Creighton University’s next president will be a Nebraska native who started his Jesuit life and teaching career on the Omaha campus.
The Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, currently an associate provost of academic initiatives at Marquette University, has been chosen by Creighton University’s board to be the school’s 25th president. He was in Omaha this weekend to meet with the board and will hold a meet-and-greet on campus today.
Hendrickson, 44, began his Jesuit education, taught philosophy and was ordained into the priesthood on Creighton’s campus. He has sat on Creighton’s governing board since last year. And he said he is thrilled to return as president because he has spent the last 25 years in and around Jesuit education and is personally invested in Creighton’s mission.
“That mission is about changing the lives of students, and about changing the world,” Hendrickson said.
The Rev. Timothy Lannon announced that he will step down as president next month because of health concerns.
J. Christopher Bradberry, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, will serve as interim president until Hendrickson comes to Omaha in July.
When Lannon, 63, first announced in February his planned departure, faculty and alumni voiced concerns that the replacement pool for Lannon — a locally connected, well-educated Jesuit — would be far more shallow than when Lannon was hired in 2011.
Hendrickson meets many of the priorities set out by the search committee, though concerns already are being raised on campus that his leadership experience is thin.
Creighton board Chairman Bruce Rohde said the search committee listened to the feedback it got early in the process. Faculty, staff and students said academic achievements, a terminal degree and commitment to the Jesuit mission were priorities. Hendrickson has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University and has taught on and off since he began training for the priesthood in 1996.
But he has been an administrator only since 2012, when he began working in the provost’s office.
Christina Clark, an associate professor of classical and Near Eastern studies who was critical of a search process that she said involved few faculty voices, said Hendrickson is a good man. He will get a warm reception from the many colleagues who remember him, Clark said.
But Creighton is complex, she said, and Hendrickson hasn’t been at the top of an organization like it.
“Even with someone who had many years of experience like Father Lannon, problems still remain,” Clark said. “I hope that Father Hendrickson can tackle these problems and do good things, but he’s never held a position like this before.”
Rohde said the board didn’t hear much demand for the candidate to be a sitting president, and he doesn’t think Creighton is a pioneer in hiring an “up-and-comer.” The Rev. William P. Leahy, a Creighton board member, was unproven in the role when he started as president of Boston College 18 years ago, Rohde said.
“You’re looking for potential and whether people have the DNA to do what needs to be done,” Rohde said.
Hendrickson was born in Fremont. He attended Mount Michael Benedictine High School in the Elkhorn area, where he said he became enamored with the monks and their chanting. It was peaceful, he said, and he began to contemplate what a meaningful life might mean for him.
He went to Marquette for his bachelor’s degree and then returned to Mount Michael, along with his twin brother, to teach as a volunteer for a year.
Hendrickson worked there as a residential dean and assisted in the classroom, said the Rev. Louis Sojka. He was faithful and serious, Sojka said.
“He had a keen sense of what needed to be done and how to get it done,” Sojka said.
Hendrickson started his Jesuit formation training, studying the humanities, at Creighton in 1996.
When the time came for him to take a full-time ministry position, usually served at a Jesuit high school, he requested permission to work on a campus instead. Hendrickson’s superiors at the Society of Jesus told him that if he could get a job, they would give him approval, and he was hired to teach philosophy at Creighton.
He was ordained into the priesthood in 2006 at St. John’s Church by Bishop William J. Dendinger of Grand Island, his mother’s cousin. Two years later, his twin brother, Scott, would be ordained as well.
Though he hasn’t been a president, Hendrickson said, he works with leaders throughout Marquette in his role in the provost’s office, where he also co-directs a service leadership scholarship program, oversees an enrollment growth initiative and managed expansion of the Title IX compliance office.
As a board member at Creighton, Xavier University and Boston College, Hendrickson said he has gained an understanding of the complexity of colleges, worked closely with leaders and been involved in capital campaigns and strategic planning.
“I’ve worked with the key players since day one at Marquette,” Hendrickson said. “It’s been full immersion on constant and persistent issues that impact the university.”
Scott Heider, a search committee member and chairman of the Heider College of Business board, said in a release that Hendrickson brings “a keen understanding of the value of a Jesuit education.”
He has taught at Jordan University College in Morogoro, Tanzania, and in programs in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Greece, Guatemala and India.
“His global teaching experience and his scholarly agenda, focused on Jesuit teaching, makes him particularly well-prepared to deepen Creighton’s connection to its mission,” Heider said.
Hendrickson said it’s too soon to know what his priorities will be as president but said he will work to articulate a vision that keeps Creighton close to its heart of undergraduate teaching and humanities, and listens to the people who care most about it.
“The role of the president is really to keep cultivating a sense of engagement and commitment to the university,” Hendrickson said.