Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
If it weren’t for Creighton, there would be no ‘us.’
By Micah Mertes
Each year around Valentine’s Day, in our newsletters and on social, we ask for alumni to tell us their Creighton love stories. (Read last year’s roundup here.)
This year’s response was overwhelming, with dozens of alumni sharing how they met the love of their life at Creighton. We got so many love stories that we’re going to make this a regular feature beyond Valentine’s Day, with many more Creighton love stories coming soon.
(Want to be featured in a future article? Share your Creighton love story with firstname.lastname@example.org.)
No further preamble needed. Too many good love stories to get to …
* * *
Emma (Wojnicki) Kresock, BSN’18, and Daniel Kresock, BSCHM’16
Does it get any more romantic than an evening boat ride along the Seine River?
That was, for all intents and purposes, Emma and Daniel’s first date. In the summer of 2015, the two were on a faculty-led study abroad program in France. They’d met before going to Paris, but it wasn’t until the boat ride that they really got to know each other. That night, they talked about everything … nursing, chemistry, pre-med, family, life after college.
They started dating when they returned to Creighton the following fall. And at Creighton, dating meant (at least in part) studying together in the library or Skutt. They continued dating after Daniel graduated. He would often cook for Emma during those hectic last few years of nursing school.
They got married last spring at — and here’s a common thread for most of these Creighton love stories — St. John’s Church.
“Creighton brought us together, and we are forever grateful,” Emma says.
* * *
Jeannie Ngo, BS’14, MD’18, and Joey Tanaka, BSBA’16, DDS’20
They first met as undergrads and University employees — she worked for Sodexo catering; he for building maintenance — but it wasn’t until they were in their respective professional schools that they started dating.
Joey says he knew Jeannie was the one pretty much immediately. In fact, he was so nervous to ask her out on a proper date that he instead asked her to go shopping with him at Trader Joe’s. She was confused at first. They eventually figured it out.
“Since he was a dental student and I was a medical student,” Jeannie says, “our early dates consisted of restaurant outings as study breaks, studying at the health sciences library, walking around campus and going to the Rasmussen Center. We went every day, even if it was only for a quick 20-minute workout.”
For Joey, meeting the love of your life at Creighton is quickly becoming the family tradition. His parents — Raymund Tanaka, BS’79, DDS’83; and Cynthia Leong, DDS’85 — also met at Creighton. As did Joey’s sister, Jennifer Tanaka, BA’11, DDS’15, and her husband, Taylor Hegarty, BS’11, PHARMD’15.
As if to make up for that unceremonious first date at Trader Joe’s, Joey proposed to Jeannie on top of a glacier in New Zealand. (It was, he recalls, a cold place to kneel.) They were married last spring, beforehand taking the St. John’s marriage prep classes with Kathy Martin and Fr. Tom Merkel, SJ. Merkel was later part of their Idaho wedding.
The past few years haven’t been ideal for Joey and Jeannie. They’ve been 7,000 miles apart for most of it. He’s a dentist in Okinawa, Japan, and she’s a fellow in Creighton’s psychiatry program. But at long last, they’ll be reunited in Okinawa this summer.
“Creighton was an amazing matchmaker because of the shared values that we gained during our formative years,” Jeannie says. Men and women for and with others, magis, cura personalis, service trips through ILAC and the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice — all of it became a part of who Jeannie and Joey were. Not just as individuals but as a couple.
“These common experiences helped us grow into the people we are today,” Jeannie says. “We truly feel that Creighton gave us a strong foundation for our marriage. Life has been such an adventure for us, and we’re excited to see where it takes us next.”
* * *
John Cavanaugh, BSN’88, and Julia Graves Cavanaugh, BSN’86
They met in ’84 in the business school cafeteria and dated until his graduation in ’88.
He proposed the day before Valentine’s Day in 1987. (He wanted to pop the question on the 14th, but she worked nights, and their schedules wouldn’t allow for that particular romantic gesture.) They were married the following year.
“We continue to live here in Omaha,” John says. “We have five wonderful children, and if we hadn’t attended Creighton, we never would have been married.”
* * *
Tom Keating, BA’96, DDS’01, and Jennifer Keller Keating, BSN’97; John Hirsch, DDS’41, and Mary Squire Hirsch
For this family, a Creighton degree often comes with a soul mate.
Growing up, Tom Keating and his siblings (who ended up attending Creighton, too) heard a lot about the University from their grandparents. Their grandfather, John Hirsh, had met their grandmother, Mary Squire Hirsch, while he was in Creighton dental school and she was living in the Creighton House and selling candy at the Orpheum Theatre — which was once, by the way, named the Creighton Theatre, after John Creighton.
