Campus Mourns

Creighton President the Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., presents Fishkin with a plaque, honoring his promotion to professor emeritus, during the 2008 President’s Convocation ceremony.

Welch, professor of history, in his Creighton office. Said one alumna, “Ashton spent his life quietly serving students.”

Rev. Paul Mahowald, S.J.

Campus Mourns Loss of Beloved Faculty

Fishkin, Welch combined for nearly 80 years of service to Creighton

Two beloved, longtime Creighton faculty members passed away before the start of the new academic year. Arthur Fishkin, Ph.D., professor emeritus of biomedical sciences, who had retired in 2007 after 40 years at Creighton, was 80 years old when he died on his birthday, May 27. History professor Ashton Welch, Ph.D., died on Aug. 14, at the age of 68. Both men epitomized Creighton’s faculty-mentors with their student-centered approach to teaching.

Professor Fishkin
Arthur Fishkin touched the lives and influenced the careers of two generations of Creighton-trained physicians, dentists, nurses and other health sciences professionals.

Fishkin taught molecular and cell biology in the School of Medicine and biochemistry to dental, medical, nursing, pharmacy and health professions students, as well as graduate and undergraduate health sciences students. Over his lifetime, he taught thousands of Creighton students.

“Students visited our home all the time,” said his son Charles, of New York. “They were very much a part of our life. Students loved him, as did younger faculty members, whom he mentored.”

Charles Fishkin said his father was very empathetic, a good listener and had a particular interest in mentoring students from minority backgrounds. “He had a natural talent for inspiring students’ confidence in themselves.”

Fishkin and his wife of 53 years, Jane Paul Fishkin, who has worked at Creighton herself for 32 years and is an acquisitions/cataloging coordinator in Creighton’s Health Sciences Library, were often invited to students’ weddings.

“We probably have attended 50-plus student weddings in this area, and have traveled to California, Minnesota, Florida, Illinois and Texas for student weddings. My husband was best man at the wedding of Scott Aarons, MD’77, in Texas, and walked pharmacy graduate LuVal Byrd Jones, PharmD’00, down the aisle in Chicago,” Jane Fishkin said.

One wedding they attended in Florida involved two generations of medical students Fishkin had taught: the bride, Constance Faro, MS’97, MD’02, and the father of the bride, Richard Faro, MD’72.

“We answered our phone 24 hours a day,” his widow said. “Having four children ourselves who traveled away for college, we were sensitive to student personal problems. Once, a former medical student who was traveling through the area rang our doorbell late at night to show us he had a new suit. We had always teased him that he needed to dress better.”

Professor Fishkin had an incredible memory for detail, often remembering aspects of former students’ lives and careers.

One alumnus, George Bosl, MD’73, chair of the Department of Medicine and holder of the Patrick M. Byrne Chair of Clinical Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said Fishkin set an example of high achievement and stimulated students to learn.

“I was quite surprised when Dr. Fishkin came up to me during one of my visits, I believe in 2006,” Bosl said. “He was a relatively new professor when I got to Creighton in 1969, and I was hardly that memorable.

“But he remembered me, which I found hard to believe given the many hundreds of students he taught and who passed through the halls of the medical school over the 40 years of his academic life at Creighton. He even remembered that I played basketball as my main outlet for stress.”

Henry Lynch, M.D., director of Creighton’s Hereditary Cancer Center and holder of the Charles F. and Mary C. Heider Endowed Chair in Cancer Research in the School of Medicine, considered Fishkin a close friend whom he “truly revered.”

“Arthur was constantly concerned about the health and future success of our medical students and, for that matter, all of his acquaintances,” Lynch said. “He was constantly discussing how he could help and advise them.”

Besides teaching, Fishkin served in various administrative positions over the years. His research explored the biochemistry of connective tissue, metabolism hormones and nutrition, and his work was published in prestigious scientific journals. He received research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA.

In addition to Jane, Fishkin is survived by son Paul, BA’80, MD’84, and his wife, LaDona Fishkin; Charles and his wife, Suzanne Tinley, BA’80; son James; son Joel, BA’85, and his wife, Luella Bangura, BA’84, MD’91; and five grandchildren.

Professor Welch
Ashton Welch’s unexpected death during sleep caught friends, colleagues and students off guard.

