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Funeral for Mike Harper held at St. John's Church

Mike HarperThe funeral for Mike Harper, an emeritus member of Creighton University’s Board of Trustees, was held June 2, in St. John’s Church on the Creighton campus. Harper, the former chairman and CEO of ConAgra Foods, Inc., and RJR-Nabisco, died Saturday, May 28. He was 88.

During his tenure at ConAgra from 1974 to 1992, the company grew into a $20-billion-a-year food conglomerate. While at ConAgra, Harper provided the initiative to revitalize downtown Omaha by moving ConAgra’s campus to the city’s riverfront. He also partnered with government officials to enhance the business climate across Nebraska.Creighton presented him with an honorary degree in 1995 in recognition of his corporate and civic contributions.

The Harper Center on the Creighton campus, which houses the Heider College of Business, is named for Charles M. “Mike” and Joan F. “Josie” Bruggema Harper, whose philanthropic gifts and civic engagement enriched Creighton, Omaha and the surrounding region.

“Mike Harper, his wife, Josie, and the entire Harper family have been generous supporters of Creighton University and our Jesuit, Catholic mission,” said Creighton University President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J. “The Harper Center, which bears the family name, is a showpiece and signature facility on our east campus and serves students in multiple capacities as home to our Heider College of Business, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, and the John P. Fahey Career Center, among other uses.”

At the time of the dedication of the Harper Center, Mike Harper said the building stood as a tribute to his late wife, Josie, a loving mother and ardent supporter of family, education and health care. The Josie Harper Nursing Scholarship at Creighton also honors her memory.

Harper also gave generously to honor Creighton’s three immediate past presidents, the Rev. Michael Morrison, S.J., the Rev. John Schlegel, S.J., and the Rev. Tim Lannon, S.J.

“I think Mike — he didn’t like being called Mr. Harper — thought very highly of the Jesuits,” said Steve Scholer, senior philanthropic advisor at Creighton. “The best evidence of this is probably in his philanthropy honoring all three of Creighton’s past presidents. Mike chose to honor Fr. Morrison with an endowed professorship in history, helped bring Fr. Schlegel’s dream to build a student living-learning center to life, and just recently he endowed a very substantial scholarship in honor of Fr. Lannon. Why? I believe he wanted to honor them for their integrity, honesty and leadership, all traits he embodied as well.”

The Harper Endowed chair in leadership will be inaugurated this fall.

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