(Tom still has his grandfather’s old dental school notebooks, where John had lovingly doodled Mary’s name when they first met.)
After graduation, John joined the Army Air Corps as a dentist, and a short while later he and Mary settled in Las Vegas, where he practiced for 54 years.
More than half a century after John met Mary, Tom met Jennifer (in 1994). He later proposed to her on the steps of St. John’s.
In 2001, Tom graduated from Creighton dental school almost 60 years to the day that his grandfather did.
“And most important, we both lucked out and found amazing spouses at Creighton,” Tom says.
“My oldest son is now a freshman at Creighton, a pre-dental major. Only time will tell if the tradition continues.”
* * *
Amanda Reinhart, BA’11, and John “Jack” Pritchard, BA’11, MIMFA’19, MBA’19
Amanda met her future spouse in the way so many Creighton couples have … her Swanson Hall roommate introduced them.
Amanda had been in the Dominican Republic studying abroad the spring of her sophomore year, when her roommate, Kindra Seifert, BA’11, became good friends with Jack.
Kindra introduced Jack and Amanda the following fall semester, and they swapped numbers … “on a Thursday night at the Dubliner, of course!” Amanda says now.
They were just friends their junior year. But best friends. Nonstop texts. She sent him a keg for his 21st birthday. All their friends thought they were dating.
They finally did start dating their senior year and well past graduation, up to their marriage (at St. John’s, of course) in 2016. They now live in Omaha with their two children.
They remain best friends.
* * *
Christopher “Codak” Simpson, BA’04, and Jennifer (Beimer) Simpson, BSW‘04, MBA
They’d been in “the periphery of each other’s orbit” their freshman year. Though their roommates were friends and they’d seen each other around campus frequently, they’d never exchanged a word.
But in the fall of 2001, their sophomore year, they were both working as Welcome Week leaders, and she decided to break the ice. She walked up to him, stuck out her hand and said, “Hi. I’m Jen, and I’d like to know you.”
“I wasn’t sure how to respond,” Codak says now. “I shook hands with her and blurted out, ‘I’m Codak. I think our meeting is about to start.’ Then I turned and walked away, mentally kicking myself for how ridiculously I had bungled that.”
Twenty-two years later, they still joke about that moment. It’s just a great example of how different they are and how perfectly they complement one another.
Luckily, Jen was willing to give him another chance.
Later that night, at a Swanson hangout, they spoke again. This time Codak didn't bungle it. They talked for hours and realized how much they had in common.
One of the things they discussed was what they thought the most romantic marriage proposal would be. They agreed the scenario would involve a hot air balloon at sunset, around the time of July 4, as fireworks burst in the background. A few years later, Codak would propose to Jen in exactly this way.
They continued their long conversations in marriage prep classes at St. John’s and were married at the church in 2007. (Where else could they get married?)
“There were just so many fond memories cemented over the years,” Codak says. “A seed was planted at Creighton, when Jen and I sat out on the Mall, walked campus, hung out in the Jesuit Gardens and had late-night study breaks and coffee runs and dinners at Java Jay or the Student Center.”
A few years ago, Codak and Jen brought their two children back to campus and walked them along the Mall, telling them how their parents met.
“It was so nice to run into people we knew from our brief time there,” Codak says. “Friendly faces that helped shape our beginning and embody the cura personalis for which Creighton is so well known.
* * *
Katherine Glaser, BSN’19, and John "Jack" Grogan, BSBA’19
They met on the first day of their first year at Creighton, both members of the Freshman Leadership Program. They continued to cross paths that year, but it was ultimately service that brought them together.
The spring of their freshman year, Katherine and Jack spent every Tuesday evening volunteering at the Hope Center for Kids’ afterschool program. Each time, Jack would wait in Kiewit Hall for Katherine to finish her chemistry class so they could walk to the Hope Center together. Walks and service soon turned into studying, watching Creighton basketball games and attending Candlelight Mass together. Still just friends.
On moveout day their freshman year, Katherine ran down the hall of Kiewit to give Jack a hug before they parted ways for the summer. They started dating when they returned for sophomore year.
After graduation, Jack and Katherine moved to different cities for their work, Texas for him, Chicago for her. When COVID hit, Jack moved to Chicago to be with Katherine.
And in June of last year, during a trip to Omaha, Jack proposed to Katherine outside St. John’s Church. They’re getting married there this fall.
