NE - Saturday was a happy time for the parents, grandparents, other
relatives and friends of Creighton University's 1,180 graduates.
But for three American Indian families
from South Dakota, the day was especially memorable.
Not only did they watch their daughters
stride across the stage at the Omaha Civic Auditorium to accept
their diplomas, they saw the university's highest student award
- the Spirit of Creighton - bestowed on one of their own.
The awards are given each year to a man
and a woman who represent the best qualities of the university's
founding family, brothers Edward and John Creighton and Edward's
wife, Mary Lucretia Creighton.
The winners' names are kept secret and
announced right before the benediction.
So when Nakima Mills' name was called,
she and her family were taken completely by surprise.
"I'm real, real proud of her,"
said Mills' elated mother, Rhoda, after the ceremony. "She's
been a very hard worker. It's a great accomplishment."
Kurt Morrison of Littleton, Colo., was
the other Spirit of Creighton award winner.
The Rev. John Schlegel, president of the
Jesuit-run university, reminded the graduates that using one's talents
and education to help others is at the heart of Jesuit education.
"Your Creighton education enables
you to do well for yourself and do good for others," he said.
Mills and her fellow Indian classmates
plan to do just that.
Mills will begin study for a master's
degree in sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha this
Jessica Graham of Rapid City, S.D., plans
to get a job and then start work on a master's degree in computer
science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Nicole "Nikki" Haukaas of Rosebud,
S.D., a nursing graduate, will take her state board exams this summer
and then work at the Ponca Tribe's health and wellness center in
Jesuits have long ties to Indian missions.
They founded the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D., where
Graham and Mills went to school.
Tami Buffalohead-McGill, coordinator of
the university's multicultural student services and support, said
Creighton's aggressive campaign to recruit American Indians and
support them once they get to campus is paying off. Creighton enrolled
53 Indians this year, she said.
The graduation ceremony was the 111th
in Creighton's history.