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Creighton Graduates Largest Class Ever; Honors Leaders

Creighton University will confer the largest number of degrees ever at its May commencement – more than 1,500 – to students from 46 states and seven countries. Two ceremonies will take place Saturday, May 14, at the Qwest Center Omaha.

The undergraduate schools, School of Law and Graduate School ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. The ceremony for Health Sciences professional schools, including schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy and Health Professions, will take place at 1:30 p.m. University President the Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., will preside at both ceremonies—his last as Creighton president. The baccalaureate Mass is Friday, May 13, at 3 p.m. in the Kiewit Fitness Center on campus.

“Although we have the largest class ever graduating, the job and opportunity outlook is good, with recent studies showing that 90 percent of 2010 graduates are employed, volunteering or furthering their education,” Schlegel said. “The academic quality of Creighton students makes them highly sought after by employers as well as graduate and professional programs,” he said.

Special awards and recognitions will be presented to leaders or groups who have made a difference locally, nationally and internationally. Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Archbishop of Havana, Cuba will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for a life dedicated to promoting religious freedom in Cuba.

Cardinal Ortega has served Cuba for nearly 30 years, ordained 22 priests, was instrumental in bringing the Holy Father to the island in 1998, and is largely credited with paving the way to greater religious tolerance in Cuba. Last year Cardinal Ortega dedicated a new seminary, the first church construction in Cuba since 1959. He recently helped families of political prisoners mediate the release of 126 political prisoners held under the government of Raul Castro.

An honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree will be presented to the Rev. John Foley, S.J., founder of Cristo Rey Schools and executive chair of Cristo Rey Network. Rev. Foley established the first Cristo Rey school in Chicago in 1996. Today, 26 Cristo Rey schools serve economically disadvantaged families by promoting a college-bound culture in the Catholic tradition, and giving students practical work skills through job-sharing programs with local employers. In 2008, President Bush awarded Foley the Presidential Citizens Medal for his commitment to helping fellow citizens lead lives of integrity and achievement.

A Presidential Medallion will be given to Omaha area survivors of the Holocaust who endured great hardship with dignity and faith in German concentration camps during the 1940s when six million Jews were killed. After the war, 200 survivors found their way to the Omaha area with fewer than three dozen currently alive. Accepting the award for the group is survivor Beatrice Karp.

Ortega, Foley and Karp will be recognized in the morning ceremony. Two additional awards will be presented in Creighton’s afternoon ceremony.

Creighton’s Alumni Achievement Citation – the highest award given to an alumnus – will be presented to Cage S. Johnson, M.D., a 1965 graduate of the School of Medicine. Johnson is an international authority on sickle cell disease, a serious disorder in which the body manufactures misshapen red blood cells that block blood flow, causing severe pain and organ damage. Johnson is a professor at the Keck School of Medicine and director of the University of Southern California Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center, one of 10 research centers funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to serve as a national center of research into sickle cell disease.

Also receiving recognition in the afternoon is Shirley A. Blanchard, Ph.D., associate professor of Occupational Therapy, who will receive the Creighton Students Union Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award for Teaching Achievement. Blanchard has served in the health care field for more than 30 years as an occupational therapist, researcher and educator. She is the faculty advisor for the Occupational Therapy Student Association and is noted for inspiring students through an engaging teaching style, personal approach and mastery of subject material.

Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.