“We’re so thankful that Creighton brought us together,” Katherine says. “It’s the foundation of our love for each other.”
* * *
Chris Vane, BA’85, and Sheila Liebentritt Vane, BSBA’86
Mary Sarah Vane McGlynn, BSN’89, and Michael McGlynn, PHARMD’91
Chris and his sister Mary each met their respective sweethearts at Creighton.
Chris met Sheila while waiting for an elevator in Kiewit Hall his junior year. (He made note of what floor button she pressed.)
They started going to residence hall Masses together, took walks in the Jesuit Gardens and met up in the Kiewit lobby to play pool and video games. They’d also go to basketball games together. Chris barely missed a single home game his full four years at Creighton. After graduation, they moved out west, got married and started a family.
Chris’ sister Mary decided to attend Creighton as well, starting classes the year her brother graduated. Mary met her husband-to-be, Mike, her sophomore year. Like Chris and Sheila, Mary and Mike enjoyed the staples of the Creighton dating scene … dining hall lunches, library study sessions, Old Market runs and, of course, basketball games. They eventually got engaged in front of St. John’s.
“This May,” Chris says, “will mark a milestone of a combined 65 years of marriage to our college sweethearts.”
Though Chris and Mary live on opposite coasts — him in San Jose, her in Boston — their families get together when they can for Creighton basketball. If there’s a Bluejays game nearby, they never miss it.
* * *
Cara Wilson Weiss, BSBA’03, and Philip Weiss
They technically, probably first met at Creighton. They just don’t remember it.
Back in 1999, they were in the same astronomy class. But it was stadium seating. He sat in back; she sat in front; their orbits never overlapped.
But on the same Southwest Airlines flight back to their mutual home of St. Louis for Thanksgiving break, they ended up sitting next to each other. “You look familiar. Do you go to Creighton?”
They talked, enjoyed each other’s company. On her way back to Omaha after break, Cara was disappointed when she didn’t see Philip on the return flight.
Back at Creighton, they ran into each other in astronomy class. They started sitting closer together, and the stars aligned from there. (Editor's note: Sorry.)
They dated, got married, had two children. For Cara and Philip's wedding, Southwest Airlines donated 350 bags of peanuts. They used them as table favors, with the following poem attached …
Years of love and special memories brought us here today
We’re thrilled that you are celebrating with us on our wedding day
High in the sky is where we first met
Headed home from Creighton on a jet
From strangers on a plane to a day for “I do”
The years have been filled with love and laughter too
Here’s to Southwest Airlines’ open boarding policy
For without it, Mr. and Mrs. Weiss would not be!
* * *
Head tennis coach Tom Lilly, BA’93, and Jean Fougeron Lilly, BSMTH’96, MS’98, women’s tennis assistant coach and adjunct math instructor at Creighton
Sometimes the courting takes place on an actual court.
Tom and Jean met when they were both Creighton tennis players.
“We were pretty inseparable,” Tom says. “I was always more into sports than studying, and she’s the brains of the family. My grades improved during my senior year. But legend has it that she received her first poor grade during her senior year, when we got married.”
Her name change led to one of her professors thinking she wasn’t attending class. The mistake was soon corrected.
“She brings my grades up, and I bring her grades down,” Tom says. “We complement each other very well.”
When Tom and Jean were married — by Fr. Tom Shanahan, SJ, at St. John’s — the bridesmaids and groomsman held tennis rackets over the couple’s heads as they walked out the church.
The moment ended up being not just a fitting scene for their past but their future, as well. The two made the leap from student-athletes to coaches just a few years later.
Tom became Creighton’s head tennis coach in 1997. Jean joined him as the assistant women’s coach, and the Lilly family have been here ever since.
“This is something I couldn’t have done or been nearly as successful at without her,” Tom says.
Every Creighton tennis season, Tom and Jean work together at least four hours a day, and they tend to bring their work home with them. It’s no wonder, Tom says, that neither of their children were much interested in playing tennis.
Their son, Thomas Lilly, Jr., BA’23, sold programs at men’s basketball games since he was 10. Their daughter, Kate Lilly, will be a freshman at Creighton next fall.
“Creighton is such a wonderful place, with a family feel to it,” Tom, Sr., says. “We sell our recruits on that aspect of the University and definitely of our tennis teams.
“The character and high quality of morals that represent students and staff at Creighton make it a great place to meet someone special.”
* * *
Lizzie Urbina, BSBA'19, and Ben Reckmeyer, BS'19
She needed a date for her sorority party. Her Swanson floormate texted Ben. So began a blind date that’s never really ended.
