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Sheila S. Boston is the featured speaker at this year’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, May 13, at the CHI Health Center Omaha.


Sheila Boston, commencement speaker

Sheila S. Boston, 2023 Commencement Speaker

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa
Sheila S. Boston, a trial litigator and legal strategist in New York City, is a groundbreaking figure in many ways. A successful litigator at the state and federal levels, her clients have included companies such as Bayer, Pfizer, and Takeda. She is also known for leveraging expert witnesses in support of her client, working closely with specialists across a variety of science and health professions including toxicology, epidemiology, cardiology, psychology, psychiatry, and more.

Sheila S. Boston, a trial litigator and legal strategist in New York City, is a groundbreaking figure in many ways. A successful litigator at the state and federal levels, her clients have included companies such as Bayer, Pfizer, and Takeda. She is also known for leveraging expert witnesses in support of her client, working closely with specialists across a variety of science and health professions including toxicology, epidemiology, cardiology, psychology, psychiatry, and more.

Active in the legal community, Boston was appointed by New York Governors on two occasions to serve a three-year term on the state’s First Department Judicial Screening Committee. She has also been appointed by Chief Judges of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to serve terms on the Attorney Grievance Committee.

She is also held in high regard for her passionate advocacy of inclusivity in the legal field and beyond, for which she has won numerous honors and awards. She was the first Black woman at a major New York City law firm to rise from summer associate to partner while remaining at the same firm for the full duration of her career. More recently, Boston was the first woman of color to be voted in as president of the New York City Bar Association in its 150-year history.

As president of the City Bar from May 2020 until June 2022, Boston had six main pillars of focus during her term: COVID-19 recovery projects; mental health and wellness; access to justice; criminal justice reform; fair representation; and protection of the rule of law. Leading the bar association through a pandemic, Boston sought to inspire and galvanize the legal community by nicknaming the organization, “The Bar of Hope.” She is especially well known for decrying assaults to the rule of law and elevating conversations around discrimination, access to justice, and mental health and wellness.

A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Boston was a highly engaged student. She served as a resident advisor for two years, was vice president of Princeton’s NAACP college chapter, sang as a member of the Princeton Gospel Ensemble, and was a co-founder of the Hallelujah Worship Service for students. While at Columbia, she was a member of the Black Law Students Association and participated as an instructor and mentor in the student pipeline project, Legal Outreach. In her career she has served, or currently serves, on at least 14 different committees and organizations.

With her husband, Reverend Jerome Robinson, an ordained minister who serves as an Associate Minister at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, Boston has two children, a son named Rome who is a corrections officer, and a daughter named Ariel who is a registered nurse.

In recognition of her significant contributions to the legal profession and trailblazing efforts ensuring fairness under the law, Creighton University proudly confers upon Sheila S. Boston the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Honorary Degrees

Lance Fritz

Lance M. Fritz

Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, Union Pacific
Doctor of Business Administration


Lance Fritz is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Union Pacific, a position he’s held since 2015. Union Pacific is one of just four Fortune 500 companies based in Omaha.

Earning a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Bucknell University and then a Master of Management from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Fritz began his career at Union Pacific in 2000 after working for Fiskars Inc., Cooper Industries and General Electric. He first served as vice president and general manager of Energy in Union Pacific’s Marketing and Sales Department and later as vice president-Labor Relations as well as executive vice president-Operations. He was named president and chief operating officer in 2014.

A recognized thought leader in the business and transportation sectors, Fritz regularly contributes to national media outlets, symposiums and conferences. He is also nationally recognized for his leadership in the industry, serving as a board member for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the STRATCOM Consultation Committee. He is also on the board of directors for the Association of American Railroads, Parker-Hannifin, The Business Council and Business Roundtable, and is incoming chairman of the Georgia Institute of Technology president’s advisory board.

Fritz’s involvement in the Omaha area and across Nebraska includes serving as a board member of the Omaha Zoological Society and Nebraska Medicine, and as a trustee of the Omaha Business Ethics Alliance. His past involvement includes serving as a board member and chair of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce; fundraising and board chairman of United Way of the Midlands, and co-chair of Blueprint Nebraska, a statewide economic development plan launched in 2018.

He and his wife, Julie, who likewise serves or has served on the boards of many nonprofits, were Salvation Army Tree of Lights campaign chairs and were recognized as United Way Midlanders of the Year in 2022. Julie currently serves on the board of directors for Film Streams and on the board of governors for Joslyn Art Museum. She also serves on the DJ’s Hero Scholarship Selection Committee and United Way of the Midlands’ Women United steering committee. She previously served on the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity. The Fritzes are the proud parents of two children, Victoria and Marshall.

