OMAHA, Neb. -- Dubuque native John P. Schlegel has figuratively gone a long way from his days as a member of the Wahlert High School class of 1961 to this coming Thursday, when he will step down as longtime president of Creighton University.
After leaving Dubuque and Wahlert in the early 1960s, Schlegel became a Jesuit, eventually receiving a bachelor of arts in philosophy and classics from St. Louis University, a degree in theology from the University of London and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University.
Schlegel became the president of Creighton in 2000, having served in a similar post at the University of San Francisco and as vice president of John Carroll University in Cleveland before that. In addition he also worked as an academic dean at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, and dean of arts and sciences at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Schlegel, whose 94-year-old mother still lives in Dubuque, is looking forward to stepping down from Creighton.
"I've had a very good experience at Creighton," he said, as if it was no big deal. Others see his tenure as a huge deal. Colleagues have described his presidency glowingly, saying Schlegel has been a "transformative president." The Omaha City Council has gone so far as to name one of their streets "Schlegel Way," and Creighton University Medical Center recently dedicated a fountain to him.
Under Schlegel's tutelage, student enrollment increased by more than 17 percent to about 7,400 students, the campus has seen the construction of new buildings and the university has become a major player and partner in downtown Omaha.
"I've been in higher education for 40 years," Schlegel continued. "I sort of want to get away from that, and get into something more pastoral."
And if not pastoral, he is thinking perhaps teaching would be satisfying.
"I would like to get back into the classroom. It's where I started, and I would like to end there as well."
The 67-year-old seems to have many options that he must weigh.
"Actually, I'm looking at a couple of things right now. One would take me to New York and the other to Zimbabwe in Africa, two very different choices to pray over."
A frequent visitor to his hometown, Schlegel will first take a six-month sabbatical at Marquette University before he embarks on his next voyage, his next calling.