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Creighton awards more than 2,200 degrees at historic virtual commencement ceremonies

Campus at SunriseThere was pomp – and a very unconventional circumstance – as Creighton University awarded more than 2,200 degrees during virtual commencement ceremonies on May 15 and 16.

This marked the first time in the school’s 142-year history that the ceremonies were held online, driven by restrictions imposed to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus.

During a May 16 degree-conferral ceremony, participants gathered in virtual settings, often from their homes, to hear an address from the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, president of Creighton University, and participate in the traditional turning of their tassels, signifying the earning of a degree.

At virtual school and college ceremonies on May 15, the names of each graduate were read, as they appeared on a slide, often accompanied by a photo and a special message or favorite quote. Many of the messages thanked parents and family, while others were humorous. Read one: “When thinking about these last few weeks of school, I can see myself at 70 saying, ‘Back in my day we had a worldwide outbreak, and still finished our degrees.’”

About 1,600 graduates participated in the online ceremonies.

The Rev. Richard Gabuzda, the Rev. John Horn, SJ, the Rev. George Aschenbrenner, SJ, and Kathleen Kanavy were each granted an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of their work founding and leading Creighton’s Institute for Priestly Formation, while an honorary Doctor of Nursing was conferred upon Linda Hunt, CEO of Dignity Health Arizona, with whom Creighton has worked closely to develop its Creighton University Health Sciences – Phoenix Campus.

Michael GaleskiMichael Galeski, an Omaha native who graduated with honors with a major in sustainability studies and minors in business administration and African studies, was presented with the Spirit of Creighton Award, the University’s highest student honor. One of 15 finalists for the prestigious and highly competitive Rhodes Scholarship, Galeski was active in sustainability efforts on campus and engaged in service programs abroad. He established the Omaha chapter of Pencils of Promise, a global nonprofit organization that builds schools in developing countries.

The Class of 2020, drawn from almost every state and more than 28 nations, lived through a key period of Creighton University history as their alma mater built a new dental school that now serves more than 14,000 patients annually, built a $100 million medical and health sciences campus in Phoenix, Arizona, enjoyed historic athletic success, and sponsored speaking events featuring prominent national leaders, poets, authors and essayists.

In his remarks, Fr. Hendrickson noted the historic nature of the 2020 ceremonies.

“We gather under extraordinary circumstances – together, yet at a distance – to conduct a timeless and most important event: The conferral of degrees upon our deserving graduates whose work, persistence, dedication, resilience, and faith have brought them to this auspicious day,” he said.

Fr. Hendrickson urged the graduates to carry into the world not just the knowledge, but also the values they had acquired during their years at Creighton.

“We trust that the degree you will hold in your hand will be matched by what you hold in your heart,” he said. “For while a Creighton education seeks to impart knowledge, so, too, it seeks to instill capacities for kindness, compassion, service to others, and a desire to build a world that better reflects justice and truth.”

The degree conferrals, which began after an invocation by Archbishop of Omaha George Lucas, concluded with a final urging from Fr. Hendrickson.

“As president, I charge you graduates to always remember the duties and responsibilities that accompany your status as alumni of Creighton University,” he said. “Godspeed to each of you, and God’s blessings, until we meet again. And, as St. Ignatius of Loyola has charged us, ‘Go forth, and set the world on fire!’”


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