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The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. (Niagara University photo)
The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. (Niagara University photo)

Niagara University President Emeritus, The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., passes away


Mon, Jun 24th 2024 10:00 am

Submitted by Niagara University 

The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., former president of Niagara University, passed away peacefully June 23, 2024, at St. Catherine’s Infirmary in Philadelphia at the age of 85.

Father Levesque served as the 25th president of Niagara University, and when he retired from that role in 2013, the university’s Board of Trustees voted to confer on him the title of president emeritus. Immediately following his presidency at Niagara, Levesque served as the interim president at St. John’s University in Queens.

“Father Levesque leaves a tremendous legacy, which impacted everyone who had the chance to meet him,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “He will be forever remembered for his faith-filled legacy of pastoral care, his leadership of the Province and Niagara University, and his never-ending commitment to service of the poor and the oppressed. Father Levesque was a shining example of what a Vincentian priest should strive to be, and he will be greatly missed.”

Levesque began his tenure as president of Niagara in January 2000. He was the fourth longest-tenured president in the history of Niagara, behind only the Rev. Patrick V. Kavanagh, C.M. (1878-94), the Rev. Robert E.V. Rice, C.M. (1863-78), and the Rev. Joseph M. Noonan, C.M. (1932-47).

During Father Levesque’s presidency, Niagara completed an $80 million capital campaign – “The Promise of Niagara…The next 150 years” – at that time, the largest fundraising initiative in its history. The cornerstone of the campaign was the state-of-the-art B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences. The campaign also included the construction of the 56,000-square-foot Academic Complex and adjoining Bisgrove Hall, the renovation of the Leary Theatre and the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre, and the Gacioch Family Alumni and Admissions Center, formerly Meade Hall.

A native of North Tarrytown, Levesque was ordained as a Vincentian priest in 1967 after studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pennsylvania. He taught religious studies at St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn and at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, before being assigned to Niagara’s religious studies department in 1970. Levesque left his teaching duties at Niagara University to pursue his studies in theology at The Catholic University of America, where he received his doctoral degree.

In 1978, Levesque resumed teaching at Niagara and was also named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the college’s graduate division. He remained in that post until 1986, when he returned to seminary work, serving as president of St. Joseph’s Seminary.

Levesque was elected provincial superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission in 1990. He stepped down from the position in June of 1999 after the maximum nine-year term and subsequently assumed the presidency of Niagara University.

Levesque served as chair of the boards of St. John’s University and Niagara University during his term as provincial. He was concurrently active in the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, a leadership organization that serves all male religious in the United States. Levesque served as president from 1995-97, gaining a national presence through his work with the Catholic bishops and with church authorities in Rome. He was the conference’s liaison to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy from 1991-94.

Levesque received honorary degrees from Niagara and St. John’s universities, two of the three Vincentian institutions of higher education in the U.S. (DePaul University is the other). He received an honorary doctorate from Christ the King Seminary, the former seminary in East Aurora, where he had served as a board member for several years.

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