Women of Creighton

Creighton University has a long, rich history of transformative women making a difference, starting with the founding family itself.
Mary Lucretia Creighton
Mary Lucretia (Wareham) Creighton

Long before she left the gift that went on to found the University, Mary Lucretia Creighton would go to the poorest parts of Omaha to give money and household items to those most in need. Her horse (named “Billy”) was known throughout the city. 

Visiting the University (then Creighton College), Sarah Emily Creighton was distressed by the Jesuits’ accommodations. She and her husband made a gift to build them a new residence, erecting a south wing to the main building.  

The Creighton family, including the Wareham sisters, achieved great success in their lifetimes. But today they’re remembered not for what they gained but what they gave

Today, we honor the achievements of these two extraordinary women through an award bearing their name.

Sarah Emily (Wareham) Creighton
Sarah Emily (Wareham) Creighton

Each year, Creighton's Committee on the Status of Women presents the Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton Awards to female faculty, staff or students who have created an environment supportive of achievement for women, encouraged women in the development of their talents, or have served as a role model of accomplishment for women. 

Creighton also honors women through stories of the talented, compassionate individuals of Creighton who continue Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily's legacy of living for others today. We will continue to update this page with articles about the extraordinary women shaping Creighton.

Know of a female Creighton student, alumna, faculty or staff member who would make a good story? Contact RachelMabrey@creighton.edu.

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2022 Mary Lucretia & Sarah Emily Award Recipients Holly Ann Harris, PhD, and Charisse Williams, MA

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Creighton women: a timeline of firsts

Elizabeth D. Pittman
Elizabeth D. Pittman

1878 — “Mrs. Hall,” becomes one of Creighton’s first faculty members, teaching English in the first year of classes.

1892 — Kate Drake, Creighton’s first female student, enrolls in the new medical school. She was the first woman to be admitted to any Jesuit university in the U.S.

1884 — Dr. C. B. Offersen becomes the School of Medicine’s first female physician.

1898 — Anna Marie Griffith, MD’1898, is the first woman to graduate from Creighton and complete all medical school training.

1901 — Mattie Arthur becomes the first woman on the University’s medical staff.

1908 — Creighton’s first female dental school students graduate.

1916 — Bertha Winterton, JD’1916, and Clara Witt Breuer, JD’1916, become the first women to graduate from the School of Law.

1920 — The Heider College of Business (then the College of Commerce, Accounting and Finance) opens, with an initial enrollment of 66 men and eight women.

Eileen Lieben, left, pictured with Maurine Hamiltion.
Creighton's first two Dean of Women: Eileen Lieben, left, with Maurine Hamilton.

1933 — World-renowned aviator Amelia Earhart visits Omaha and expresses interest in Creighton’s School of Medicine. “Are there women in your medical college?” she asked Creightonian reporter Mary Ellen Leary, BA’34. Earhart said she believes “very thoroughly in women following professions, or at least being in touch with the modern world.”

1937 — Olive Odorisio Circo, BA’41, becomes the first female cheerleader at Creighton. She was also one of the first women to attend Creighton as an undergraduate.

1943 — Melba Faucett, BA’43, becomes Creighton’s first Black female graduate. She worked as an assistant librarian on campus until 1951.

1948 — The Hon. Elizabeth D. Pittman, BS’47, JD’48, becomes the first Black woman to graduate from the School of Law. She would go on to be the first Black person and first woman to be appointed as a judge in Nebraska.

1950 — Maurine Hamilton is hired as Dean of Women, making her Creighton’s first female administrator.

1972 — Ann L. Czerwinski, School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, becomes the first female President of the University Faculty. She would be followed a decade later in the role by chemistry professor Marcia C. Davies in the College of Arts & Sciences.

1973 — Frances Ryan comes to Creighton in 1973 as the first female professor in the School of Law. The Frances Ryan Scholarship honors her memory as a trailblazer and a champion for diversity.

1973 — Softball becomes Creighton’s first organized women’s sport.

Mary Higgins
Mary Higgins

1974 — Madeline Jacobsen, an Omaha real estate developer and businesswoman, is appointed to the University's Board of Directors, the first female board member.

1982 — Eileen Lieben, MA'62, is named the acting Vice President of Student Personnel, becoming Creighton’s first female VP. Lieben had been at Creighton for 20 years at this point, serving as the University’s Dean of Women and Associate Dean of Students.

1987 — Mary Higgins, BA’73, becomes the first woman inducted into the Creighton Athletics Hall of Fame. As the softball team’s coach, she owned a 564-298 record in 17 years, helping Creighton reach the NCAA's Women's College World Series twice and the AIAW World Series twice. She was also one of Creighton’s first female student-athletes.

Source: The Creightonian 
 

STORIES OF CREIGHTON WOMEN

Image of Eileen Wirth and her new book.

A new history of Omaha (and Creighton) women

Eileen Wirth’s new history of notable Omaha women frequently reads as a history of notable Creighton women, as the stories of the city and the University are inextricably connected.

