Evening of Honors celebrates 11 outstanding alums

Aug 29, 2023

Creighton University announced its honorees for the Alumni Achievement Citation, the Alumni Merit Awards, which recognizes alumni from the University’s schools and colleges, and the Recent Alumni Award during the annual Evening of Honors celebration.

Featured Testimonial About Creighton University

We say it often: a Creighton education inspires graduates for life. It helps them uplift individuals and it strengthens communities. Creighton opens students’ eyes to serious needs in the world and motivates them to seek solutions. Accepting that call makes us feel alive. Tonight’s honorees exemplify action as well as excellence and each brings great honor to their alma mater, and to their family, friends, and colleagues.

Creighton President the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, Ph

On August 25, Creighton Trustee Emerita Mimi Feller, BA’70, received the Alumni Achievement Citation during the University’s annual Evening of Honors celebration. In Addition, 10 other alumni received Alumni Merit Awards, which recognizes alumni from the University’s schools and colleges, and the Recent Alumni Award.

Evening of Honors 2023 Image Gallery 

ALUMNI achievement citation 

The Creighton University Alumni Achievement Citation is the highest all-University award that honors an alumnus/a who has personified the Creighton tradition of excellence. This award is intended to recognize longevity and consistency of service over a lifetime of dedication to the University, as well as personal and professional communities through philanthropy or other civic endeavor


Mimi Feller, BA'70


Mimi Feller was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska.  She graduated as valedictorian from Marian High School in 1966. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the Creighton University College of Arts and Sciences in 1970 and received her Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown Law in 1981.

Feller began her corporate and legislative career in Washington, DC, with the U.S. General Services Administration. She worked for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works; in the U.S. Treasury Department; and was Chief of Staff to Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee. In 1986, Feller joined Gannett Co., a leading international and national newspaper publisher and broadcaster, where she oversaw public affairs and government relations. She retired as a senior vice president of Gannett in 2003.

She served as board chair for the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association, as an officer for the Gannett Foundation and served on the board of The Media Institute. For nearly five decades, Feller has provided meaningful counsel to Creighton University. She is a member of the Creighton Society and Heritage Society. In honor of her late parents, Feller established the Milly and Lloyd Feller Volunteer Service Fund to support students in the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice.  

From 1993 to 2017, Feller served as a Creighton University Trustee. She has been a member of several University committees, contributing to presidential searches, campaign steering leadership, University governance and compliance, and has hosted University events. In 1987, Feller was named the Creighton College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Merit honoree, and in 2017, received Board trustee emerita status for exceptional service to Creighton University.  


The Creighton University Alumni Merit Award recognizes outstanding alumni from each school and college. These passionate leaders touch and enrich lives, encouraging and inspiring others while they serve selflessly, making a difference in their communities and leaving the world a better place.


College of Arts and Sciences

Annie Burns, BA'83 


Annie Burns graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1983. She is a founding partner of the prominent progressive communications firm GMMB with 230 employees in Washington, DC, Seattle, and San Francisco.

GMMB has won recognition for helping to increase domestic seat belt usage by 21 points nationally through the Click It or Ticket Campaign; supporting The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ fight for smoke-free air laws in 31 states, assisting 28 countries in introducing pneumococcal vaccines to national immunization plans; and helping to elect five heads of state, including the first African-American president in U.S. history.

Burns’ focus is public health. She works with child health advocates across the country in partnership with Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families to protect and advance high-quality, affordable health coverage for kids and families.  She has created and directed communications campaigns for The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Covering Kids and Families (CKF) Communications Campaign. Burns been a strong supporter of women and progressive candidates across the country for the past 40 years. She got her start in politics working in presidential and California politics. Prior to joining GMMB, she worked for the Walter Mondale presidential campaign and for State Senator Gary Hart.  

She serves on the Board of Prosperity Now and on the board of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). Her international political experience includes developing NDI’s 1987-88 field strategy and training to help defeat Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, a campaign depicted in the Academy Award-nominated film “No.” Burns resides in Washington, DC, with her husband, John Monahan. Her gifts to the College of Arts and Sciences supports Creighton’s Scholarship Fund and the Haddix Deans’ Ignatian Leadership Fellows, who meet with government, business and nonprofit leaders in Washington, DC.  

College of Nursing 

Elizabeth Lenke, BSN'86


Elizabeth (Beth) Lenke, BSN, MHA, MSW, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.  She graduated from the Creighton College of Nursing in 1986 and began her career as a nurse in the Burn/Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Barnes Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish Hospital) in St. Louis. 

