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Creighton graduates noted for character, urged to live ‘alongside’ others

May 16, 2022
5 min Read
Creighton commencement 2022

Creighton University celebrated the accomplishments of more than 2,000 graduates during commencement and professional and graduate hooding ceremonies May 12-14 with words of praise and encouragement.

At the largest ceremony on Saturday, Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, urged graduates of the University’s undergraduate colleges to be of service in the cause of justice and to embrace the idea of community.

“On the stage of life – from coast to coast and around the world – your Creighton education does not just fashion you to be of service, justice, expertise, and equity, it demands it,” Fr. Hendrickson told the graduates assembled at CHI Health Center Omaha. “Class of 2022, congratulations, certainly, for what you are able to now do. But more significantly, blessings on who you have become during these good and meaningful years of your lives, and blessings on all the ways in which you will keep unfolding.”

Fr. Hendrickson made special mention of the challenges faced by members of the Class of 2022.

“The pandemic likely challenged your academic journey, your spirit and resolve, and yet you refused to let it overwhelm you,” he said. “Really, you did not just overcome, but you rose to the occasion, and you are here today because of that singular determination.
“Graduates, that is character, in every sense of the word. Paired with that Ignatian belief in service, it is the kind of character that, released into a world that blisters and bleeds all too often, gives me hope for something better – for healing, and for positive change.”

Speaker Diaz: Honoring Our Collective Lives

Natalie Diaz, a Native American poet, former professional basketball player, holder of the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University, and the recipient of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, served as the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremony and urged graduates to understand that their lives and their actions are “of consequence” to one another.

Fr. Hendrickson and Natalie Diaz
The Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, left, and 2022 commencement speaker Natalie Diaz.

“Our intentions, our words, our actions and imaginations, though autonomous, though belonging to each one of us personally, they are in relationship with our collective lives,” Diaz said. “To be of consequence is to embrace our capaciousness for love, that we deserve it, that we are endlessly capable of offering it to one another.

“These personal and collective knowledge systems are what make you strong, and what make you particularly Creighton strong. They will carry you through a difficult hour, or day, or month, and if you are ever alone in them, know you will not be lonely. They come with the friends and family you've built here.

“Part of being ‘of consequence’ is also to be alongside,” she continued. “To be alongside, I do not have to agree. To be alongside, I can want something different from you and simultaneously want you to have what you need of love, of freedom, of that livable life.”

Award and Honors

Diaz and Sr. Judy Carle, RSM, a longtime advocate for those living on the margins of society, including those experiencing homelessness or incarceration, were awarded honorary degrees during Saturday’s ceremony. Read more about these two recipients.

Creighton also presented its Spirit of Creighton, the highest award conferred upon students, to Nibras Basitkey, a graduate of the Heider College of Business, and Eli Blaney, a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences. Read more about these two honorees.

In addition, the Creighton Students Union conferred its annual Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Teaching Achievement on Gwendalyn King, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience in the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Remembering Mary Kate Phelan

The celebratory tone of the graduation ceremonies paused temporarily to remember the tragic death of Creighton University student Mary Kate Phelan, 22, a journalism senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, who died March 26 from injuries sustained during a car accident.

Phelan’s mother, Cindy Phelan, and her brother, Sean, were called to the stage where Bridget Keegan, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented them posthumously with the Bachelor of Arts degree Mary Kate had earned.

“On a day when so many among us are celebrating the culmination of the efforts of our graduating students, it is with great respect that we pause to remember Mary Kate Phelan in the College of Arts and Sciences, who passed away tragically during her senior year, just this spring,” Keegan said.

“May the respect and love of her teachers and friends comfort you in your loss and serve as a reminder of the deep impression that she made upon our community during her years as a Creighton student.”

Video replays of all the ceremonies are available on the commencement website.