Heider 100: the 1940s

Heider 100: 1940s Highlights

Image of Heider College of Business from now and 100 years ago


In 1940, the enrollment in the College of Commerce exceeded that of any other year in the school’s history to that point. While seemingly a good thing, this created a space problem, and university leaders determined that no increases in enrollment could happen until the university found additional classroom space. This would eventually happen but not for another two decades. Dean Floyd Walsh, in his report to The Creighton Alumnus that year, “assumed the need for constant evaluation of curriculum and methods of teaching, and constant revision of textbooks, in order to adapt to changing circumstances,” the Rev. Neil Cahill, S.J., noted in Creighton University College of Business Administration: The First Seventy-Five Years.

Colleges and universities across the country felt the effects of World War II during the decade. That included Creighton and the College of Commerce. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, Creighton President Rev. Joseph P. Zuercher, S.J., advised students that the best way they could serve their country was to stay enrolled in school. Reluctantly, Col. Robert J. Halpin, commandant of Creighton’s R.O.T.C. program, seconded the advice. However, the Rev. Henry W. Linn, S.J., who served as liaison between Creighton and the War Department, told students that if they signed up for one of the reserves, they could finish their degree before being drafted. Within a week, those students who followed this advice—likely in shock—were drafted and told to report for duty to help combat the manpower shortages. It’s unclear whether Rev. Linn had been given bad information or had simply misinterpreted a directive from the War Department.

Between the spring of 1941 and the spring of 1943, the student population “became decimated,” according to Rev. Cahill’s text. The effects of the war were felt in numerous ways. A paper shortage was one. Diplomas shrunk in size, and the Blue Jay yearbook went unpublished until after the war. Other wartime effects included:

  • From 1943 until the end of the war in 1945, the smaller student enrollment consisted largely of women and part-time students.
  • As university staff underwent a reduction due to the war effort, many faculty members had to step up and handle some of the university’s non-academic tasks. That included Dean Floyd Walsh, who, according to his wife, mowed university lawns, vacuumed carpet, and completed various repairs around campus. Dean Walsh also served as the Director of Veterans’ Service.
  • Walsh’s dedication and loyalty to Creighton was rewarded after the war, as he spent the latter half of the decade assembling a full faculty and fulfilling accreditation requirements.
  • In the spring after the Pearl Harbor attack, University President Zuercher announced that Creighton would begin an accelerated year-round schedule for the arts, commerce, journalism and university colleges. Students would then be able to earn a degree in three years.
  • Enrollment after the war entered a then-all-time high in 1947-48 with 711 students (about 24 percent of the university’s enrollment). This would drop (then hold steady) in the early 1950s.

Notable Alumni


A native of Carroll, Iowa, Charlie earned a bachelor of science in commerce from Creighton in 1949. He went on to become a well-respected leader in the investment community. Charlie assisted Warren Buffet with his 1967 purchase of National Indemnity Co., which was Buffett’s first entry into the insurance business.

In 1970, Charlie and Warren Chiles became partners as Chiles, Heider & Company. Charlie was a partner with Omaha investment manager Wallace Weitz until 2012.

Heider served on Creighton’s Board of Trustees for 17 years and had emeritus status on the board beginning in 1997. He received Creighton’s Alumni Achievement Citation in 2003, and, in 2010, Charles and Mary received Creighton honorary doctorates of humane letters.

In October of 2013, the Creighton College of Business Administration was re-named the Heider College of Business in honor of Charlie Heider and his wife, Mary, to reflect the business and ethical leadership of the Heider family. The Heiders became the largest donors in the University’s history with their transformational gift. 

See our entire 100 year timeline