School of Pharmacy and Health Professions Beneficiary of Historic Gift

School of Pharmacy and Health Professions Beneficiary of Historic Gift

The success of Nelly Nigro’s life is best measured not in money nor influence but mileage.  

Over her 92 years, the Omaha native traveled the world many times over, making it to all seven continents and scores of countries.

Nigro trekked across Soviet Russia; became a lifelong Bible scholar after a trip to the Holy Land; researched log houses in Finland; studied honey possums in Australia; and, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, hunted for dinosaur bones.  

But in all her travels and all her experiences, this restless and fiercely independent woman never cut the tether to the place she called home — Omaha. And she never forgot about Creighton.

Before she died in the summer of 2017, Nigro, BSPha’45, bequeathed an estate gift of more than $1 million to Creighton’s School of Pharmacy and Health Professions. It is the largest gift in the school’s 114-year history.  

The gift establishes a research fund to help patients get the most benefit from their medications. Research was always close to Nigro’s heart. She spent her final working years in hospital pharmacy practice, researching the impact of what she called, “social support interventions on patient health.”

The Nigro fund’s research will be faculty-driven but will also offer many great opportunities for students, said Michael S. Monaghan, PharmD’89, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice.

“Nelly had a passion for research throughout her career,” said Joe Nigro, Nelly’s nephew and estate executor. “But the gift also speaks to her fondness of growing up in Omaha and the exceptional education she got at Creighton. She never forgot the opportunities she got at pharmacy school.”

Creighton’s pharmacy school has changed a bit in the 74 years since Nigro graduated.  

Today, the pharmacy school has more than 1,000 students enrolled. In 1944 — Nigro’s second year in her three-year accelerated program — the war had cut down enrollment to just 35 students.  

Nigro was one of just five students (three of them women) to graduate from the pharmacy school in 1945. Before then, she earned the Creighton pharmaceutical society’s award for being the student with the highest scholastic rating. She was the first woman to do so.

Nigro entered the profession at a time when there were very few female pharmacists. After graduation, she  worked at hospitals in Omaha and Lincoln, then Cleveland and Long Beach and, eventually, Los Angeles, where she helped open the UCLA Medical Center in 1955. She remained with UCLA for the better part of the next 40 years — though she rarely stayed still.