“Let me tell you,” Lizzie says of Ben. “This man is a charmer.”
One thing that makes Creighton such a great place to date someone, Lizzie says, is just how many things there are for students to do.
“We went to countless basketball games, Socctoberfest, all fraternity and sorority life events, different lectures, study dates all around campus, the Jesuit Gardens. Also, being in the heart of Omaha was so nice because you had access to beautiful spots all around the city for date nights. It really is the perfect place to meet and fall in love.”
They got engaged around Christmastime of 2019 (he’d hid the engagement ring in a snowman ornament) and married at St. John’s in the fall of 2021. Lizzie says the best advice they got during their marriage prep classes was … “It’s never you against each other. It’s you both against the problem.”
They shared similar values from the get-go, and both thrived in a Jesuit education. Lizzie has a vivid memory of them sitting on the couch together as Ben helped her better understand some of the Gospel readings in her theology homework. (For a class taught by Fr. Gregory Carlson, SJ, who would marry the couple a few years later.)
“I love Ben’s philosophy on life, which is basically magis: always keep growing who you are because you’re never done,” Lizzie says. “It really has inspired me to become a better person.
“And now we’re getting ready to welcome our little girl this summer. I can’t wait for Ben to be a father. He’s going to love her with everything he has and more.”
Anne Lutz Determan, BS’90, and Dan Determan
In the fall of 1987, Anne went on a prayer retreat through Creighton’s Campus Ministry. Ahead of the retreat, everyone was telling her, “Make you sure you talk to Dan Determan. He’s a great guy, and you should get to know him.”
So she did. They became good friends. It might have been something more from the start, but she was already dating someone. Then when she was single, he was dating someone. Then when he was single …
The timing never quite clicked. But the friendship remained. Even after he moved up to St. Paul, Minnesota, they would send each other letters, and he would leave long messages on her answering machine.
“He was extremely persistent!” Anne says.
Finally, six years after they met, Anne went up to St. Paul to visit Dan, and they started dating shortly after. They were married at St. John’s the following year, with their Creighton friends surrounding them, presiding at the wedding and singing in the choir.
She’s grateful to everyone who told her she should get to know Dan Determan at that 1987 prayer retreat. They had no idea how right they were.
* * *
Meg Maynard, BSW’17, and Jake Wiesenthal, BSBA’18
Meg and Jake like to joke that their relationship started in event planning and now they’re planning the biggest event of the rest of their lives — getting married this summer at St. John’s.
They first got to know each other as co-leaders of Creighton’s Program Board, the student government’s event planning organization. At the end of his sophomore year and her junior year, he finally asked her out on a date. But …
The answer was no. It was just days before Meg was set to leave for a mission-driven study abroad program in Peru. Bad timing.
But Jake persisted. A year later, when he returned from a study abroad trip in Australia, they made it official. They’ve since moved to Denver and adopted a puppy named Ozzie.
The aforementioned wedding will get here before they know it. It’s fun for them to plan a Creighton event together again, and for their relationship to come full circle to where it all started.
“Creighton helped us foster a space to be our authentic selves,” Meg says. “It’s a strong foundation for our relationship and our love.”
* * *
Catherine Monahan Kraemer, BA’05, and Matt Kraemer, BSBA’03, JD’06
“If it weren’t for Creighton, there would be no ‘us.’”
They’d run into each other at the campus coffeeshop Java Jay, where she worked. Or at the Kiewit Fitness Center, where he lifeguarded.
But Catherine says where she really got to know Matt — where she thinks she fell in love with him — was online, reading his posts on LiveJournal (a blogging site that predated Facebook).
Once they started dating, Creighton became their first home as a couple. Dinner at Brandeis, Candlelight Mass, walks along the Mall. Matt was slated to go to law school in Seattle, but he changed his commitment to Creighton so they could stay together.
They got married in 2009 — by Fr. Roc O’Connor, SJ, former rector of the Jesuit community at Creighton — and now have four children.
“Our Creighton family has been by our side since the very beginning,” Catherine says. “They stood by us at our wedding. They’re godparents to our children. They’ve been with us through our most difficult and most joyful times. They give us an invaluable source of support in our marriage.
“Creighton is and will always be very present in our lives and our hearts as a couple.”
* * *
You alumni really love a good love story.
We actually received four times as many responses as those listed above. If you reached out and you’re not among the following vignettes, we promise to include your story in a future article soon. There were just too many love stories to fit into one feature so we’re going to make this a regular series.
Again, if you haven’t already shared your Creighton love story and would like to, please contact email@example.com.