In 1989, Lenke earned a Master of Health Administration from Washington University School of Medicine and for the next 15 years she managed outpatient clinics, a surgery center and physician practices. In 2022, she earned a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and is now a licensed therapist at a nonprofit mental health clinic.  

Lenke is an esteemed philanthropist and energized community leader in St. Louis and the greater New York City region. Lenke is on the Board of Trustees at Felician University in Rutherford, New Jersey. She has been active in New York Cares, St. Vincent DePaul Society and is a founding member of Impact 100 New York City.

Lenke and her husband, Lawrence G. Lenke, MD, reside in New York City and have three children, Lauren, Bradley, and Erin. Through the Lenke Family Foundation, they have sponsored educational scholarships at St. Louis schools, as well as Creighton University, The University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University Medical School.  The Foundation funds pioneering programs at several universities, such as the Lenke Global Education Center, the Lenke Innovation Lab, and the Dr. Lawrence G. and Mrs. Elizabeth A. Lenke Endowed Professorship of Orthopedic Surgery. At Creighton, their gifts to the Lenke Endowed Research Fund and the Lenke Scholars program support the development of research in the College of Nursing. 

Graduate School

Patrice Washington, MBA'22


Patrice Washington earned her Certification in Financial Psychology and Master of Business Administration from the Graduate School in 2022. She is an award-winning author and the founder and CEO of Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth, a personal finance training and development firm that takes the approach that wealth is not limited to money.

Washington’s mission is to help others discover their life’s purpose while on their path to financial well-being. Her podcast, Redefining Wealth, has more than 16 million downloads each year. Washington speaks at colleges, churches, and conferences across the country, and her audience extends across the globe. She is a financial expert on the PBS show, “Opportunity Knocks.”  SUCCESS Magazine named Washington one of the “Top 25 Influential Leaders in Personal Development.”

In 2020, she was named as one of “12 Inspiring Black Voices in Personal Development.” She has also been featured in Cosmopolitan and Essence Magazine, among others, and on Forbes.com as one of "15 Inspiring Podcasts for Professionals of Every Stripe.” Today, she resides in Georgia, with her daughter, Reagan. In 2016, Washington was recognized with the state’s Outstanding Citizen Award. She was also recognized by the Commonwealth of Kentucky with their highest honor, the Kentucky Colonel, and as a recipient of the Stiletto Woman in Business Awards (SWIBA), which honors women in the solo and micro business sector. At Creighton, Washington helps advance the development and deepening of the University’s commitment to creating an inclusive space for learning, living, and working through her generous support of Cultural Diversity Initiatives.  

College of Professional and Continuing Education

Neena Nizar, EDD'18


Dr. Neena Nizar graduated from All Saint’s College, Kerala, India, with a bachelor's degree in English and a double master's degree in English and Philosophy. In 2015, Nizar moved to Elkhorn, Nebraska from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates with her husband and two young sons. Three years later, she graduated with a Doctorate in Interdisciplinary Leadership from the College of Professional and Continuing Education.

Nizar was born with one of the rarest skeletal diseases in the world. She and her sons are three of the fewer than 30 people around the globe who have been diagnosed with Jansen’s metaphyseal chondrodysplasia. To create awareness for Jansen’s and other rare diseases, Nizar founded The Jansen's Foundation in 2017, and helped fund research together with the endocrine team at Harvard Medical School, Boston Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Institute of Health, to create new treatments for patients with Jansens.

Nizar is the Director of Patient Advocacy Strategy at the Center for Rare Disease, at ICON Plc. She continues to serve higher education by teaching English and Leadership Studies in an adjunct capacity. For her advocacy, Nizar was bestowed the John P. Schlegel, SJ, Diversity Award for Excellence and Innovation from Creighton. In 2018, she was awarded Nebraska Mother of the Year by the American Mothers in Nebraska and named the Rare Disease Ambassador in Nebraska by Governor Pete Ricketts. She also serves on Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s Advisory Commission for Citizens with disabilities where she advocates for access and workplace equity and empowerment. 

Heider College of Business

James Greisch, BSBA’80


Jim Greisch graduated from the Heider College of Business in 1980 and has dedicated more than 40 years to serving Nebraska businesses. In 2022, Greisch retired from RSM, a multinational network of accounting firms. He served as the National Managing Partner for Financial Services in the United States and Chairman of the Global Financial Services Committee, as well as Managing Partner of the Nebraska Business Unit and National Industry Leader for Insurance.  

