Creighton University alumni might have a few stories about the Rev. Timothy R. Lannon, who graduated from the Jesuit university in 1973.
But if his former classmates are tempted to share, Lannon said, be warned: “I have stories, too!”
Lannon's sense of humor shone throughout his inaugural address Friday, the day he was formally installed as Creighton's 24th president.
Nearly 2,000 people filed into the Kiewit Fitness Center on campus to welcome Lannon, 60, to the helm.
Among the dignitaries at the event were Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson and Mayor Jim Suttle.
“Omaha is what it is today in part because of Creighton University,” Suttle said.
Now in his ninth week on the job, Lannon came to Creighton after eight years leading St. Joseph University in Philadelphia. He succeeded the Rev. John Schlegel, who retired in June.
Lannon considers Schlegel a mentor. His predecessor was in the audience.
In an interview this week with The World-Herald, Lannon outlined his goals for the university, which under Schlegel saw a massive building boom and expansion and a $400 million fundraising campaign.
Lannon wants to continue those fundraising efforts so the school can provide more financial aid to students who otherwise would not be able to attend. He said the law school, for instance, would like to provide more money for students who need help.
More building on campus is possible, Lannon said, one day. For now, he wants to look at the space Creighton already has and make sure it's being used efficiently.
He also wants to further boost Creighton's reputation for academic excellence. In particular, he's looking at expanding the university's online graduate degree program.
Creighton this year is at its highest enrollment ever, with 7,730 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
“Spirit of Creighton” was the theme of Lannon's address. He talked about his personal connections to the university and how the school has affected the lives of students, faculty and the community.
The Spirit of Creighton is the university's highest student honor. Lannon received the award the year he graduated with a math degree.
“I certainly was influenced by the Spirit of Creighton when I was a student here,” Lannon said. “I discovered leadership skills and inner strength I did not know I had.”
Lannon is the university's first alumnus to serve as president.
He is a native of Mason City, Iowa. His father, James Woodward Lannon, graduated from Creighton's medical school in 1936. Lannon proudly pulled out his dad's old CU letter sweater — a move that roused the crowd to cheers.
Lannon's leadership style appealed to the Creighton board of directors, said Bruce Rohde, board chairman.
He is outgoing, the kind of man who likes to meet people. He lingers on campus to talk to students. He recently hosted a party at his apartment with dozens of students.
“He was well-versed in everything about Creighton University. And he's not coming up with any shotgun approach. That's a good leader,'' Rohde said.
Under Lannon, St. Joseph improved student housing, the student center, science center and fieldhouse. The school also bought a 38-acre campus from a private K-12 school and revised its undergraduate curriculum.
Suttle had this advice for the new Creighton leader:
“Go forth and set the world on fire.”
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