From left: Erin O’Brien Beninato, BS’02; Jim, BSPha’71, and Barb O’Brien; and Kathleen O’Brien Ausman, BSEvS’97, DDS’01.
One winter day, 1,400 miles from the cornerstone of campus, James, BSPha’71, and Barb O’Brien discovered a shared Creighton connection with a perfect stranger.
While vacationing in California, the O’Briens crossed paths with Gustavo, a neighborhood sanitation engineer. While on his route, Gustavo noticed Barb and Jim’s Nebraska license plate and asked the couple if they knew of Creighton University.
Jim is a 1971 graduate of the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions and is a former Creighton trustee. He has also served as president of the University’s National Alumni Board. Barb, an alumna from St. Catherine’s School of Nursing in Omaha, is an active member of the Creighton College of Nursing Alumni Advisory Board.
“It turns out, at the time, both Gustavo’s son and daughter were students at Creighton,” says Jim. “His face lit up when he told us about his children. We could just see how proud he is.”
From left: Sylvia, Gustavo Jr., BS’19, and Erica Pacheco-Rodriguez, BS’22; and Gustavo Pacheco-Lopez.
Erica Pacheco-Rodriquez is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, and her brother, Gustavo Pacheco-Rodriquez, graduated in May with a degree in exercise science. As parents of Creighton graduates, Jim and Barb say they feel the same sense of pride in their daughters, Kathleen O’Brien Ausman, BSEvS’97, DDS’01, and Erin O’Brien Beninato, BS’02. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Erin is an active member of the College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Advisory Council.
“We thought it was amazing to have this connection with Gustavo so far from Omaha,” says Barb. “As a mother and grandmother, it is easy to see how God is present and has blessed our family.”
The O’Briens consider the University community an extension of their own family. Jim says, “Creighton itself is one strong anchor for us all.”
The campus at 2500 California Plaza maintains memories and sentiments while providing the physical foundation for academia and engagement. With their named space in the College of Nursing Simulation Lab and their gifts of scholarships, the O’Briens support Creighton students in ways both tangible and intangible.
Their gifts to scholarships provide access to opportunities for personal and professional growth. The College of Nursing Simulation Lab allows students to benefit from the hands-on environment. The Barb and Jim O’Brien, BSPha’71 Simulation Room is emblematic of their passion for supporting higher education and provides a permanent place where students learn and build connections and memories with one another.
Barb and Jim O’Brien in the simulation room that carries their name.
“We believe Creighton is educating students to be their best in whatever field they choose,” says Jim. “To be well prepared, and to also be caring and loving.”
The O’Briens say that Creighton is ever present in their lives and their family remains mindful of the Ignatian motto, for the greater glory of God.
“Ignatius teaches us that it is important for us not just to do good things, but to do them for the right reasons,” says Jim. “We do our best to emulate this in our daily lives.”
The O’Briens are grateful to give back through philanthropy and service in support of students, to see their University succeed, and to support the preservation of Creighton’s unique community — a community that is always growing.
According to Jim, while visiting his children on campus, Gustavo and his family posed for a photograph on the steps of St. John’s Church, the same spot where the O’Brien family has stood and made their own memories. Gustavo shared this photo with the O’Briens—a picture-perfect moment of strangers forever connected by Creighton.
There are more than 50 buildings on Creighton’s campus today that have been constructed thanks to the vision and generosity of the donors. With the completion of Creighton Hall, named for our founders in 1878, to the recent additions of the award-winning School of Dentistry, we are humbled to honor those who carry on the tradition of providing innovative and dynamic learning spaces on campus. There are more than 550 names space on campus.
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