In recognition of his impactful career and contributions to Nebraska’s economy, as well as his support of nonprofit and charitable causes, Creighton University proudly confers upon Lance M. Fritz the honorary degree, Doctor of Business Administration.

Bruce Lauritzen

Bruce R. Lauritzen

Chairman Emeritus, First National of Nebraska, the Lauritzen Corporation, and First National Bank of Omaha
Doctor of Business Administration


Bruce R. Lauritzen is chairman emeritus of First National of Nebraska and the Lauritzen Corporation, holding companies for First National Bank of Omaha. He is a past director of the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Visa, USA, and a past member of the Federal Advisory Council to the Federal Reserve Board. Lauritzen is also a current or past board member for numerous community organizations, including the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Ak-Sar-Ben, Clarkson Regional Health Services, Lauritzen Gardens, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Foundation. He has served as a member of the Creighton University Board of Trustees since 1987.

After graduation from St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Lauritzen would go on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his MBA from the University of Virginia. Shortly thereafter he moved to Nebraska and began working at First National Bank, launching what would become a decades-long career with the company.

In 1972, Lauritzen was promoted to second vice president before becoming vice president later that same year, at just 29. He was named an Outstanding Young Omahan by the Omaha Chamber of Commerce in 1978.

Lauritzen continued to advance at First National of Nebraska, taking on the role of executive vice president in 1983 and then president in 1987. He would remain as president of First National of Nebraska for nearly 20 years before stepping down in 2006.

Throughout his career, Lauritzen engaged with the community by supporting, or through leadership positions with, 30 nonprofit organizations or causes. He currently serves in leadership capacities with 15 varied local, regional, and national nonprofit groups and is the founder of the John and Elizabeth Lauritzen Foundation, which financially supports a variety of nonprofits.

Additionally, Lauritzen has been recognized with numerous awards including United Way’s Citizens of the Year with his wife Geraldine “Gerry” Dougherty Morrow Lauritzen for 2016-2017; Omaha World-Herald's Midlander of the Year in 2015; “Face on the Ballroom Floor” at the Omaha Press Club in 2011; and King of Ak-Sar-Ben in 2001.

He married his first wife, Kimball “Kim” McKay Bowles Lauritzen in 1967, with whom he had three children. After Kim died in 2008, Bruce would later marry Gerry and gain two stepchildren, including Christopher Morrow, who earned his BSN from Creighton in 2017.

In recognition of his long-standing commitment to Omaha; his decades of service to higher education, including the Creighton University Board of Trustees; and his leadership in the business community, Creighton University proudly confers upon Bruce R. Lauritzen the honorary degree of Doctor of Business Administration.

John Pehle

John W. Pehle

Executive Director, U.S. War Refugee Board
Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa (Posthumous)


The late John W. Pehle served many roles during his life, but there was none more impactful than the two years he spent as executive director of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s War Refugee Board, leading an effort to save tens of thousands of Jews from death during the Holocaust.

After graduating from Creighton in 1930 with a degree in philosophy, Pehle would go on to earn two law degrees from Yale University and find his way to the U.S. Treasury Department where he worked from 1934 to 1940 as a lawyer in the Office of the General Counsel.

By the time America had entered the war, Pehle had ascended the ranks of the Treasury to become the head of Foreign Funds Control. In the summer of 1943, Pehle’s office received a license request from the World Jewish Congress to fund relief for Jewish people in France and Romania.

In his role, Pehle pushed for delivering financial aid to European Jews being targeted by Hitler’s regime, often directly confronting members of the U.S. government who did not want the details of the Holocaust to be fully known to the American population. His determination secured him a meeting with President Roosevelt who, upon hearing Pehle’s pleas for Jewish aid, created the War Refugee Board and placed Pehle at the top of the newly formed organization.

Over the next two years, until the end of the war in 1945, the War Refugee Board covertly helped many Jews escape Nazi-occupied territories by issuing visas, providing financial means to escape, paying bribes to Nazis, and more. He also authored the first official public report on Hitler’s targeting and execution of European Jews, galvanizing the U.S. in support of the war effort. Some historians' estimates have placed the number of lives saved by the board’s actions at more than 200,000.

Upon the dissolution of the board, Pehle left the government and entered private practice as a tax attorney, eventually becoming a partner with a national firm and then managing partner before retiring in 1975. He would live until the age of 90 before his death in 1999 from cancer. He was posthumously awarded a congressional gold medal and was a key figure in Ken Burns’ three-part PBS documentary The U.S. and the Holocaust.

In recognition of his tremendous efforts to preserve the lives of countless refugees, his bravery in the face of opposition, and his lasting impact on world history, Creighton University proudly confers upon John W. Pehle the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.