Alumni memories of Creighton's pool and swim teams

Mar 14, 2024

Following our recent deep history of Creighton's pool and swim team, several alumni reached out to share their memories.

Featured Testimonial About Creighton University

Images of Creighton swimming pool.

There are so many stories.

Julie Bossert Russo, BSN’92 Former swim team diver

Do you have memories and/or photos of the pool or swim team you’d like to share? Send them to, and we might add them to this roundup of poolside stories.

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By Micah Mertes

When we dove into the deep history of Creighton’s swimming pool, we had no idea what a splash it would make.

Editor’s note: Only five pool and/or water puns remain before limit is reached.

We could hardly fathom (5) the flood (4) of responses from alumni, each of whom really got beneath the surface (3) of what makes the pool so special, waves (2) of nostalgia washing (1) over every memory.

Below are some of the poolside stories we received from alumni. Be sure to read our full history of the Creighton pool here.

Campus invasion promo flyer featuring Bush and Moby.

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Juan Gallegos, BSCS'00, was the KFC building manager at the time of the 2000 Spring Fling concert featuring Bush and Moby. (Read more about the KFC concerts here.)

After the crew set up the stage for the concert, they saw the pool and asked Juan if they could take a swim before the show. He said no at first but relented after talking with the road manager, and the crew spent an hour relaxing in the pool.

Later that night, after the concert was over, the crew introduced Juan to Moby and the Bush band members, who gave him some signed photos.

“They asked if I wanted to go on the road for the rest of the tour,” Juan said. “But considering it was my last semester, I turned down the offer.”

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Sara McDonnell, BS’02, BSN’05, DNP’2019, was a lifeguard at the KFC pool during her undergrad years. She worked during the early morning swim sessions.

“As a poor college kid, it was a pretty good gig,” she said. “I enjoyed swimming there and worked with a lot of great people.”

One morning at the pool wasn’t like the rest. After her shift, she saw her supervisor, who told her, “It’s so weird. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.”

They talked for a few minutes and concluded that it must have been a small plane that lost control and crashed. It was only later — while studying for a physics exam — that she learned what really happened.

Image of Creighton's pool.

“My mom always said there are times in your life when you will remember the exact moment, the place you were, the feeling you had, the words that were spoken, the smell in the air,” Sara said. “That was one of those times.”

Beyond that unforgettable morning, Sara also associates the KFC and its pool with countless good times.

“I wouldn’t have crossed paths with so many great people otherwise. I have so many great memories and friends I met during that time.”

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Submitted by Paul Clifford, DDS'83:

“In the 1978-79 school year, my roommate, Frank Reznicek, BSPHA'81, and I lived in the southeast corner room (417) on the 4th floor of Kiewit Hall. We had the good fortune of overlooking the outdoor pool deck on the west end of KFC, which blessed us with the opportunity to appreciate the tanning enthusiasts on days when good weather permitted.

“We had found a way to open our larger window (which was a minor infraction as well as somewhat of a challenge), and we placed the speakers for our stereo there to provide music for the sunbathing students. We played various genres and even took some requests. It was seemingly well-received, as we observed numerous listeners head-bobbing or foot-tapping along with the beat. 

​  Image of the Creighton pool in the KFC.

“My roommate was a bit of a practical joker and wanted to run a little experiment to see what reactions he could elicit from the unsuspecting soon-to-be victims below. 

"The source of the music was a turntable and LP record albums (I know, how quaint). If you are familiar with this technology, you may also know what happens when you take the needle of the turntable tonearm and lightly rake it across the record's surface (NOT recommended!). The very loud subsequent 'scratch' noise was not only unexpected but unnerving, causing almost everyone on the deck to come unglued, howling and yelling their shock and displeasure. In short, it was hilarious! 

“No one was injured, but we caught grief about it for a couple of weeks. Frank and I currently live about 1,000 miles apart, but we still get together once or twice a year, and we still laugh about this and other great times we had at Creighton and the numerous friends we made there. 

