Mark Nessen Memorial Scholarship continues to serve small towns

This year’s fundraiser has a unique Denver Broncos, Iowa and Wayne County connection


Two years ago, Alison Russell of Oskaloosa received the first $1,000 Mark A. Nessen Memorial Pharmacy Scholarship. Mark’s son David helped present the award.

This year, the Denver Broncos will help raise money for the Nessen scholarship.

The raffle fundraiser will have a unique Iowa and Wayne County connection, with a Noah Fant signed jersey and a football signed by both Fant and linebacker “The Outlaw” Josey Jewell. Corydon native Wade Harman is in his first year as tight ends coach for Denver, which after a rough start and an injury to Jewell has won a couple straight and is now 2-4 with momentum.

“It was a great experience meeting David, and him telling his story about his dad and his whole pharmacy experience,” 2017 scholarship winner Russell said. “His dad loved the community pharmacy side of things, and that’s where I have most of my experience so far. He wants to keep building it up, and that’s awesome, because it definitely helps out the students.

“I’m a volunteer at a free medical clinic for underserved populations. Some don’t speak English, and others don’t have insurance. It’s a place they can come to be seen by physicians and medical students. After that, they come to the pharmacy and we dispense the medication they need.

“Of course, receiving a scholarship was a great honor. It will help me to push my way through until I’m finished.”

“We’re going to be giving away the scholarship this year to a girl from Johnston the night before the Iowa versus Minnesota football game at Kinnick Stadium,” David said.

The University of Iowa recently built a new, state-of-the-art College of Pharmacy building; the College itself has been in existence for over 125 years.

“It’s going live next May,” David said.

While Mark passed of cancer a few years ago, his son is passionate about passing on his father’s legacy. When storefronts spread their white lights across the Wayne County Courthouse square this Christmas, Mark’s spirit of community service will live on; he did not do it for recognition, but for the beauty of the work.

The Dean of the College of Pharmacy, Donald Letendre, still remembers the kind of man Mark was. He told David at the original event when Russell won the scholarship:

“Don’t give up. You’re going to have down times—if you give a thousand dollars a year, you’ve done your dad a service. It’s an honor. It’s worth it.’”

According to the University of Iowa Foundation, for the Nessen Scholarship fall fundraiser:

“Iowa Hawkeye legends and current Denver Broncos players, Josey Jewell and Noah Fant were kind enough to donate their signatures for this year’s auction. We have a Noah Fant signed Bronco’s jersey and both Josie and Noah signed a Hawkeye Football. So, two winners this year. We appreciate your donation. This year’s goal is $1,500 and we will keep the raffle open until bowl selection!

“The Mark A. Nessen Memorial Pharmacy Scholarship is established as non-endowed fund from the donor’s gifts to be used by the University of Iowa foundation to support an annual scholarship to deserving students in the College of Pharmacy. What makes our scholarship unique is that when selecting recipients, it’s our wish to give preference to students from smaller communities across Iowa. Also, we wish to give preference to a student with a background in their community and community service.”

To buy a raffle ticket, type in

Two years ago, Allerton’s Randy Downs won a football helmet signed by Kirk Ferentz, and the Nessen scholarship easily reached its goal—in only five days.

“Believe me, I’m going after T.J. Hockenson next year,” David said of the Chariton native, Iowa legend and Detroit Lions’ star.

For fans of other teams or non-sports fans, there is a link to donate money to the cause Mark Nessen began nearly 50 years ago. To donate, go to

“As little as five dollars is appreciated,” David said.