More than 520 Niagara University alumni, students and friends came together in the name of educational access and affordability during the institution's 2014 President's Dinner, held Nov. 1 at the Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel & Event Center.
The purpose of the President's Dinner is to generate funds for scholarship assistance for qualified Niagara University students. During the 2013-14 academic year, 98 percent of undergraduate students received scholarship assistance from the university that totaled nearly $40 million.
"Tonight, we celebrate and recognize a university and three individuals who make it their aim to create impact and revitalize the Niagara-Buffalo region," said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president. "At Niagara University, we are committed to graduating more dynamic and transformational leaders, those who will help frame the future of Western New York."
Maher has made access and affordability to excellent education hallmarks of his second year as president of Niagara University.
Raising critical scholarship dollars - the impetus behind NU's President's Dinner - will allow even more students to afford the comprehensive education, founded in the Catholic, Vincentian tradition, offered at Niagara.
Accordingly, Maher announced NU would be implementing new scholarship initiatives for transfer students, students from Western New York and graduates of Catholic high schools, as well as the expansion of the Vincentian scholars program, which was established by James V. (Class of 1957) and Mary Glynn to offer qualified students a four-year program of enriched study and meaningful community service.
During Saturday night's event, Niagara University also presented awards to three individuals known for extraordinary professional success and service to the community.
Glynn and Maryalice Demler, '86, received the university's St. Vincent de Paul Award. The honor is conferred upon individuals "whose vision, accomplishments and good works reflect the life and ministry of St. Vincent de Paul."
Additionally, Robert M. Bennett, chancellor emeritus of the New York State Board of Regents, became the inaugural recipient of NU's Legacy of Service Award, recognizing his exemplary commitment to the community.
Demler earned bachelor's degrees in political science and French from Niagara University. Her broadcasting career started at WJYE-FM; in 1993, she began working at WGRZ-TV. In addition to her work as Channel 2's main female anchor, Demler has done extensive live reporting on major world events. She has earned two Emmy Awards from the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Demler also has received an Associated Press Award, and was named a Business First of Buffalo "40 Under Forty" honoree. A tireless community advocate, Demler serves as a board member for both Peaceprints Prison Ministries and the Renaissance House. For several years, she emceed NU's President's Dinner.
Glynn joined the Maid of the Mist in 1950 as a ticket seller, and continued to work there while earning his bachelor's degree in business administration from Niagara University. He purchased the Maid of the Mist in 1971, and has been a driving force behind its prominence as one of the oldest and most recognized tourist attractions in North America. Deeply committed to the Niagara Falls community and the Western New York region, Glynn has served in a variety of volunteer leadership roles, most notably as a 22-year trustee of Niagara University, where he has been named chairman emeritus. Other organizations that have benefited from Glynn's generosity include Heart, Love & Soul, Opportunities Unlimited, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the United Way of Niagara, to name a few.
Bennett, who spent 27 years with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County (including 15 as president), was elected to the New York State Board of Regents in 1995. He was re-elected to subsequent five-year terms in 2000, 2005 and 2010, and also named chancellor for three consecutive terms, beginning in 2002. In April 2009, Bennett stepped down as chancellor, but was unanimously appointed chancellor emeritus. He continues to serve as a regent, representing Western New York.
John P. Rumschik, a 1977 NU grad who recently completed an eight-year term as a member of Niagara University's board of trustees, and his wife, Barbara, served as the dinner's chair couple.
Scott Levin, anchor at WGRZ-TV and father of a Niagara University sophomore, was the master of ceremonies.
The American and Canadian national anthems were sung by juniors Matthew DiVita and Marina Laurendi. Guests were treated to a musical interlude courtesy of DiVita, Laurendi and senior Kyle Baran. Senior Nathanial Higgins provided accompaniment
Additional information on Niagara University's financial aid and scholarship programs can be found online at www.niagara.edu/scholarships-financialaid or by calling 716-286-8700.
For information on establishing or contributing to a scholarship fund, contact NU's Office of Institutional Advancement at 716-286-8787, or go to www.niagara.edu/make-a-gift.