Generations of Law graduates recognized with Nebraska Alumni Association Family Tree Award

13 May 2024    

Nebraska Alumni Association Executive Director Shelley Zaborowsk, Patty Pansing Brooks and Chancellor Rodney Bennett

The Emerson, Pansing, Guenzel, Plummer, Johnson, Woolf and Pansing Brooks family was recognized with the award at the Nebraska Alumni Association’s Medallion Dinner on Friday, April 5, 2024.

Patty Pansing Brooks, ’84, and Loel P. Brooks, ’77, are among the latest generation of the Emerson family to send their children to the University of Nebraska College of Law. Their family’s commitment to the University of Nebraska, going back generations, was recognized with the Family Tree Award presented by the Nebraska Alumni Association.

Established in 1995, the Family Tree Award honors one family consisting of at least three generations of University of Nebraska graduates, with at least two family members having a record of outstanding service to the university, the alumni association, their community and/or their profession.

“I’ve known this family for years, and even taught some of them as students. They are wonderful people and leaders. We are honored that Nebraska Law is where they chose to pursue their law degrees,” said Dean Richard Moberly. “As we put together the nomination for the Family Tree Award, I was amazed, but not surprised, by the number of Nebraska graduates, and also by all their accomplishments.”

The dedication of the Emerson, Pansing, Guenzel, Plummer, Johnson, Woolf and Pansing Brooks families to the University of Nebraska is thriving today, because of the values that were established years ago by Dr. Clarence Emerson and Dora Dean Emerson, who both attended the University in the early 1900s.


Now, more than a century later, nearly 50 family members from the extended family call the University of Nebraska their alma mater with graduates following paths in engineering, education, medicine, business, and 14 in law, including:

  • Thomas R. Pansing, Sr., '41
  • Robert C. Guenzel Sr., ’48
  • Thomas R. Pansing Jr., ’69
  • Kile W. Johnson, ’69
  • James E. Pansing, ’73 
  • Loel P. Brooks, '77
  • Steve E. Guenzel,’78 
  • Patty Pansing Brooks, '84
  • Virginia G. Johnson, ’85
  • Paige J. Roberts, ’96
  • Jais M. Woolf, ’07
  • Cameron E. Guenzel, ’10
  • Taylor P. Brooks, '15
  • Graham P. Brooks, '16

Dozens of members of the Emerson Family

A note from Patty Pansing Brooks:

We are all very grateful to Nebraska Law Dean, Richard Moberly, for his kind idea to nominate our family for this meaningful award. Fourteen of us, over 3 generations, have graduated from Nebraska Law alone—which leads some observers to question the existence of a genetic defect in the family!

Our legacy with the University reaches back to our grandmother and grandfather, Dora & Clarence Emerson, who started this epic educational journey for our family in 1902, at the University of Nebraska system. Our grandfather rode a bicycle from Tamora, NE, to Lincoln, NE and slept and worked in a mortuary. He also had a paper route and worked at night as a streetlamp lighter. Dr. Emerson became Lincoln’s first surgeon and was Chief of Surgery for decades at St. Elizabeth Hospital. His life was a historical wonder, as his autobiography reveals. Dora was a masterful pianist and honed her musical skills in the early 1900s with a degree in music from the University.

Our grandparents and parents instilled in each of us the determination to support and improve the communities in which we live. After WWII, brothers-in-law, Thomas Pansing, Sr., and Robert Guenzel, Sr., started a law firm in Lincoln. One of their main decisions in formation of the firm, included an anti-nepotism rule. Such a rule was probably a good idea because 14 of their children, grandchildren and their in-laws became Nebraska Law graduates.

Among the 5 generations of 45+ family members who attended various schools within the University of Nebraska system, 14 of us felt that the surest path to giving back was through law school. Our grandparents’ legacy has been perpetuated and bolstered from our experiences at the University. Of the 14 Nebraska Law graduates, we each would say that we learned to understand and embrace our U.S. Constitution as well as the freedoms in our country for which our fathers literally and historically fought in WWII, with the sole goal of sustaining and protecting our precious democratic Republic. 

Our collective experience at Nebraska Law has been a springboard for each of us into our life’s journeys and work. We each have had our favorite professors, our own funny moments in law school, many of which could not be repeated here, and friendships which have lasted a lifetime. I know I can speak for each of us when I say that we are committed to supporting the future success and growth of the Nebraska University system and, especially, Nebraska Law. We all agree that the University is essential to the economic, cultural and intellectual success of our state and it requires our constant attention, nurturing and support. 

Again, our entire family is VERY honored and grateful to be given the NU Family Tree Award and we hope to continue our legacy with our beloved University and our wonderful College of Law for at least another 5 generations!