Prior to joining RSM, he was a partner with a Big Four Firm. Greisch served clients in more than 30 countries and was a frequent speaker about the future of the financial services industry and the accounting profession. He was recognized with the Distinguished Service to the Profession award by the Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants. He served as a board member for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce where he chaired both the Economic Development and Public Policy Committees. He is a former member of the Platte Institute Board of Directors and the Blueprint Nebraska.

Greisch has served more than three dozen organizations in his community, including The College of St. Mary, Marian High School, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, and the Archdiocese of Omaha. He is also a co-founder of the Diabetes Care Foundation and a founding member of Creighton’s National Alumni Board and served as its president. He also served on the University’s Board of Trustees and was Chair of the Heider College of Business Advisory Committee. He and his wife, Creighton alumna Anne Griesch, BSPha’81, are past members of the Parent Leadership Council. In 2015, they and their family endowed the Greisch Family Scholarship which supports the Heider College of Business and College of Nursing. They reside in Omaha along with their children and grandchildren.

School of Dentistry

Susan (Bon) Tiede, DDS'91


Dr. Susan Bon Tiede graduated from the School of Dentistry in 1991 and is a board-certified pediatric dentist. After dental school, Tiede joined the Navy, where she served for several years before joining the Public Health Service and working as a dentist on the South Dakota Pine Ridge and Montana Blackfeet Reservations. Shortly after training to become a pediatric dentist, she moved to Missoula, Montana, to open her own practice. Tiede resides in Missoula and has two daughters, Sierra and Sam.

For nearly two decades, she has provided specialized dentistry services to families in Missoula and surrounding communities. This year, she was recognized as the 2023 Montana Dental Association Clinician of the Year. Tiede gives presentations at local pre-schools and elementary schools for National Children’s Dental Health Month and is a member of the local Head Start Health Advisory Board. She has also lobbied Congress – and statewide in Montana – on behalf of pediatric dental patients. She has gone on medical mission service trips to Tanzania, Nepal, and to the Dominican Republic with Creighton’s ILAC program. She has also hosted events at her clinic, offering free dental screenings to veterans.

Tiede serves as the American Dental Association’s national representative for fluoride, and as a board member of both the American Orthodontic Society. She is a part-time professor in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at Creighton and was recently recognized as the School of Dentistry Outstanding Part-Time Clinical Instructor of the Year. She also serves on the School of Dentistry’s Alumni Advisory Board and was president of the alumni board from 2019 to 2020. Tiede has been a loyal supporter of the School of Dentistry and participated in and endorsed the formation of an endowment fund that supports dental student engagement. She is a board-certified member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and a fellow of the American Orthodontic Society. In addition, she is a member of the Montana Dental Association, the American Dental Association and the American Association of Women Dentists.  

School of Law 

Michaela Sims, JD'96


Michaela Sims graduated from the School of Law in 1996 and began working in Congress on the staffs of U.S. Senators Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson. A decade into her career, Sims went to a lobbying firm, and since 2016, has annually been named one of The Hill’s Top Lobbyists.

“I have known Michaela for more than 25 years,” says Campaign Chief of Staff to Vice President Kamala Harris, Sheila Nix, BSBA’83. “She is an extraordinary colleague and widely admired in Washington, DC, for her expertise and approach to serving clients and the community. As a Creighton alumna and a former member of the Creighton Board of Trustees, I am proud to be associated with Michaela, both professionally and personally.”

In 2017, Sims launched her own firm, Sims Strategies. Her main area of expertise is working on health and tax policies overseen by the Senate Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees, and related federal agencies. Clients include Creighton University and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Sims has long advocated for adoption through her work as a lobbyist and received the Congressional Coalition on Adoption’s “Angels in Adoption” award in 2013 after being recommended for the honor by Senator Mark Warner of Virginia.

Along with lobbying work, Sims is the Washington, DC, director for Creighton’s Government Organization and Leadership (GOAL) program. Sims co-founded the Capital Area REACH, a nonprofit dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth become successful in their school, work, and communities, and is very active with her local parish, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church. For two years during the rise and height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sims served as her church’s lead COVID-19 Crisis Coordinator to plan for and operationalize the effort needed to sustain the enormous surge in need for food assistance through the church’s food pantry. She has served on the Creighton University Regional Alumni Advisory Board, the School of Law Reunion Committee, and has generously supported the School of Law and Creighton Athletics. She resides in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband, Jon Stewart, and their two sons, Sam and Jack.   

