A native of Maywood, Illinois, just 22 miles west of Chicago, Donald Montgomery BSBA’84, JD’89, wasn’t always sure that he wanted to pursue a legal career. What has mattered to him — and still does — is the importance of sports.
“Since graduation from law school, my charitable endeavors have been centered on youth, church and Creighton,” Montgomery says. “I am a firm believer that sports and team competition provide the perfect platform for developing leadership and character traits that translate to future successes, regardless of the career path chosen.”
Montgomery came to Creighton on a baseball scholarship. A third baseman, he played from 1981 to 1983 and still ranks among Creighton’s all-time leaders in several categories, including career batting average (fifth at .373), career stolen bases (eighth, 58) and batting average in a season (first, 470 in 1983).
Following his junior season, he left Creighton to pursue a pro career. “I played in the minor leagues —with the Montreal Expos — after my junior year,” he says. “I was drafted and chose to sign. I played that season and then came back to school in the fall and then returned to play the next spring. Yet when the next summer came, I decided to take a different path.” Montgomery recollects how he already had a job offer to work as a staff accountant at the firm Arthur Andersen in Chicago before receiving his undergraduate degree in business administration. “I guess I didn’t really see myself making it in the major leagues, so that’s why I didn’t pursue it. Law school was also definitely something I was considering back then,” he says.
Montgomery worked for nearly two years with Arthur Andersen in Chicago before returning to Omaha — and to Creighton — to attend law school. In the time between his undergraduate degree and law school, Montgomery married and had his first child. “I knew I could bring Paris, my wife, and my child back to Omaha because I remember Omaha and Creighton as being very welcoming and offering a sense of community,” Montgomery says.
A Baptist by faith, Montgomery says that Creighton’s Jesuit values, particularly its emphasis on cura personalis (Latin for “care of the whole person”), were always evident. “People I came into contact with during my visit while a high school senior — both in the sports world and in the greater Omaha community — made an impression on me. My coach back then made a point of introducing me to the North Omaha community,” Montgomery recalls. “It was a dramatic change coming from Chicago, but it wasn’t like falling off the ends of the earth. There were neighborhoods and communities that made me feel comfortable here. If I had gone to another university, such as a state school, I would have certainly not taken philosophy. Creighton had me get involved with those kinds of classes and gave me a different viewpoint in life. My first philosophy professor influenced me quite a bit, and so did Dr. [Thomas] Purcell [III, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Accounting at the Heider College of Business] and our friendship and mentorship has lasted ever since then,” Montgomery adds.
“The professors I had in law school were also people who cared about the person and not just about the profession. The overall campus environment is very friendly, family-oriented and open, and this is why I believe I was comfortable bringing my wife and young son back to Omaha while I was deep into the stress of law school. I knew there would be an additional support base for her and us, and there was.”
Montgomery and his wife and three sons (Wynton, Dante and Dylan) have lived in the Atlanta area for nearly 20 years, but Creighton still plays a large role in his life. “I’ve been to Homecoming in the past and attended Bluejay baseball games,” he says. “I also served as a Law Advisory Board member for four years, as well as serving on the National Alumni Board.” In addition to his recognition as the 2017 Alumni Merit Award winner for the School of Law, Montgomery was the recipient of the School of Law’s Pittman Award. Sports are still important to him. Montgomery has helped a number of youth organizations achieve 501c3 tax-exempt status to enable them to solicit charitable contributions. “Sports gave me the leadership skills to succeed in the classroom, and I want to share that with today’s youth,” Montgomery says.
“Without Creighton, I don’t know if I’d be the same person. It gave me direction and a foundation to always fall back on as I thought about my life and what I wanted to achieve besides business. I also bleed blue — I’m a very loyal Bluejay.”
The full version of this story appears in Creighton Lawyer Magazine.