minden, Nebraska, passed away today, June 4, 2021, at the age of 105. A self described wife, mother, homemaker and community volunteer, Lainson made an impact in her community and state with many years of dedicated service. She was Hastings College’s oldest living alumna.
Gretchen graduated magna cum laude from Hastings College in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in English. The following January, she married Hal Lainson, who had finished his degree at Hastings College in 1934 and had joined his father’s business the Dutton-Lainson Company. Through the next 70 plus years, Gretchen and Hal, who died in 2010, remained close to the College. Hal’s long service to the Board of Trustees includes 27 years as Chairman of the Board.
For Hastings College, Gretchen served on the committee to dedicate the Dr. Hayes M. Fuhr Hall of Music in 1956 and again in 1990 following the building’s renovation and rededication. With Hal, Gretchen has provided stewardship to capital projects, support to the College’s fine arts and humanities programs, and hospitality to the College’s students, faculty, staff and guests. In 1993, she received the Hastings College Outstanding Alumna Award and, with Hal, received the Hastings College President’s Award in 1996. She was inducted into the Pro Rege Society in 2014.
An avid reader, Gretchen served as president of the Nebraska Library Association and received the Nebraska Library Commission’s 1973 Outstanding Trustee Award. A founding member of the Nebraska Committee for the Humanities, she also served on the first Nebraska Arts Council. She also served on the first South Central Nebraska Community Health Board and in 1984 was appointed by Governor Robert Kerrey to the 66 member Citizens Commission for the Study of Higher Education.
Gretchen was secretary on a committee with Fuhr for the design and installation of the Austin Pipe Organ at the First Presbyterian Church. She served for eight years as organist under the direction of Fuhr, an association she cherished.
During the early 1940s, Gretchen served as the first secretary for the Hastings Area United Way, and in 1994, she and Hal received the Inez C. Peterson Award for contributions to the United Way and community service. During 19 years on the Hastings Public Library Board of Trustees, including service as board president, Gretchen led the successful bond campaign to build the city’s library.
The Adams County YWCA bestows its special Gretchen Hollman Lainson Award to an outstanding woman, past or present, for extraordinary service to the YWCA – a fitting tribute for an organization with which Gretchen was active.
Gretchen and Hal have two daughters, Margaret Hermes ’65 and Mary Lainson Olsen ’69, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.