School of Medicine 

Dr. Tim Burd, MD'96


Dr. Tim Burd earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from Creighton University in 1996 and went on to complete his general surgery internship at Creighton University Medical Center and Saint Joseph’s Hospital. He completed his orthopedic surgery residency at University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics in Columbia and his subspecialty training in orthopedic spine surgery at the Texas Back Institute.

Today, Burd is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship-trained spine surgeon with the Nebraska Spine and Pain Center in Omaha where he resides with his wife, Michelle. In 2010, Burd was recognized with the Most Compassionate Physician award by the Nebraska Spine Center.

He is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and serves as an orthopedic consultant to the athletic programs at both Creighton University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  At Creighton, Burd has been a volunteer interviewer of medical school applicants for many years. He is also in a pool of nearly 500 Creighton alumni who mentor current students through the Vital Signs Program. Burd’s clinical research projects have benefited countless students, and he has supported students and residents in presenting their leading spine research projects regionally, nationally, and internationally in Chicago, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Burd has been an invited lecturer across the U.S. and has authored and co-authored numerous publications. Among several leadership positions, he is the vice-chairman of the board for the Nebraska Spine Hospital, and current vice-chair of Creighton’s School of Medicine Alumni Advisory Board, which he has served on since 2007. His generous support of the School of Medicine through scholarships helps Creighton continue to offer students a transformative medical education dedicated to treating the whole person.  

School of Pharmacy and Health Professions 

Jennifer Junker, OTD'12


Dr. Jennifer Junker received her Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree from the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions in 2012. She resides in Colorado with her husband, Seth, and their children, where she is a co-owner of Thrive! Therapy, a mobile outpatient provider that helps seniors in the Denver metro area age in place. She recently became a travel agent to assist with accessible travel options for the individuals she works with.

Junker has experience as a rehab director at an independent living, assisted living, and memory care facility and served as a clinical lead working with individuals affected by Parkinson’s disease. She advocates for adults to get the resources and services they need beyond typical outpatient therapy. Thrive! Therapy also received grant funding for The Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE) program, which provides resources and home modifications to low-income individuals living in the community. Junker is an adjunct faculty in Creighton University’s distance OTD program at Regis University in Denver.  

She is a member of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the Occupational Therapy Association of Colorado where she previously served as the editor of the organization’s newsletter. While at Creighton, Junker was the president of the CU Occupational Therapy Student Association, a member of Pi Theta Epsilon, and a member of Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honor Society. She was also involved with the Student Empowerment Network, a Hand in Hand Volunteer, and participated in an experience at ILAC in the Dominican Republic. Currently, she mentors OT students through her private practice and works to support experiences that shape the next generation of Creighton-educated OT professionals.   

recent alumni award 

This award recognizes a Creighton alumnus/a during their first 10 years following graduation. Honorees have achieved considerable success in their field; are active volunteers, mentors or activists; who have made significant contributions toward alumni engagement; and are positive role models for current Creighton students.


Clayton Vanderheiden, BSBA’18


Clayton Vanderheiden graduated from the Heider College of Business in 2018. Originally from western Illinois, he now calls Omaha home. Vanderheiden is a principal at GreenSlate Development, a position he has held since 2020. He joined the company in 2017 and has since worked on over $250 million development projects.

GreenSlate is a locally owned and operated development company in Omaha that reimagines and reinvigorates neighborhoods and spaces in the city.  Vanderheiden specializes in advanced underwriting, acquisitions, financing, and strategic planning. He has completed projects that include the historic renovation of the Blackstone Hotel into the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel and the creation of 470 new or renovated housing units.

Vanderheiden strives to continue growth in the urban core of Omaha and make it an attractive destination for future professionals and leaders. Vanderheiden serves on the Creighton Recent Alumni Board and the Board of Directors for the Omaha Public Library Foundation and is a member of Leadership Omaha Class 46. He is also a member of the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks Developing Leaders Forum and the Urban Land Institute.  

While a student at Creighton, he was a member of the Financial Management Association National Honor Society and on the Heider College of Business Dean’s Speakers Series. This year Vanderheiden was one of several advocates who addressed the Nebraska Legislature in support of LB 818. The legislature later approved funding for Creighton and partners to improve infrastructure that will help strengthen the University’s longtime partnerships with the College World Series, the city of Omaha and the state of Nebraska.