Leading as a way of life
John W. Creighton Jr. has led with integrity throughout his lifetime, and he’s created pathways for Ohio State students to do the same.
The idea of leadership has fascinated John W. Creighton Jr. ’54, ’57 JD since his days as a student at Ohio State, where he understood that getting an education was about more than just earning good grades.
Creighton calls his Ohio State education “superb” and says he’s honored to be recognized with the 2018 Alumni Medalist Award, the highest honor afforded by The Ohio State University Alumni Association.
The Army veteran took a cue from Michael E. Moritz, a friend when both were undergrads and law school students more than six decades ago.
“Mike Moritz went after more than academic achievement,” recalls Creighton, who took the same approach while earning his degrees. He seized on the idea of being a leader as a way to live his life, as a way to put his education to full use while being in charge of several major companies and organizations, and as a way to help Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, named for his friend.
“I thought leadership could be taught and that leadership could be a goal for students as something more to achieve than just getting grades,” says Creighton, now retired and living in Bellevue, Washington.
Creighton’s passion and support for leadership training in the Moritz College of Law helped lead to the school’s innovative Program on Law and Leadership, which originated as a Lawyers as Leaders course taught in 2004 by Garry Jenkins, eventual co-director of the program that has served as a model for other universities.
“Jack made contributions that truly added to the value of that program,” says Nancy H. Rogers, Emerita Moritz Chair in Dispute Resolution. “It permitted us to provide some scholarship assistance to students who had that particular aptitude and who had already shown leadership. It changed the character of the [Moritz] student body in the sense that there are more students who already have experience in leadership, and they have a sense of dedication that makes them want to consider leadership opportunities in the future.”
The Program on Law and Leadership — which exposes law students to the values of leadership in their communities and their professional and personal lives — is a vibrant testament to how Creighton has spent his life paying forward to his alma mater.
The alumnus served on The Ohio State University Foundation Board and provided guidance to the university’s development efforts in the northwestern United States. He also was instrumental in renovations to William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library and supported the Special Collections Reading Room as well as Rare Books and Manuscripts.
“Jack was always very grateful for the education he received at Ohio State,” says Jenkins, now dean of the University of Minnesota Law School after 12 years at Moritz, the last eight as associate dean. “He understood the importance of having a first-rate, public law school and the opportunities that kind of education can provide for students. Ultimately, it placed him on a trajectory — combined with his own talents, smarts and ethics — which allowed him to reach the upper echelon of corporate life in this country.”
Creighton was president and CEO of Weyerhaeuser Co., interim chair and CEO of UAL Corp. (United Airlines’ parent company) immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, director of the Madrona Venture Group and Saltchuk Resources Inc., co-chair of the Seattle World Trade Center, civilian aide to the Secretary of Army for the State of Washington, and president and director of the National Council of Boy Scouts of America.
“Jack is a strategic leader,” Rogers says. “He gives careful consideration to the idea of effectiveness as a leader. He is dedicated to not only the purposes of the organization that he serves, but is dedicated to a value that these organizations, whether they’re businesses or not, are ultimately serving the public and serving the people who work for them.
“He begins with the goal of making a positive difference. One can’t make a positive difference over time without reaching out to the next generation. He does that at Ohio State, which he knows well,” Rogers adds. “He knows its values, and I think he feels confident that investing in Ohio State will make a difference. It’s not just loyalty; it’s that he shares the values of this university and knows those values from having been here.”
Creighton received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Moritz and the Cullman Executive Award from Fisher College of Business in 2003. Ohio State honored him in 2009 with the university’s Distinguished Service Award.
“I got a great education from Ohio State, both in my undergraduate classes and in law school. It’s a great school. To get an honor like this is really nice,” Creighton says. “I’m not going to be in Columbus for the award presentation because of the [travel] distance, but I appreciate it very much.”
Friends of the husband, father of three and grandfather of two say the Alumni Medalist Award is well-deserved.
“Jack has lived a life of leadership,” Jenkins says. “His career embodies the themes of the [Law and Leadership] program, which is preparing students at Ohio State to be lawyers and lead lives of service. He loves Ohio State and has really made an enormous difference in the program we were able to establish. It has become the core piece of the Ohio State law school’s identity.”