Pedestrian Bridge Now Carries Heaney Name

Pedestrian Bridge Now Carries Heaney Name

By Micah Mertes

The airspace over Omaha’s North Freeway has been on C.E. “Carr” Heaney Jr.’s mind for almost half a century.

In the mid ’70s, there was interest in building a bridge over the freeway to close the gap between Creighton’s campus and what was then St. Joseph’s Hospital (later Creighton University Medical Center and now the Atlas apartment complex).

Heaney, BS’50, JD’57, was the attorney who obtained the air rights for the prospective bridge, negotiating a 49-year lease with the federal government. Rent was more than reasonable: $1 a year.

“We signed and sent them a check for $49,” Heaney says now. For nearly 50 years, the air was theirs.

But the project faltered. The bridge went nowhere.

Then, more than 30 years later, Heaney and Sue Morris, president of the Omaha fundraising group Heritage Services, met with then-Creighton President the Rev. John Schlegel, SJ.

“It wasn’t a meeting about the bridge,” Heaney says. “But Fr. Schlegel mentioned it would be nice if they could connect campus to the other side of the freeway. I told him, ‘We’ve got access to that airspace right now. I’m probably the only person still alive who is aware of that fact.’”

All of this is to say that the Heaney Pedestrian Bridge, completed in 2018, is a wholly appropriate name for the 560-foot-long bridge spanning the freeway.

This fall, Creighton dedicated the bridge in honor of Carr and his late brother, Robert P. “Bob” Heaney, BS’47, MD’51. Heritage Services’ board of directors, along with the Sunderland Foundation and friends, made a significant gift to ensure the Heaney name remains forever connected to Creighton.

Each Heaney brother lived his life in service for others, transforming their city and University in the process.

Carr’s legal career spans more than six decades. He wrote the articles of incorporation for Heritage Services and defined legal parameters for the development of projects that changed the face of the city — including the Durham and Joslyn Art museums, the Orpheum Theater, Holland Performing Arts Center, TD Ameritrade Park and many more.

“Carr has been with us for all of it,” Morris says. “He has such an affection for Creighton. As did his brother. We thought the bridge dedication would be a wonderful way to honor that affection and the many ways they connected the University to the city.”

Carr’s brother, Bob, was a beloved figure on campus. He joined the Creighton faculty in 1957 and chaired the Department of Medicine through the ’60s, later serving as Creighton’s first vice president for health sciences and the inaugural holder of the John A. Creighton University Professorship from 1984 to 2014. He worked at Creighton for nearly 60 years, leaving a body of work in osteoporosis and vitamin D research that brought international recognition to the University.

Getting a bridge in their name, Carr says, is an honor that would have meant a lot to his brother.

“My father would be very pleased,” said Bob’s daughter, Muirne Heaney, JD’83. “What’s true of my uncle is true of my father. Their dedication to service for Creighton and this community has been profound.”

Now, a monument to that dedication stretches on, 50 feet above the freeway, a bridge that spans a lifetime.