After a building phase that transformed its campus, Creighton University will prioritize fundraising for student scholarships and for faculty support, said its newly appointed head of development and alumni relations.
Rick Virgin became Creighton's new vice president for university relations on Aug. 14. He has worked 20 years in fundraising for public and private institutions of higher education, most recently at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he was senior associate vice president of university development.
“Any university always has ongoing physical needs for new buildings and for refurbishment,” Virgin said. “But this university has been lucky during the past 15 years to experience a lot of physical growth. My goal is to prioritize my time and attention to focus on supporting students and faculty.”
Virgin, who is of Mexican-American heritage, said he is particularly interested in making Creighton more affordable for underserved populations and students of color.
He grew up in western Illinois, near St. Louis, but spent most of his working life in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states and the South. He described his move to Omaha as something of a homecoming to the Midwest.
His father was an elementary school principal who moved his family to Connecticut when Virgin was in high school.
“I'm truly sort of falling in love with Omaha,” Virgin said, citing the city's work ethic, its family orientation and its thriving corporate and philanthropic sector, as well as its cultural offerings and customer-service orientation.
He and his wife, Kathleen Rapp, have a 4-year-old daughter. They moved into a house in the Happy Hollow neighborhood, which gives him a commute of just 10 minutes and enables him to zip back and forth between campus and home to take part in evening events and activities.
Virgin holds a bachelor's degree in management from Ithaca College and a master's degree in legislative affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he was employed as the chief development officer for the Graduate School of Political Management. He also has worked as vice president for development at the Close Up Foundation in Alexandria, Va., which provides citizenship education programs for junior high and high school students.
His first job after college was as a waiter and bartender at a friend's restaurant in Connecticut. His friend taught him how to run a profitable business by being attentive to employees as well as customers, he said.
Later in his career Virgin was part of a leadership team that established two for-profit businesses, Voter.com and ProCaritas, during the dot-com boom of 2000 and 2001.
Virgin's maternal grandmother migrated to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, in the 1940s, but his father's family history in the New World dates back to the 1760s in Charleston, S.C. Virgin grew up in an assimilated household where the Spanish language was rarely used at home. As a result, he said, his daughter, who was enrolled in a Spanish immersion preschool, speaks better Spanish than he does.
Virgin said he has been impressed by Creighton's commitment to its students. He said he wants to build upon that success.
“There's a solid foundation,” he said. “There's also a great deal of growth to be experienced.”
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