Message from the President

Staying Connected, Staying Creighton

This is not quite the message I originally envisioned sharing in this issue of Creighton magazine. In fact, we also planned for you to receive your magazine in the mail, as always, and not online.

The trajectory of the spring semester at Creighton University, which started out so strong and with such promise, quickly changed in March due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Just as our fellow Americans, and, indeed, all citizens of the world, altered their daily lives to mitigate the rising human toll of the deadly disease, including its burden upon health care facilities, so too did our leadership team at Creighton.

We quickly established strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19. The health and well-being of our faculty, staff, and students, as well as visitors to our main campus in Omaha and our additional campuses in Phoenix and other locations, was our utmost concern.

Our undergraduate students were on spring break March 8-15 when the virus began spreading. We advised all who were at home to stay home, and those who had traveled to other locations to return home. Faculty and staff stepped up in creative ways and we began online education; it was essential that we stay connected, that we stay Creighton — which we are doing with remarkable creativity, generosity, and effect.

We had hoped to return this spring term yet to on-campus courses, but, unfortunately, the quickly evolving local and national realities did not allow that to happen, and we announced on March 20 that we would maintain online classes for the rest of the semester and we closed our residence halls to all but a limited number of students with extenuating circumstances.  

I was heartsick that our students could not be with us and had to dramatically modify their lives, including those in life-transforming study abroad experiences and others in their final semester of their senior year, with all the meaning and emotion that engenders. For our graduating students, in particular, this really hurts.

When we made the extremely difficult decisions — in accordance with local, state, and national leaders and public health officials — to continue online classes for the rest of the semester and not host our traditional May commencement, I felt our community’s pain. But at once I also witnessed our resilience and resolve. Although our community is now virtual, we are as interconnected and sturdy as the bricks that line our campus mall.

In so many ways, the mall defines our campus. Leading to and from St. John’s Church, outlined in the statuary of our mission and identity, connected on the west-end by the Heaney Pedestrian Bridge, and to the east, leading to the riverfront, it is an architect of the kind of community we take pride in. Creating encounters of faculty, students, and staff multiple times a day, it is an extended campus-courtyard where handshakes, high-fives, and hugs recur. Conversation, question, demonstration, and recreation are commonplace, and friendships for life are founded. It will be active once again, that I am sure, and I look forward to seeing thousands of Creighton faces, focused, fervent, and friendly.  

Please enjoy in this issue an abundance of good news and successes, including an exciting partnership we entered with Arizona State University (ASU) in February and the recognition ceremony honoring 2020 Alumni Achievement Citation recipient, Diane Morin Nelson, BA’67, and our Alumni Merit Awardees. I hope and pray you have a blessed Easter season and springtime, and that you and your families remain safe and healthy.

Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD