The writer, of Omaha, is a Jesuit priest and the president of Creighton University. The following is excerpted from a speech he gave Tuesday night upon his induction into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.
At first blush, a Jesuit and the Business Hall of Fame may seem somewhat of an oxymoron, but a closer look gives a different impression.
Two guiding principles of Jesuit education — among others — are preparing to be agents of change and seeking the greater good.
From an institutional perspective, those two principles coalesced when Omaha started to revitalize its historic business district proximate to Creighton. Opportunities appeared for us to participate in this renaissance and reinvent the campus footprint.
In that process, we activated significant change to a struggling neighborhood, resulting in the greater good for the city and north downtown.
Urban universities may choose to withdraw from the city and become cloistered academic islands, or they can integrate the institution into the city. Creighton has chosen the latter.
The Jesuits have always migrated to the bustling heart of great cities to teach, preach and serve. We thrive being in and of Omaha.
This integration enriches our mission and our students’ education. I believe campus development can redefine an institution’s sense of purpose and energy, its academic goals and its public and civic image. The interdependence between an urban university and the city can impact economic development, affect a city’s most urgent problems and promote a positive community image.
As I reflect on Creighton’s partnership in Omaha’s development, I am aware that Creighton provides to our community a well-educated, professional citizenry that enriches the life of the city. And with 62 percent of our students coming from outside Nebraska, we consistently contribute to the “brain gain” of the city and region.
The Creighton of today embodies the early Jesuit “urban strategy” of being where the action is, where the people are, where the greater good can be done for the greater glory of God. Omaha is a rich laboratory where our students can learn, lead and serve in a diverse and changing city.
So maybe this juxtaposition of Jesuit and business is not so much an oxymoron as it is the confluence of opportunity and aspiration; where there is a will, there is a way. While the desired outcome for city and university is similar, the motivation might differ.
For my part, the driving motivation has been to serve God and serve my neighbor.