Former president of Creighton University, Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., died Sunday. Officials say he died of pancreatic cancer. He was 72.
Schlegel served as president from 2000 to 2011. After leaving Creighton, and a 16-month stint as president and publisher of “America” magazine in New York, Schlegel came to his last ministry as pastor of the Gesu Parish in Milwaukee. Schlegel joined the pastoral team at the Church of the Gesu, serving Marquette University in Milwaukee, and was also a chaplain for the health sciences at Marquette. In his last days, Schlegel elected to return to Omaha for hospice care.
Schlegel, who was born in Dubuque, Iowa, was a bold, transformative presence as the University and the City of Omaha entered the 21st century.
“Fr. Schlegel was a passionate supporter of Catholic and Jesuit education, and friend to Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters,” said University President the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, S.J. "He loved Creighton and the Omaha community. He will be missed by many.”
Schlegel became the 23rd president of the University in 2000 and quickly set about growing the campus academically, spiritually, artistically and athletically.
“As a person, Fr. Schlegel was complicated, deeply curious, completely engaging and driven to make the world better,” said Melissa Kean, a Creighton alumna, member of the University Board of Trustees and a longtime Schlegel confidante. “As a university president, he was of the rarest sort: his incandescent intelligence was equaled by his boldness.”
Schlegel graduated from St. Louis University with a B.A. in philosophy and classics and an M.A. in political science. He also earned a theology degree from the University of London and a doctorate from Oxford University (England) in international relations.
He first came to Creighton in 1978, teaching political science. He served as academic dean of Rockhurst College (1982-84), dean of Arts and Sciences at Marquette University (1984-88), and executive and academic vice president at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio (1988-1991). Schlegel served as president of the University of San Francisco from 1991 to 2000. In 2011, he was appointed president and publisher of America Press Inc., a Jesuit magazine and website.
A funeral Mass is being planned for St. John’s Church. More information will be shared as it becomes available at the following website, creighton.edu/schlegel.