On the Cover

Dr. Timothy Osberg, Professor of Psychology

“Father’s impact on Niagara is not just measured in buildings, dollars, and awards. It is measured in the lives he’s touched. I’m happy to say mine is one of them! I have known Father for the entire 31 years that I have been at Niagara. I have been so blessed to get to know Father as a person. My wife Debra and I have dined with Father on many occasions. He’s been to our home several times. We have been fortunate to be his guests often at Niagara hockey games and other occasions. To be specific, our times together have ranged from enjoying jazz with him at the Anchor Bar to singing karaoke with him on our patio. The result of all of these experiences is that we have come to know the person Father is. It has been the best part of all of this! I’m just glad I have the opportunity to recount my own perspective, which I will share through a few brief recollections.

“In the time I have known Father, I have learned he is a warm and genuine person. I knew this the first time I met him in his role as the dean of Arts and Sciences. It was the day I interviewed for the position of assistant professor of psychology at Niagara back in 1982, having just defended my doctoral dissertation. It was a long day of meetings for me. I had presented my research and teaching philosophy to the faculty and students, and then had a meeting with the academic vice president. My last meeting of the day was with Father. It was the best meeting of the day! I still remember the warmth and sincerity Father conveyed as he welcomed me to Niagara and discussed Niagara’s Vincentian mission. From that day forward, I felt a deep commitment to Niagara and its Vincentian mission! Thank you for such an inspiring welcome to Niagara, Father!

“I have also learned that Father knows how to influence and motivate people. I’ll never forget one of my first experiences on the job –– a chance encounter I had with him as I crossed campus on the way to a class on one of my first teaching days. I was dressed in my signature corduroy jeans and flannel shirt –– the 27-year-old assistant professor that I was. Now as some of you may know, Father appreciates proper dress. But he also knows how to motivate people. Appealing to my competitive nature, he greeted me and casually mentioned that one of my young faculty colleagues ‘always wears a sport coat and tie to class, Tim.’ Needless to say, I dressed in a sport coat and tie for years after that. I do think I became less consistent around the time Father left Niagara to serve as the Eastern Province Provincial!

“I also have learned that Father has a keen sense of humor and a quick wit. This was evident during an NU hockey game I attended with my family about 14 years ago. The athletics department had put out a call for NU hockey fans to ramp up their efforts to be an enthusiastic crowd for a pivotal game. I brought a pot and a wooden spoon to make some noise, as many hockey fans do at Division I games. I played some serious percussion at this game! At one point, I looked over my shoulder after hearing Father’s familiar voice. It was 1999, and he had returned to Niagara as a leading candidate to become its new president. Keep in mind that I am a psychology professor – and that I was embarrassed about my drumming. So, as I greet Father, and members of the Board of Trustees who were sitting beside him –– Father lightens my embarrassment with his quick wit –– by introducing me as a music professor!

Another fond memory –– in a long list –– happened about a year later. My daughter Erika –– another newly minted 2013 graduate of Niagara –– was making her First Holy Communion. We invited Father to attend the ceremony and our celebration afterwards. We knew he was a busy man, a college president, so we didn’t expect him to be able to attend. Well, as the First Communion Mass began, we discovered that Father had arranged to be co-celebrant! What a wonderful surprise it was! This is the kind of thoughtful person Father Joe is!

I’ve also learned that Father can be pragmatic when necessary and that he is attuned to the needs of people. Another memory that stands out was when we were at a United Way Victory Luncheon. Father sponsored a table of 10 NU people. It was a Friday during Lent. The food comes out. It was a meat dish. The eyes of nine of us met! We were concerned about our lunch. Would we go hungry? We turned to our fearless leader –– Father –– who responded to everyone’s gaze by saying: “We eat what the Lord provides.

“I’d also like to recount a personal story Father shared with me recently about his vocation. He recalled telling his mom and dad about his intention to become a priest. His mother immediately responded by saying: ‘I am fine, whatever makes you happy.’ His father, however, had wanted his son to be part of the business world. Yet, he also indicated that his son’s choice of vocation was ‘alright’ with him. But demonstrating his love for his son, he did lobby that Father ‘should not become a Maryknoll priest because they’ll send you on missions far away from us’ and that Father ‘should not become a cloistered monk because we’ll never see you again.’ However, Father told me that, once ordained, he could not have found a more accepting and proud family than his mom and dad –– and sisters and brother. We here at Niagara share that same pride, as the beneficiaries of Father’s vocation. As a psychologist, I might also point out that Father’s ability to influence people, and his talents for fundraising, likely reflect the characteristics of a shrewd businessman –– talents that his father had seen in him!

“We all have been blessed to have a president who has been a visionary leader. But more importantly, we have been blessed to have a president who has lived up to the Niagara motto, emblazoned on our university crest –– ‘Ut Omnes Te Cognoscant.’ Its Latin translation means: ‘That all may know you’ –– and it is taken from the Gospel according to John, chapter 17, verse 3. The verse reads: ‘Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.’ We have been blessed to have a president who has upheld our motto, and who has maintained and strengthened Niagara’s Catholic and Vincentian core. And we have been blessed to have a president who has allowed us to know him and who has genuinely been interested in knowing us. Thank you Father Levesque, for responding to your vocation and for your leadership of this great university!”