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Mary Lucretia

The faith, vision, and generosity of Creighton women

“I’ve been known to tell students and fellow alumni that because neither Creighton couple had children who survived past the age of five, we are the descendants of the Creightons and must help live out their legacy." Katie Wadas-Thalken, EdD, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs

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Robbie Bishop Monroe

Her journey for others

When the timing was right the life-long learner and education advocate began writing the next chapter of her life.

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NBAAB President Bridget Hadley

Black alumni board blazing new trails at Creighton

We spoke with National Black Alumni Advisory Board President Bridget Hadley, BSBA'88, about how the board will help shape the future of equity, diversity and inclusion at Creighton.  

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Alumna Danae Mercer

Alumna talks about the Creighton faculty and staff who saved her life

Long before Danae Mercer, BA'09, became a Dubai-based journalist and Instagram influencer promoting body positivity to her 2 million followers, she was a Creighton student in crisis.

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Beth Riemersma at the Olympic Trials

Simone Biles' physical therapist is a Creighton alumna

Creighton alumna Beth Riemersma, DPT’05 — physical therapist to Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles — discusses the joys and challenges of treating Olympic gymnasts.

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Image of Kathy Martin and Matt Wenz and Annie Townley

Preparing more than 600 Creighton couples for marriage

As coordinator of St. John’s marriage preparation since 2013, Kathy Martin has helped more than 600 Creighton couples get ready to walk down the aisle. Here's what she's learned.

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Still from Clifford the Big Red Dog. On the right, Lisa Crnic.

Creighton alumna breaks BIG in Hollywood

This fall, a Creighton Heider College of Business alumna saw her credit as executive producer of a big-budget studio picture, the new-to-theaters Clifford the Big Red Dog.

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Jessica St. Clair Munoz, JD'05

An unceasing gift

On Creighton's fourth annual Giving Day, Jessica St. Clair Muñoz, JD'05, was reintroduced to the Frances Ryan Diversity Scholarship. This time, not as a recipient, but as a donor.

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Kaitlynn Hunt playing softball

First female collegiate baseball coach in state history

Until recently, Kaitlynn Hunt, BA’20, didn’t know she’d earned dual degrees at Creighton — one in the classroom, one on the field.

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Dr. Sarah Walker

Creating greater diversity, equity and inclusion at Creighton

We spoke with Sarah Walker, PhD, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, about her goals, priorities and hopes for Creighton’s future.

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Mary Beth Govier

FIREd Up About Creighton

“This made it all very real for me, that there is an actual project and that there are passionate nurses building a story of research.”

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Joy Suder and Sidnea Brown look at a laptop screen.

Creighton Law opens new Juvenile Justice Clinic

The grant-funded clinic will serve as a small firm, with student-attorneys providing free legal services for youth with open cases in the Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County.

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Joella Cohen

Honoring a legacy, her never-ending gift

The late Creighton alumna Joella Cohen was always digging for the details to find and tell a story.

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Leilani Hung

Creighton student meets Michelle Obama

Leilani Hung spoke with the former First Lady about identity, generosity and what it's like to attend her dream school.

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Deming and Mindrup

A new endowed chair in the medical humanities

The inaugural holder of Creighton’s newest endowed chair is an artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the world and can be found in the private collections of primatologist Jane Goodall and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

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Professor Haneman teaches class.

Law professor inspires student through funeral and burial project research

For 3L student Sarah Mielke, the human element and weight of emotions are at the core of life, learning and problem-solving.

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Kailynn Phillips

Caring for our medical students through scholarships

No one in Kailynn Phillips’ family went to college, let alone medical school. And yet her mother, Diane, who raised her in a small Wisconsin town, never let her question her dreams. She was determined to give Kailynn a life better than her own, no matter what it took.

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Eileen Wirth alongside a picture of Creighton.

The gift of Ignatian mentorship

Mentoring is baked into Creighton’s DNA because the entire Jesuit approach to education is based on the one-on-one design of the Spiritual Exercises.

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Kirstin McCarville, left, and Andrea Hall

A dental faculty dedicated to service

Adjunct Assistant Professor Andrea Hall, DDS, and Associate Professor Kirstin McCarville, DDS, MS, exemplify the passion, drive, and dedication to service guiding the Creighton ethos.

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Elizabeth Crampsey

Making the most of her Creighton scholarships

Recipient of two Graduate Deans’ Scholarships, Elizabeth Crampsey considers herself fortunate—and mindful that the same aid does not exist for all graduate students. “There are limited financial opportunities for support at the graduate level,” she says, “I feel blessed.”

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Joan M. Lappe

The integral interprofessional

Joan M. Lappe, PhD, RN, FAAN, MS’85, is an important figure within the College of Nursing. On second thought, the word “important” does not fully do justice.

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Maggie Larsen

Passion, persistence, and scholarship prepare student for excellence

Maggie Larsen says her education in the School of Dentistry exceeded her expectations and has prepared her to be a competent and compassionate dental professional.

