More than 540 Niagara University alumni, students and friends came together in the name of educational access and affordability during the institution's 2015 President's Dinner, held Nov. 13 at the Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel and Event Center.
The purpose of the President's Dinner is to generate funds for scholarship assistance for qualified Niagara University students. During the 2014-15 academic year, 98 percent of undergraduate students received scholarship assistance from the university that totaled more than $41 million.
"This evening is all about our students. At the core of why we are here is to continue to invest in these future leaders," stated the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. "Niagara students are passionate about learning, service, their communities and making a difference. They will frame the future of this region and the world."
Also celebrated during the event was Niagara University impact on the social and economic development of Western New York, the latter of which is estimated at $227 million annually.
Maher, who has made access and affordability to excellent education hallmarks of his presidency, pointed to several critical reasons for Niagara's ascent to become the region's largest independent Catholic university. Among them are the high degree of engagement students have with excellent faculty, a 97 percent job and graduate school placement rate within one year of graduation, and Buffalo-Niagara's highest four-year graduation rate.
"This is why students and families are coming to Niagara Universality in outstanding numbers. This is where faculty and administrators are servant-leaders, and graduates are focused on impact, social justice and healing. This is Niagara University," Maher said.
Lending even more substance to those statements, Niagara University achieved its highest-ever freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate this semester.
During Friday night's event, Niagara University also presented awards to four individuals known for extraordinary professional success and service to the community.
•Dr. Bonnie Rose (Medal of Honor) has contributed greatly to the development of Niagara University since joining the campus community as vice president for academic affairs in 2002. In 2004, she also assumed the title of executive vice president, and served in both positions until 2011. Rose officially stepped down from her role as EVP in August to go on a well-earned sabbatical for the remainder of the academic year. In her 13 years at NU, one of the hallmarks of Rose's work was her tireless dedication to working collaboratively across campus. She has been dedicated to an enrichment of the student learning experience through faculty-led initiatives in fostering active and integrative learning, developing a credit-bearing first-year course for all new freshmen, and fostering a diverse and inclusive culture on campus. Rose studied at Carleton University and the Indiana University School of Music, before earning master's and doctoral degrees from York University.
•After graduating from Niagara University in 1971, Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott (St. Vincent de Paul Award) earned a law degree from UB before joining the Buffalo and then Erie County law departments. He would later become the first African-American appointed as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Western District of New York. Scott made history again in 1981, when he was chosen as the first African-American assistant attorney general in charge of the New York State Department of Law's regional office. Beginning in 1984, he was elected to consecutive 10-year terms on the Buffalo City Court bench. In 1995, Scott became the first African-American to preside over the federal court bench in the Western District of New York. Among Scott's most notable accomplishments is the institution of Buffalo's Re-entry Court, a program that allows convicted defendants who have served their sentence to get job training, legal assistance and other help as a means of easing their transition to society.
•An internationally acclaimed researcher, Dr. Lawrence D. Jacobs (St. Vincent de Paul Award) was the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health-sponsored clinical trial that led to FDA approval of the first treatment proven to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis. The breakthrough has offered a better quality of life to those living with the relapsing form of the disabling disease. Jacobs was the author of more than 200 publications on neurology and an invited lecturer at medical institutions and professional meetings throughout the world. At the time of his passing in 2001, he was chair of the department of neurology of the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and director of the Jacobs Neurological Institute and the Baird Multiple Sclerosis Research Center at Kaleida Health's Buffalo General Hospital. A lifelong resident of Buffalo, Jacobs earned a bachelor's degree in natural science from NU in 1961 and a medical degree from St. Louis University.
•Robert J. Dwyer (Caritas Medal) was a first-generation college student when he came to Niagara University in 1961. Graduating with a history degree in 1965, he embarked on an eminently successful career in the securities industry, eventually retiring in 1999 as executive vice president and national sales director for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Elected an NU trustee in 1991, Dwyer became the second layperson to chair the board of trustees in 2002. He subsequently accepted the additional responsibility of national chair of the university's largest-ever capital campaign, "The Promise of Niagara," which raised more than $80 million. Dwyer and his wife, Connie, are the principal benefactors of the Dwyer Ice Arena, which bears their name. In 2000, they were made affiliates of the Congregation of the Mission. The Dwyer Family Foundation supports a number of charitable, health and social programs.
Pamela R. Jacobs-Vogt and Marsha Joy Sullivan, both members of the university's board of trustees, served as the dinner's co-chairs. The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president emeritus, was the event's honorary chair.
Jeffrey R. Holzschuh, Class of 1982, chair of NU's board of trustees, and Maryalice Demler, a member of Niagara University's Class of 1986 and anchor at WGRZ-TV Channel 2, served as emcees.
The American and Canadian national anthems were sung by seniors Marina Laurendi and Bradeen Walders, respectively. Laurendi and Walders were joined by classmate Elena Feliz on a rendition of the song "Kind and Generous" by Natalie Merchant. Junior Eric Saurers played guitar while adjunct professor Randy Andropolis was on piano.
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.