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Lifelong friends celebrate their fourth graduation together

Lisa Chipps and Anne HartyFriends since they met on the freshman track team at St. Francis High School, an all-girls school in Sacramento, California, Anne Smith Harty and Lisa Becker Chipps seemed destined to go places together.

As their high school graduation drew near, the two wandered into a presentation from an admissions representative from Creighton University. Harty was something more than a wanderer, as her sister was a freshman at Creighton, but she was still trying to firm up her college plans. She convinced Chipps to come along, just to have a friend on board.

“I told Lisa we could get out of lit class if we went to go listen to this rep,” Harty recalls. “So it was an easy sell. Who knew what would happen next.”

Indeed, they both wound up at Creighton.

And certainly, they could not have dreamt up what happened at the University’s commencement ceremonies on May 18 when they walked across a Creighton dais for the third time together.

Throw in their high school graduation, and this marks the fourth time the two have gowned up and moved the tassel on their mortarboards in the same room.

“We’ve been on this road together a few times before,” Chipps says. “It’s been great. I think we’ve been able to help one another, to bounce ideas off of each other.”

Harty and Chipps began their journey at Creighton in 1993. Harty majored in nursing and Chipps in psychology, each earning their undergraduate degrees in 1997. By the way, Chipps’ high-school boyfriend, Dan — now her husband — also came along for the Creighton experience and graduated alongside them in 1997 with a degree in elementary education. Harty’s boyfriend, and now husband Pat, also ended up a Bluejay, having come to the School of Medicine in 1996. Their twin daughters were born at Creighton University Medical Center where Pat did his residency, and baptized at St. John’s Church.

Harty and Chipps hit the career path but they also left themselves open to furthering their education. Lisa and Dan moved back to California after graduation, but returned to Omaha in 1998, when Lisa and Harty re-enrolled for master’s degrees at Creighton and again crossed the stage together as part of the Class of 2000. The Chippses stuck around Omaha this time and, in 2001, Dan was named head coach of the Bluejay women’s rowing team.

In 2006, Anne and her husband moved back to Sacramento where she worked as a nurse at her daughters’ school.

But with her 40th birthday approaching, Anne decided she wanted to earn a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership.

She took a picture in front of Lisa’s mom’s house in east Sacramento and sent it to her friend in Omaha with the message: “I want to do the EdD program and I can’t do it without you!”

And in August 2015, they began yet another educational journey together at Creighton.

In the winter of 2018, Lisa wasn’t sure she would be able to finish the doctorate after she received a dual cancer diagnosis, but she persevered and they both defended their dissertations this spring.

“We kind of just got swept up in the wave,” Chipps says. “It was one of those things where we said, ‘We’ve got to finish together.’ We knew we could. She encouraged me.”

And now, for the third time at Creighton, and the fourth time overall, they walked across the same stage at a commencement together.

Moreover, Chipps and Harty both now work for Creighton.

Chipps is the director of academic services for the Athletics Department. Harty, who is living in Sacramento, joined Creighton’s admissions team in 2017. In a full-circle turn, one of Harty’s assigned schools is their alma mater, where all their graduation journeys began.

“I share my experiences of Creighton,” Harty says. “And there have been many. To have gone through so many of those moments with Lisa has been a great story for both of us. And our Creighton story doesn’t end here. Every commencement is just a new beginning.”


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