Sculpture Celebrates Creighton's Global Reach

Sculpture Celebrates Creighton’s Global Reach

By Jayne Vonnahme Schram, BA’87, MA’09

Creighton officials dedicated a new outdoor sculpture, “The Globe,” on Oct. 7 at a private unveiling.

The Heider Family Foundation commissioned the piece by Creighton University professor and nationally and internationally acclaimed sculptor Littleton Alston, MFA.

The 12-foot diameter stainless steel globe weighs 4,600 pounds and contains an intense molten blue light. Located at the high-traffic southeast entrance of the Harper Center on the Venteicher Mall, the sculpture will greet prospective students and families entering the center’s new Admissions Suite, as well as current Heider College of Business students and faculty.

The piece honors the late Charles Heider, BSC’49, HON’10, and his wife, Mary, HON’10, major University supporters and namesakes of the Heider College of Business, for their commitment to advancing Jesuit education in the Omaha community while also recognizing the global reach of the Jesuits.

“My father — my whole family — have been supportive of the Jesuits and everything they stand for, including education, for a long time. Creighton University is a true community asset, and importantly, it plays an increasingly larger role nationally all the time. My family remains committed to Creighton and all the University represents to Omaha and the state of Nebraska,” said Scott Heider, the couple’s son and a Creighton University Trustee. “Littleton Alston deeply understands the Jesuits and their mission. He is a man of incredible passion, and his sculptures are alive. I’ve been in awe of Littleton, his work and his creative genius, since we first met nearly a decade ago.”

“The Globe” joins Alston’s “The Flame” sculpture — also commissioned by the Heider family — at the Harper Center’s main entrance, which is inscribed with a quote attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the 16th century founder of the Society of Jesus, “Go set the world on fire.”

“The Globe” and “The Flame” flank the Heider College of Business, representing the University to students and everyone on campus as well as providing Omaha a community asset, Heider said. An Alston “St. Ignatius” sculpture stands outside the Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library.

Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, said Alston’s sculptures not only beautify campus, they also provide a “fantastic” teaching tool for students.

“Our students live and learn among Littleton’s outstanding on-campus installations. In addition, they have a rare opportunity, with a world-renowned artist on campus, to engage directly with him to understand his processes and vision,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

Alston, whose works grace public and private collections throughout the country, is the first African American artist commissioned to create a sculpture for the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. In 2020, the U.S. Congress recognized Alston for his lifetime contributions as an artist and professor.

He created “The Globe” as a complement to “The Flame.”

“‘The Globe’ has a blue inner light, Creighton blue,” Alston said. “It’s a beautiful understanding of the world, almost in a classical manner. We used to think about God and the universe and the world. I think now we’re able to understand God in the world in a real way. I think that’s very, very helpful. And that’s part of the Jesuit tradition — the education of the spirit.”

The new sculpture is inscribed with a quote from Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “God’s Grandeur.” Fr. Hendrickson had chosen another Hopkins poem, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” as his inaugural theme while launching the Creighton Global Initiative in 2015. Fr. Hendrickson bolstered the University’s commitment to global learning by directing philanthropic support to resources offering opportunities for faculty, staff and students to embrace global perspectives.

For 50 years, Creighton students have engaged globally through signature programs, such as the Institute for Latin American Concern in the Dominican Republic.

“The Creighton Global Initiative celebrated our presence on the global stage, particularly with our half-century history in the Caribbean,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “But it also let us take new and bigger international steps, allowing us to expand our research, interests and engagements further abroad and right here on our campus, bringing global issues into greater focus.”

The Creighton Global Initiative intensified the University’s relationships with refugees locally and globally, as well as discussions around and work in sustainability. The initiative created Creighton’s Global Scholars program and Common Home Project.

“Just as I envisioned, our Global Scholars program forms experienced global citizens proficient in complex cultures with ethical perspectives on dealing with an increasingly complex world,” Fr. Hendrickson said. “The scholars graduate Creighton as well-rounded, Jesuit-educated, global citizens ready to make their marks on the world.”

Global engagement opportunities are available at each of Creighton’s nine schools and colleges. Each year, for example, Heider College of Business students travel with faculty to various cities, both domestic and abroad, to experience business firsthand and meet alumni who work in the global marketplace.

The Common Home Project establishes key institutional partners in each continent for inclusive dialogue about shaping the future of our shared planet — while supporting scholarship addressing urgent environmental, social and humanitarian challenges.

“What emerges from our careful formation is a concern for bringing about a more just world and the importance of caring for God’s creation,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

Eight years after dedicating “The Flame,” Heider said he was delighted to work with Alston again on “The Globe.”

“My family wants to honor Jesuits — past, present and future,” Heider said. “This is a symbol of the Jesuits’ global reach.”