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Father Levesque to step down as Niagara University president

by jmaloni
Tue, Jan 22nd 2013 04:45 pm
The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., is stepping down as president of Niagara University.
The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., is stepping down as president of Niagara University.

Well-liked administrator has held position since March 2000

The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., announced Tuesday that he will resign from his position as president of Niagara University at the conclusion of the current academic year.

Levesque will remain at NU, however, as the university's board of trustees has voted to confer on him the title of president emeritus. In this role, Levesque will be empowered to continue to help Niagara in ways designated by the new president and in a manner familiar to Levesque, especially in the areas of institutional advancement and in relation to the Institute for Civic Engagement.

Watch highlights of Levesque's announcement:

"This truly is a bittersweet day for me," admitted Levesque, whose association with Niagara University commenced in 1970 as a lecturer of religious studies. "With the help, trust and guidance of so many, we have accomplished the numerous goals that I articulated during my inaugural address. We have been successful in establishing and stabilizing a 'new Niagara,' all while remaining faithful to our mission and the best interests of our students and the community that we call home.

"I have been a member of the Niagara University community for more than four decades now and, although I will no longer be president, I am very happy to be able to say that I will remain at NU for a long time to come, God willing."

Levesque became the 25th president of Niagara University in January 2000. His 13 years of service makes him the fourth longest-tenured president in the history of the Catholic and Vincentian institution, 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).

Under Levesque's leadership, Niagara University has experienced a continuous process of transformation that has significantly developed the physical character of the university's campus and its 21st-century approach to teaching and learning.

Close to $100 million has been invested in new construction, renovation and improvement projects at Niagara University since the advent of Levesque's presidency. All of the initiatives undertaken are consistent with a comprehensive master plan that, at Levesque's direction, was created as the blueprint for the redevelopment of Niagara's 160-acre campus.

"Father Levesque has had a tremendous impact on the transformation of Niagara," stated Jeffrey Holzschuh, Class of 1982, chair of Niagara University's board of trustees. "He has set the bar very high for all of us, and we hope to continue to make him proud of the work we do, and of the university he calls home."

Niagara University recently completed an $80 million capital campaign - "The Promise of Niagara...The next 150 years" - the largest fundraising initiative in its history.

The cornerstone of the campaign, the state-of-the-art B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences, is on track to open this fall, as is the Gacioch Family Alumni and Admissions Center, formerly Meade Hall.

In August 2007, construction was completed on the 56,000-square-foot Academic Complex and adjoining Bisgrove Hall, which now house Niagara's accredited colleges of Education and Business Administration. Since then, the university has also completely renovated its theater complex and built a complementary lobby and reception area; revamped student food services and furnishings in the Gallagher Center (student union) and Clet Hall; upgraded campus-wide technology capabilities; and constructed a new residence for its Vincentian community.

In addition, the campaign raised in excess of $9 million toward scholarships and financial assistance for graduate and undergraduate students. This funding includes money to increase existing scholarships and fund new endowed scholarships for future students.

Reinforcing Levesque's, and the university's, commitment to community service was the September 2011 unveiling of Niagara's Institute for Civic Engagement. An initiative developed through the President's Office, the institute was designed to strengthen existing community partnerships and form new town-gown relationships.

"Anyone who speaks of Niagara University speaks of Father Levesque," added the Very Rev. Michael Carroll, C.M., provincial of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, 1973 Niagara University graduate and vice chair of its board of trustees. "That is partly because of the impact he has made on the university, but also because his influence reaches well beyond our wonderful campus.

"It is my great honor to say, 'thank you.' Thank you, Father Levesque, for your service to the Vincentian community. You have made us all very proud. Thank you for your service to Western New York. Your impact in this community is immeasurable. And, lastly, thank you for your service and leadership at Niagara University."

A native of North Tarrytown, Levesque was ordained as a Vincentian priest in 1967 after studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pa. He taught religious studies at St. John's Preparatory School in Brooklyn and at St. Joseph's Seminary in Princeton, N.J., 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 the 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 U.S. 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 holds 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 also holds an honorary doctorate from Christ the King Seminary, an interdiocesan seminary in East Aurora, where he has served as a board member for several years.

Presidential Transition Process

The Niagara University board of trustees has established a committee for presidential transition. This committee will work very closely with Carroll in identifying the 26th president of Niagara University. The university's administrative council, and a small group of individuals from the campus community, comprised of faculty and staff, will be involved in this process as well.

It is the goal of the board of trustees to identify a successful candidate over the next couple of months, and to name the next president as early as mid- March. The new president will then begin working on campus this summer.

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