Briefing Room


Creighton’s foresight sparked growing Program on Law and Leadership

January 5, 2009 | Alumni

Jack Creighton ’57 didn’t know what would result from an ongoing conversation about leadership he had with then Dean of the Moritz College of Law Nancy Rogers.

He didn’t know the impact that the leadership scholarships he helped create would have on the College. He didn’t know that his idea would be joined with another – a “Lawyers as Leaders” course. He couldn’t predict that together the initiatives would explode into a Program on Law and Leadership at Moritz.

“Leadership has always been a subject that interests me,” Creighton said in a recent phone interview. “What type of people become good leaders? What are things that have made people good leaders in the past? My feeling was that the subject was particularly a tough one to teach. But I also felt that there was a need to awaken people’s minds to the topic, particularly in law school. These are some of the best and brightest of our college graduates, and we need to open the eyes of law students to the fact that they have a great resource and a great obligation to become leaders.”

Creighton didn’t know that his idea would blossom into such an undeniably successful program, one in which other law schools around the country have begun to emulate. But his foresight has done plenty to put Moritz on the cutting edge of incorporating leadership training in a legal education and has had an immeasurable impact on the College.

Leadership scholarships and the leadership program help Moritz recruit top-notch students who have multiple acceptances to other prestigious law schools. The leadership scholarships, which were possible largely because of Creighton’s generosity, do something else. They create institutional momentum. By offering scholarships to top students, the credentials of the whole class rise. Case in point, Moritz continues to attract its most highly credentialed classes in history. And, as the credentials have risen, more highly credentialed students have begun to take notice and are applying in greater numbers.

“I never intended this to be used as a magnet to attract other quality students, but it is certainly a positive twist,” Creighton said.

These leadership scholars are bringing more than top grades and stellar credentials to Moritz. In addition to a combination of smarts, ambition, focus, and drive, they bring a desire to grow as leaders. Law school for them is about honing not only their legal skills, but also their leadership skills — skills they will use when someday they are called upon to guide their firms and organizations, their communities, and maybe even their state or country.

“My primary motivation was to take students who were there and introduce them to the subject of leadership. It seems like that is happening.”

Creighton said that he has been fascinated by the subject of leadership for years. He’s had the opportunity to learn from some great leaders in the past, and countless people can speak to Creighton’s storied leadership.

When he became president of the Weyerhaeuser Company, an international forest products company, in 1989 it was in the bottom quartile of the forest products industry. By 1992, the company was in the top quartile and by 1997 it finished No. 1.

He joined the United Airlines board of directors in 1998 and became interim chairman and chief executive officer in 2001. He provided critical leadership in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and served through September 2002. He also has led as vice chairman and director of the Unocal Corporation.

Creighton joined Madrona Venture Group as a strategic director in 1998. Madrona is a leading venture capital firm in the Pacific Northwest.

He serves on the boards of Intrepid Learning Solutions, SaltChuk Resources Inc., the Ohio State University Foundation, the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Washington State University Foundation. He is a past president of both the Boy Scouts of America and Washington State University Foundation. He is currently co-chair of the World Trade Center in Seattle, advisory board member of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, and the civilian aide to the secretary of the army for the state of Washington. Creighton also aids the leadership program by attracting notable speakers like Ruckelshaus to campus to speak. Ruckelshaus, a former U.S. deputy attorney general, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke to a packed crowd of Moritz students in September.

“The purpose of the program, in my view, is to awaken people to what I would say is their obligation to be a leader,” Creighton said about the Program on Law and Leadership, which is open to all students, not just Leadership Scholarship recipients. “To look at outstanding leaders who we have had in the past and try to discern the characteristics that made them such great leaders.”

Professor Garry Jenkins, co-director of the program and a former executive of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, first pitched the idea for the Lawyers as Leaders course in 2003 when he was recruited to Moritz. He credits Creighton with providing invaluable guidance to the College on its leadership programming.

“Jack Creighton has lived an exemplary life of leadership, and his career embodies what it means for a lawyer to combine insight, ethics, and courage into visionary leadership.  When we began thinking about what a comprehensive leadership development and leadership education initiative might look like in a law school context, we turned to Jack and he was chock full of ideas, advice, and great suggestions,” Professor Jenkins said. “Both his vision and financial support have been essential components in helping the Moritz College of Law develop an innovative, first-rate Program on Law and Leadership. As a result, we’ve elevated the discussion of leadership at the law school and we’re helping students prepare for their own lives of leadership in law practice, corporations, government, and nonprofits.”

But, Creighton cautioned, he understands that not every student who enrolls will have what it takes to be a “great leader.” Leadership is something that is difficult to teach, he said.

“I think there are a lot of people who can take the course and maybe get an A,” he said. “Even though they got an A, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the personality or characteristics that will make them great leaders. However, I think the course can help them and move them further down the road to becoming a leader. Leadership training is an ongoing process that will carry forward throughout our lives.”