Summing up her near-40-year career at Creighton’s nursing college, professor emeriti Linda Lazure, PhD, uses a roller derby metaphor …
In roller derby, the player called the jammer scores points by lapping her opponents. The other team, meanwhile, stalls the jammer’s progress with a tightly packed wall of blockers.
One of the most exciting ways for the jammer to lap the pack is a “whip,” in which one (or more) of her teammates reaches back to swing her forward, the transfer of speed and momentum rocketing her past her opponents and putting points on the board.
That, Lazure said, is who she’s always tried to be — the player who pulls her teammates to the front.
“I loved my role at Creighton,” she said. “I loved working with the students. And to be a Creighton nurse. What a gift! I wanted to help as many of them as I could.”
As a professor and associate dean of student affairs, Lazure gave her students assist after assist.
She counseled them on campus matters. She helped them juggle work, study and life. She supported them emotionally and intellectually. And for quite a few years now, she’s supported them financially, too.
In 2009, Lazure established a scholarship for nursing students, in honor of her parents, Lyle and Letha Armstrong. She did so on the eve of their 75th wedding anniversary.
Recently, Lazure and her husband, LeRoy Lazure, BA’68, MBA’76, chose to endow the fund with a gift through their estate.
The fund will give students the opportunity to realize one of Lazure’s dreams: attend Creighton.
“I always wanted to go to Creighton, and I always wanted to be a nurse and a teacher,” Lazure said. “But then I also wanted to be a nun. And a flight attendant. And an archeologist and also, because of Barbara Walters, a TV journalist.”
One gets a sense Lazure could have done any of those things. She chose nurse and teacher.
But for one reason or another, the Creighton education never worked out. Lazure earned her nursing diploma at St. Catherine’s in Omaha and three further academic degrees at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Working at Creighton for the better part of four decades did nothing to abate the ache. If anything, the urge to be an alumna deepened.
It didn’t help that her husband and his family were Creighton alums; as well as her three children and many friends.
Her children received a generous tuition reduction as a benefit of their mother’s employment. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Lazure is so adamant about giving back.
“Even though my children received this wonderful tuition-remission gift,” she said, “I still insisted that they take out loans and work on campus — just like all their peers. I believe in having some ‘skin in the game.’”
For faculty and staff “who have received so much good from this University, it’s a no-brainer,” she said. “Giving back is what you do when you believe deeply in an institution.”
Lazure could have attained a Creighton degree over the years, too. But between teaching and raising children and working on the side at ERs and serving on committees and task forces, between helping shape health care policy as the president of the Nebraska Nurses Association and expanding access to nurse practitioners across the state … between all that, where was the time?
Still, serving Creighton — being an essential part of the institution she loved — was a reward in itself. And one for which she was, in fact, officially awarded.
This spring, Lazure received an honorary alumni citation, which recognizes Bluejays who are not Creighton graduates but have worked to better the University and community.
That meant the world to her, she said. A Creighton alumna at long last.
That accomplishment checked off her list, it was time to help others again.
Lazure’s sense of service, she said, all goes back to John F. Kennedy. Growing up, Lazure would watch the President’s speeches on TV. Those speeches sparked something, inspired her to go out and do good in the world.
Ever since, she’s “tried to leave the world better than I found it” and — back to the roller derby metaphor — “to reach back and pull others through.”
Lazure’s latest assist plays a different (and nonmetaphorical) sport: Creighton baseball.
Jason Allbery, first baseman and Class of 2020 nursing student, will receive Lazure’s scholarship for the upcoming academic year.
Lazure’s fund prioritizes fifth-year transfer students like Allbery, for whom academic scholarships have begun to dry up.
“Most academic scholarships only go four years, and your expenses go up a lot in your fifth year,” Allbery said. “So I’m very grateful to her, for making this gift and supporting me through my final year.”
The end of Allbery’s final year will mark a milestone: He will be the first Creighton baseball player to graduate from the nursing college.
At most schools, he said, it’s not possible to play baseball and study nursing at the same time. They both take too much time.
On the one hand … practice, travel and games, games, games. On the other … classes, study and a grueling number of clinical hours.
Allbery’s made it work because Creighton has made it work.
“I’m lucky to have teachers and coaches who will accommodate my schedule,” he said. “Creighton is one of the few places in the country where I could do this.”
For Lazure, the thrill never goes away — reaching back, lending a hand, helping to pull the next generation forward. Player by player. Student by student.
For more information or to make a gift to the College of Nursing, contact Emily Bauman, Senior Director of Development for the College of Nursing and Regional, at EmilyBauman [at] creighton [dot] edu or 402.280.2038.