“Shout out to a bunch of folks (mostly West quad) who I hope remember us as fondly as we remember them. May God bless all of you!”

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Synchronized swimming team.
Synchronized swimming team.

For former “faculty children” like Karen Zuegner — daughter of former professor Chuck Zuegner and sister of current Creighton professor Carol Zuegner, BA'77, MS'22 —  one of the best parts of the week was going to the Old Gym pool for the Sunday night faculty family swim.

She recalls meeting the Rev. Bernard J. Hasbrouck, the Father of Synchronized Swimming (read more about him here), and hanging out with the other faculty kids.

Years later, after college, she continued to swim at the KFC pool. “I just adored it.”

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Submitted by Judy Bauer, BA’66 (who started Creighton’s first synchronized swimming team in 1962):

“The only thing not mentioned in the great article about the pools is that the Old Gym only had one locker room. We girls had to have a guard on duty in order to be able to do a swim practice, and it had to be early in the morning so as not to interfere with the male athletes who also practiced there and used the same locker room. Things were good then and are even better now.”

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Eleanor Marsh
Eleanor Marsh

Eugene Lloyd Marsh, MA'71, noted that his great-grandmother, Eleanor Marsh, MA'47, was the first women's swimming instructor at Creighton. This news clipping shows how instrumental she was in establishing the University's first co-ed intercollegiate swimming competition. 

Clipping of Marsh family.

The Marshes have long been a very Creighton family. Eleanor's husband — Frederick Marsh, PHG 1915, BSPHA'26, MA'30, MD'41 — started the legacy both as a student and later a faculty member in biology and pharmacology. Eleanor and Frederick's children, Elinor Marsh-Ross, BS'41, MD'42, and Eugene Marsh, BSPHA'40, DDS'44, attended Creighton while their parents were faculty.

Eugene Marsh, MA'71, said the Marsh family tradition will continue, with a member of the fifth generation soon attending Creighton. 

Image of the Marsh family in news clipping.

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From Julie Bossert Russo's photo album, Creighton's women swim team circa 1989-1990.
From Julie Bossert Russo's photo album, Creighton's women's swim team circa 1989-1990.
Julie, left, with her diving coach, Sherry.
Julie, left, with her diving coach, Sherry.

Julie Bossert Russo, BSN’92, a member of the Creighton diving team from 1988-1990, had a wealth of memories and images to share. Here are a few of them:

• When the swim team was in Fort Lauderdale over Christmas break, swim coach Jack Jackson had to climb the fence and break into the pool so the team could practice.

• Since the pool didn’t have a three-meter diving board until 1990, diving coach Sherry Birmingham, BS’90, would take the divers to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or a nearby creek once a week to practice the higher dive. “Sherry was an amazing coach, and I learned so much from her,” Julie said. “She was so positive and supportive.”

• At a diving meet in Iowa, Julie’s score was just .02 of a point short of her qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. “The scorers who tallied the diving scores had tears in their eyes and told me they kept going over their score sheets to make sure they didn’t make a mistake. It was heartbreaking when I didn’t qualify. So close.”

Julie with her fellow Creighton diver, Brady Murphy.
Julie with her fellow Creighton diver, Brady Murphy.

• “My roommate, Michelle Keene, BA’92, was a distance swimmer, and, wow, could she swim!”

• Coach Jackson always got McDonald’s pancakes for the swimmers ahead of every meet. But right before a competition in Wyoming, Julie and fellow diver Brady Murphy, BA’92, were doing their warmups, and the rest of the swim team ate their breakfast. As they got ready to compete, Julie and Brady told the coach that they still hadn’t eaten anything. He obtained some spray cheese and crackers, but then the swim team ate those before Julie and Brady could get to them, too.

“Brady and I were a little annoyed but also thought it was funny,” Julie said. “There are so many stories.”

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Do you have memories and/or photos of the pool or swim team you’d like to share? Send them to, and we might add them to this roundup of poolside stories.

And be sure to read our whole history of Creighton’s pool and swim team and the Kiewit Fitness Center.