Creighton President the Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., who gave the homily at Welch’s memorial service at St. John’s Church on the Creighton campus, told those gathered, “The life of a valued, just, courageous person and an extremely integral part of our community has been cut short. We did not expect it. For some of us, it took our breath away.”

Fr. Schlegel said he had known Welch since 1976. “For me, Ashton was a great friend, a trusted colleague, an inspiring mentor and model for what it is to be a compassionate, professional scholar, teacher and advocate.

“Ashton is surely a person who lived a life that witnessed the Gospel. He lived the Sermon on the Mount in spirit, word and deed,” Fr. Schlegel said. “He cared deeply for the least of his brothers and sisters, and lived his faith easily and without fanfare. No one who knew him could doubt his priorities and his commitment.”

Professor Welch began his teaching career in the Department of History in 1971. In 1975, he became the director of the Black Studies Program and chaired the department from 1985 to 1993. Welch’s teaching and research concentrated on questions of ethnicity and his scholarly passion garnered many awards and publications, including recognition by the National Association for Ethnic Studies for his contributions to the discipline of ethnic studies and his final publication, “Killing Brown Slowly: The Judicial Undermining of Brown v. Board of Education.”

He received the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Student Award for excellence in teaching in 1992, the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1996, and the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award for excellence in teaching in 1999.

“Ashton spent his life quietly serving students. His patience, optimism and generosity of spirit helped guide so many — including myself — through Creighton and into productive lives,” said Melissa Kean, MA’93, Creighton National Alumni Board president and a historian at Rice University.

Professor emerita of political science Bette Evans, Ph.D., a close friend of Welch’s, said countless colleagues and students will remember him as their mentor.

“Ashton was, in the words of a very old-fashioned compliment, a gentleman and a scholar,” Evans said. “He was devoted to learning for the sheer pleasure of knowledge. He understood scholarship as a collaborative enterprise, in which his colleagues and students were his collaborators.”

Evans said Welch was a gentleman not only for his courtly manners, but because he was the epitome of a “gentle” man.

“He seemed always at harmony with himself and with the world — even with those things he most wanted to change. In fact, that is one of his most remarkable qualities, for Ashton was a passionate foe of injustice of every kind, but the recognition of injustice never gave him a hard edge or cynical spirit.”

Evans characterized Welch as “unfailingly kind” to everyone.

“No one was beneath his notice or his concern. I realize now that about three-fourths of our conversations centered on his worrying about the personal or academic problems of some student — all of whom he knew by name, knew where they were from, and often their girlfriends or parents or aspirations, or other details of their lives.”

The chair of the history department, Betsy Eliot-Meisel, Ph.D., said Welch was the “heart and soul” of the department. “He so embodied cura personalis (the Jesuit ideal of development of the whole person), that the phrase is simply too small to describe the largesse of his heart.”

Welch is survived by his wife of more than 30 years, Helen Wanken. Memorials can be sent to: Creighton University, c/o Department of History, 2500 California Plaza, Omaha, NE 68178.

Remembering Fr. Mahowald: Associate Pastor at St. John’s

One of Creighton University’s Jesuits, the Rev. Paul Mahowald, S.J., died on July 16. He was 75. Fr. Mahowald had served as an associate pastor at St. John’s Church, celebrating the sacraments of reconciliation and baptism, and working especially with RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) candidates.

Previously, Fr. Mahowald had served as treasurer and director of the business office of America magazine in New York for 12 years and treasurer of Creighton Prep High School in Omaha for nine years. He then served three parishes in Iowa before coming to Creighton in 2005.

Despite health problems, Fr. Mahowald was active in Christian Life Communities (CLC), in addition to his parish work. He was known for his organizational abilities, but, as fellow CLC member Jerry Britt said of him, “Fr. Paul was so organized, yet not rigid in matters of faith, allowing people the latitude to find God in their own individual ways.”

The Rev. Jack Zuercher, S.J., who is retired from the Collaborative Ministry Office, said, “Fr. Paul had many outstanding qualities that were admired by his Jesuit brothers. He was greatly devoted to pastoral responsibilities, and even in his last weeks of illness tried as much as possible to meet people for baptisms, spiritual direction, celebration of Mass, CLC meetings and more.

“At the very end of his life he stated, ‘I am ready for the journey.’ I believe he truly was.”

Memorials may be sent to St. John’s Church or Christian Life Communities, in care of Fr. Zuercher.