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BIG EAST Commissioner, Swanson Russell to be Honored at Creighton

BIG EAST Commissioner, Val Ackerman, and Omaha leader and former student-athlete, Erin Swanson Russell, will be honored at Creighton University’s 10th annual fundraising luncheon for women’s athletics. The event, called Leaders for Life, is scheduled at 11:30 a.m., May 2 at the D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center. Although open to the public, reservations were required by April 21.

Ackerman, founding president of the Women’s National Basketball Association and recently appointed BIG EAST commissioner, and Swanson Russell, a former Creighton volleyball player and current director of Planned Giving at Goodwill Industries of Omaha, are being recognized with the Believe and Achieve and Leader for Life awards, respectively.

The Believe and Achieve award recognizes an outstanding individual who has enriched the community through an emphasis on women’s issues and female empowerment. The Leader for Life award honors women who have demonstrated truly outstanding and consistent support for women’s athletics at Creighton.

“We are thrilled that Val, who is an inspiration to female leaders throughout the country, can join us and share her insights on female empowerment. I am passionate about women’s athletics and the leadership skills it teaches. What better role model to hear from, than someone of Val’s caliber?” said Connie Ryan, event chair, Creighton Board of Trustees member, and President and CEO of Streck, Inc.

As one of the first female student-athlete scholarship recipients at the University of Virginia, Ackerman was a four-year starter for the Cavaliers’ women’s basketball team, three-time captain, two-time Academic All-American and the first 1,000-point scorer in the program's history. She graduated with high distinction in 1981 with a degree in political and social thought in 1981 and played one year of professional basketball in France before earning a law degree from UCLA in 1985.

Ackerman was named to her current post in 2013. She was the founding president of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and a past president of USA Basketball, which oversees the U.S. men and women's Olympic basketball program. She currently serves as the U.S. representative for men and women's basketball on the Central Board of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Ackerman was the recipient of USA Basketball's Edward S. Steitz Award, for outstanding contributions to international basketball in 2013.

Ackerman is member of the adjunct faculty for Columbia University's graduate sports management program. She serves on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Board of Trustees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Board of Directors of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Swanson Russell earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in liberal studies from Creighton University. During her time as an undergraduate, she was a four-year starter on the women’s volleyball team and received conference honors in her senior season. Her background in broadcast journalism has allowed her to continue her affiliation with Creighton athletics as a radio color analyst for the volleyball program. She also serves as a member of the Graduate School Alumni Advisory Board.

In 2012, she was hired by Goodwill Industries, Inc. She currently serves as the Director of Development and oversees all fundraising and community outreach for the organization. Swanson Russell is a member of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning and Association of Fundraising Professionals. Previously she worked as a campaign manager at The Steier Group and as an assistant director of Sustaining Gifts at Creighton.

Her community activities include serving on the board of the Millard Public Schools Foundation, chairing signature events for the Nebraska chapter of the Arthritis Foundation and Habitat for Humanity Omaha. The Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce recognized her as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans in 2012. In 2011, she was selected to the 34th Class of Leadership Omaha.

Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.