Former Board Members

Past Board Presidents

We take great pride in recognizing the Presidents and Chairmen of our Board of Directors who have helped Opera Omaha grow from its beginnings 56 years ago to become one of the nation’s most acclaimed regional opera companies.

1959-1961 Lloyd E. Skinner

The first president of Opera Omaha displayed a lifelong commitment both to his community and the arts. Forming an opera society for Omaha was only one example.

1962-1963 Harry Otis

Supported the formation of the Craftsmans’ Guild. "In my opinion the Opera Society was built in large part on love and enthusiasm, and has been successful because of the fervent desire of the officers, directors, and all participants to produce something worthy of the art, something to make Omaha proud."

1963-1965 Maurice L. Pepper

Well-known as an opera lover with an extensive record collection, Dr. Pepper became involved with Opera Omaha in its earliest years.

1965-1966 Nes Latenser

Lastenser was a member of Omaha's architecture and engineering family. At that time, productions were created entirely by volunteers and local talent.

1966-1970 Richard D. Holland

In addition to singing in several operas, Dick made his involvement a family affair, with wife Mary working on costumes and their daughter dancing in a later production of Aida. The Hollands remain among the Opera’s greatest supporters.

1970-1972 Dan Gordman

Instrumental in changing the name from the Omaha Civic Opera Society to the Omaha Opera Company, as well as arranging for Richard Tucker to perform in Un ballo in Maschera. His family notes he instilled in them a love of opera and volunteerism.

1972-1977 William S. Matthews

During his tenure, Opera Omaha opened its first office, hired a professional staff and launched its first touring company. He brought the artistic and technical needs of the performing organizations to the 1972-1974 renovation process of the Orpheum Theater. Opera Omaha's first performance at the Orpheum, Lucia di Lammermoor starring Beverly Sills, was a highlight of his term.

1978-1979 Frederick J. Simon

Widely recognized for his ongoing, generous support of Opera Omaha, Simon remembers The Bartered Bride as a great celebration, with local audience members and ushers dressed in traditional Czech costumes.

1979-1981 James H. Keene III

Keene restructured the Company's activities in order to become financially viable, while remaining committed to excellence of performance, innovation, and sound fiscal management.

1981 Bob Lalley

Lalley became president and ex-president in a heartbeat when his firm transferred him to their Chicago headquarters.

1981-1985 Robert E. Owen

During his term General Director Mary Robert and Artistic Director John DeMain developed new audiences and the Opera became one of the "top regional opera companies of the nation."

1985-1987 John Reed

Planning for the Fall Festival began and the Opera Omaha Foundation was formed to develop and manage an endowment for the Company during Reed’s tenure.

1987-1988 Thompson H. Rogers

His family's years of involvement began with his father Homer C. Rogers, who sang in many productions, including the first Madama Butterfly in 1958. In 1992, Rogers served as the Opera's Executive Director and hired his successor, Jane Hill.

1988-1990 John Zeilinger

Partenope, written by George Frideric Handel in 1730, had its American premiere at Opera Omaha’s Fall Festival.

1990-1991 David Catalan

Catalan felt the diversity of the productions and artistic excellence made this the best Opera Omaha season ever. Donizetti’s neglected opera Maria Padilla, written in 1841, had its American premiere.

1991 Harris Wagenseil

Wagenseil served only six months when he was forced to resign due to illness. His leadership, albeit brief, was highly regarded.

1992-1993 Mary Ann Strasheim

The first woman president of Opera Omaha. During her tenure, Tom Rogers was hired as Executive Director. The last Fall Festival brought Ermione (Rossini, 1819), Autumn Valentine (Gordon, 1992) and The Gardens of Adonis (Weisgall, 1959). Ermione had its first American staging, and the latter two offerings were world premieres.

1993-1994 Clyde R. Claus

Claus was president during Opera Omaha's 35th Anniversary Season. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem Variations, a world premiere, took the Orpheum stage with Webber in attendance.

1994-1996 Mike Klug

Klug counts hiring Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Hal France and moving former Managing Director Jane Hill to the post of General Director as his primary achievements.

1996-1998 Stephanie Moline

Moline worked with the Opera Omaha Foundation to grow the corpus to ensure Opera Omaha's future.

1998-2000 Richard L. O'Brien, M.D.

During his tenure, the Company commissioned and premiered a new opera by Libby Larson, Eric Hermannson’s Soul, based on a story by Nebraska native Willa Cather.

2000-2003 George F. Heiden

Heiden sees the retirement of Executive Director, Jane Hill, and the search for her successor as the defining event of his presidency. This presidency was extended for an additional year to provide continuity for the new General Director, Joan Desens.

2003-2005 David E. Gardels

Gardels oversaw the transition and hire of internationally prominent Stewart Robertson as the Company's new artistic director, and coordinated the merger of the Opera Omaha Board and the Foundation Board.

2005-2007 J F Sean Hession

During his tenure, Opera Omaha garnered unprecedented acclaim for its Madama Butterfly designed by renowned artist, Jun Kaneko and for the world premiere of the inspirational Wakonda’s Dream by composer Anthony Davis and librettist Yusef Komunyakaa.

2007-2007 Fred Simon

2007-2009 Kim Simon

Ms. Simon led the company during its 50th Anniversary year and helped welcome General Director, John Wehrle. Ms. Simon was instrumental in upgrading the company’s ticketing system and worked closely with the Opera Omaha Guild to further integrate events into the season.

2009 – 2011 Tim Hart

2011-2013 John Newman

2013-Present Stephen Bruckner

Founding Officers

  • Lloyd Skinner, President
  • June Vance
  • Francis P. Matthews
  • Henry E. Pusch
  • Richard Valente


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