Shining a Light on Creighton Hall

Shining a Light on Creighton Hall

University’s oldest building got a much-awaited facelift this summer

Members of two of Creighton’s most prominent alumni families, the Heider and Keough families, provided lead investments for significant exterior renovations of Creighton Hall, the first extensive updates in nine decades.

Gifts from the Charles and Mary Heider Family Foundation and from Kathy Keough Soto, BSN’75, and Gilbert Soto, BA’72, daughter and son-in-law of the late Donald and Marilyn Keough, funded illumination, or “uplighting,” for the University’s most iconic building as well as the configuration of a new plaza on a signature campus walkway.

“The Heider and Keough families continue to enhance the lives of countless Creighton students through the Creighton Hall project,” Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, said. “Longtime home to our Jesuit community, the hall is a symbol of our Catholic foundation established by our original founders, the Creighton family.

“Creighton Hall can now be seen from Interstate 480, bringing visibility to our historic building,” Fr. Hendrickson said.

“The lighting of Creighton Hall is a symbolic spotlight on our Jesuit mission, a reminder to our students of our history and traditions, and a beacon for our alumni to find their way home.”

The illumination project showcases Creighton Hall and its 190-foot seamless façade of Bedford stone, featuring Creighton, Catholic and Nebraska emblems. Ninety-three energy-efficient LED lights, controlled by an automated system, provide illumination based on the time of day, enhancing the building’s beauty and improving safety around the landmark structure.

“This is a project that I know my father and Don (Keough) would be very proud of,” said Scott Heider of Omaha, a member of the University Board of Trustees and leader of his family’s charitable foundation. “They both graduated from Creighton in 1949 and went on to great accomplishments. All through their lives, they never failed to remember their Jesuit educations received at Creighton University. They led their lives by example, and the new plaza and uplighting will be a great reminder to us all.”

The Marilyn and Donald, BS’49, HON’82, Keough Plaza extends a pathway connecting Creighton’s main thoroughfare — 24th Street — with St. John’s Church. As an active pedestrian corridor, Keough Plaza better accommodates people with disabilities and offers a signature greenspace for students, faculty, alumni and visitors to participate in open-air learning and socializing, in close proximity to Creighton Hall.

Kathy Keough Soto said her parents would be pleased their names are associated with Creighton Hall and the Keough Plaza. “Daddy was always very proud of his Creighton degree. I’m extremely proud of my nursing degree from Creighton,” she said. “We are strong, strong believers in Catholic education, and I’m pleased and grateful to Momma and Daddy that they gave us the wherewithal to do this.”

Built in 1877, Creighton Hall is the oldest building on the campus. It was the academic home of the first students at what was then known as Creighton College. At Sarah Emily Creighton’s request, a new south wing opened in 1889, increasing space for the growing Jesuit community living there. New southwest and north wings opened in 1902, followed by the 1911 completion of a project extending 24th Street and a retaining wall, still maintained today.

For years, it served as the Administration Building and as home to the College of Arts and Sciences. California Street, running in front of the building, was closed to traffic in 1978 and Deglman Circle (recently renamed Deglman Square) was constructed. The Heider family provided funding for new Creighton Hall building doors in 2007.

Both Charles Heider, BSC’49, HON’10, and Don Keough, BS’49, HON’82, after graduating from Creighton, later became confidants to Omaha’s most famous resident, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett.

Scott Heider spearheaded the vision for the “second completion” of Creighton Hall. Scott’s parents are Creighton’s largest benefactors, and the University renamed its business school Heider College of Business in 2013 to honor the Heiders’ investments.

Charles Heider earned a Bachelor of Science in Commerce degree and went on to an accomplished financial career. He received the Creighton Alumni Achievement Citation in 2003, and the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus bestowed on Mary and Charles the first Ignatian Leadership Award from the Jesuit Council of Omaha. In 2010, the Heiders received Creighton honorary doctorates of humane letters. Heider served on Creighton’s Board of  Trustees for 17 years, holding emeritus status from 1997 until his death in 2015 at 89.

Kathy Keough Soto serves on her parents’ charitable foundation board and as an ex officio member of the College of Nursing Alumni Advisory Board. She and her husband live near Austin, Texas.

Her father earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Arts and Sciences and was president, chief operating officer and director of the Coca-Cola Company from 1981 to 1993, later returning to Coca-Cola’s board. In 1982, Keough accepted an honorary degree from the School of Law; he died at 88, also in 2015.