Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  September 2017  >  September 1, 2017  >  William “Bill” Fitzgerald, philanthropist and long-time member of Creighton Board of Trustees, leaves legacy of service to community
William “Bill” Fitzgerald, philanthropist and long-time member of Creighton Board of Trustees, leaves legacy of service to community

William FitzgeraldWilliam A. Fitzgerald, a 1959 graduate of the business school, and who served on the Board of Trustees at Creighton University for more than 40 years, has died. He was 79.

Fitzgerald, a 1959 graduate of what is now the Creighton Heider College of Business, served on Creighton’s Board of Trustees beginning in 1973, serving as Board Chairman from 1999 to 2011. He was named Chairman Emeritus in 2013. Professionally, he was the former chairman and CEO of Commercial Federal Bank where, except for service in the Army in 1952, he was employed from the age of 15.

“Bill was instrumental in positioning Creighton for the future during his time on the board, serving as a trusted advisor to five University presidents,” said the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, SJ, Creighton president. “His dedication to Creighton was matched only by his commitment to the Omaha community through his philanthropic efforts.”

Fitzgerald’s father was a 1930 Creighton business graduate, so Creighton had been a part of his life growing up. The younger Fitzgerald’s support of Jesuit education ran deep and he was adamant that Creighton’s Catholic, Jesuit identity be preserved. Fitzgerald upheld the Ignatian-inspired ideals of “Magis” – always striving to do more for God – and living his life as a person “for and with others.”

While Fitzgerald oversaw several major expansions and enhancements on the Creighton campus, he counted himself most fortunate in seeing more and more Bluejays join him as proud Creighton alumni. In an address at Creighton’s commencement exercises in 2014, Fitzgerald cited his joy in watching the campus expand and flourish from 24th Street to the east. But, he added, “Even more impressive than the physical growth was seeing 1,800 young men and women graduate annually for the past 40 years.”

A Creighton graduate, he said, was equally as successful in the professional sphere as the philanthropic one, was a compassionate leader in the workplace and at home, and gave selflessly of time and talent, be it in service to an employer, family or the community at large.

Over the years, he held leadership roles in more than 28 nonprofit organizations, leading fundraising efforts benefiting religious organizations, health care, elementary and secondary education, the arts and social services agencies.

His vision and innovation, particularly in the pioneering use of ATMs, made Commercial Federal a household name. Fitzgerald was inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Omaha Business Hall of Fame in 2006.

Fitzgerald’s career in banking began in 1952 at what would become Commercial Savings and Loan, one of the region’s largest privately owned banks, where his grandfather and father had served as president. Fitzgerald took the reins as president when his father stepped down in 1975.

He served as chief operating officer, chief executive officer and was chairman and CEO from 1994 to 2005, when the bank was purchased by Bank of the West. Visitation is at St. Margaret Mary’s at 4 p.m., Sept. 5, followed by a wake at 7 p.m. Funeral Mass is Sept. 6 at 10:30 a.m., at St. Margaret Mary’s.

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