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College of Nursing student Robyn Acob

How Creighton scholarships have changed my life

"Without my scholarship aid, I don't think I'd be at Creighton. It eases the stress on my family and makes this possible. The least I can do, in return, is work hard and do my best."

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Chelsey Hill

‘Diva’ alumna draws on her Creighton experience

Alumna Chelsey Hill, BFA’14, talks about the life-changing Creighton classes that prepared her for a career as the "Illustrating Diva" of the Metropolitan Opera.

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Britney Bell talks with a patient

Meeting a need in Phoenix

Britney Bell, BSCHM’13, MD’18, vividly remembers the stress of Match Day. After completing her last two years of medical school in Phoenix, she didn’t want to go anywhere else for her residency.

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Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, talks with student Eliana Rodriguez at the Forward Blue launch event.

Students take spotlight at campaign launch

Saturday night outside the Hixson-Lied Science Building, Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD, publicly launched the largest and most comprehensive fundraising campaign in the University’s history.

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Sarah Synek

Community comes through during crisis

For occupational therapy student Sarah Synek, the support she received during an unprecedented spring semester reaffirmed her faith in the Creighton community and her belief in the Jesuit mission.

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Nelly Nigro, center, with her class of 1945 pharmacy school friends Virginia Driscoll, left, and Alice Appel Duwal.

Pharmacy alumna's gift goes the distance

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

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Rebekah Kornblum

Alumna’s generosity guided by service

Rebekah Kornblum, BSBA’15, is committed to giving the most of herself to others through both service and philanthropy. Her Creighton experience was essential in her journey to becoming a woman for and with others.

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Jennifer Taniguchi

A home 3,700 miles away from home

It can be tough to move one state over to attend college, let alone the 3,740 miles. Jennifer Taniguchi traveled from Hilo, Hawaii, to Omaha to study business at Creighton.

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Hardeep Chehal, DDS’15

Chehal thrilled to be named Belzer Endowed Chair

Hardeep Chehal, DDS’15, is the fourth holder of the Belzer Endowed Chair and the first woman appointed to the position.

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Doris Norton and her late husband, John

Driven by tradition to transform the Southwest

Guided by their hearts and innovative vision, Doris Norton and her late husband, John, created a legacy of giving that continues to underscore their passion and commitment for shaping health care education and delivery in Phoenix and the Southwest.

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Face coverings

Creighton alumna and her family start mask-making operation

A Creighton alumna has co-founded a makeshift mask-making operation with her mom, her grandma and their trusty sewing machine.

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Sue Bon Tiede, DDS’91

Creighton dental grad gets at the root of things

"There’s something that shakes you to your core about the Jesuit tradition. The giving and acceptance and service, it changed my life." — Sue Bon Tiede, DDS’91

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From left: Elizabeth “Lizzie” Erftmier, BA’18; Adelaide Herbert Erftmier, BSPHA’60; and Don Erftmier Jr., BSBA’87, on the day Elizabeth graduated.

Four generations of Bluejays

Shortly before she died in 2018, Adelaide — or “Corky,” as her friends knew her — was able to see her granddaughter graduate from Creighton, making them a four-generation Creighton family.

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Kay O’Leary, DDS’88

Wyoming banker reinvented herself as a Creighton dentist

The best thing about Creighton dental school, she says, “is that it prepares you for anything.”

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Linda Lazure

Helping Creighton students however she can

For nearly 40 years, former nursing faculty member Linda Lazure, PhD, supported students emotionally and intellectually. And for quite a few years now, she’s supported them financially, too.

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Student Lexi Weisbeck posing in front of Creighton

A Creighton lawyer

Thanks to the help of scholarships, Lexi is making the most of her time as a Creighton law student, day by day becoming the lawyer she wants to be.

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Suzy, BS’70, and Craig Smith

Alumna pays tribute to parents with gift to Heider College of Business

Her parents' lives were marked by their faith and fortitude and perhaps most of all by their generosity. 

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Maggie Brueck sings at a piano.

The key to harmony in major and minor

Scholarships allowed Maggie Brueck to make the most of her passions in music and psychology.

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Diana Ndunda treats a patient

Why the Creighton experience is so much more

Diana Ndunda came to the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions with a vision in mind and a mission at heart. “I moved to the United States to go to pharmacy school,” says the Kenyan-born student. “I knew I wanted to serve others, and that this career path would give me purpose.”

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Alumna Kassandra Montag

'I choose to have hope' — Omaha Reads author and Creighton alumna reflects on reading, resilience and the apocalypse

Kassandra Montag's "After the Flood" has been selected as the 2020 Omaha Reads pick by the Omaha Public Library.

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Brooklyn Queens of Quarantine

Creighton alumna and her friends' photo project goes viral

Like so many worthwhile creative endeavors, The Brooklyn Queens of Quarantine was spurred by boredom and isolation — two muses working overtime at the moment.

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