Creighton University Arts and Sciences graduate Laura Haller, Omaha, Neb., and Pharmacy and Health Professions graduate Matthew Leedom, Sioux Falls, S.D., received the prestigious Spirit of Creighton Award at the University’s commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 18.
The Spirit of Creighton Award is given annually to two graduates who exemplify the best qualities of the University founders. Recipients are honored for their initiative, enterprise, academic achievement and outstanding character traits as well as service to others.
Since coming to Creighton, Haller has been a positive force for others, choosing activities that led her to challenge her peers, create opportunities for personal development, serve others and lead by example. As a resident adviser, she mentored underclassmen and through the Cortina Community, an academic, service-based living-learning community for sophomores, she sought holistic development opportunities through service projects and coursework. As president of the Creighton Bird Cage, she encouraged athletic teams to succeed.
In the Ignatian spirit of caring for the poor and marginalized, community outreach has been a high priority during Haller’s time at Creighton. She has worked with the Jesuit Middle School and volunteered at organizations such as Precious Memories Daycare, Lindenwood Nursing Home, Open Door Mission, Kids Can and more. Last summer, she spent six weeks working in an alternative school for Aboriginal children in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Honored for her academic excellence and service, she is graduating with a major in Elementary Education with an emphasis in science and a specialization in children with disabilities. Haller will be working as a special education teacher with Teach for America in Denver.
Leedom, who received a doctorate in physical therapy, pursued his goals of advance experience in teaching and research while earning his degree. He was nominated by the faculty and served as a peer tutor to other students in the Department of Physical Therapy (DPT). He also designed and taught a six-week experience in teaching and research as part of the DPT education program.
Leedom was elected secretary and treasurer of his class and served as core ambassador for the Nebraska American Physical Therapy Association and Student Assembly. He was active in campus student organizations, including Creighton’s Student American Physical Therapy Association, the Physical Therapy Leadership Guild and the Geriatric Physical Therapy Organization. He received the 2011 Spirit of Physical Therapy scholarship award for his commitment to academic excellence and class camaraderie.
An avid researcher, Leedom also found time to give back. Through the University’s Respite Services, he volunteered twice a month to care for an individual with a traumatic brain injury. He was also active with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in the Heartland. Leedom will be working at Regional Health in Rapid City, S.D.