On the Cover

Mike Skowronski, Corporate Relations Developer, Career Services

“Nine years after I joined the Niagara University community my life was changed as a result of meeting one person: Father Joseph Levesque.

“In 1991, I launched my career at Niagara as both the swim coach and the job locator in the Career Development Center. While I enjoyed my work and felt I was a part of the campus community, the Vincentian spirit had not yet caught me. That changed in 2000 when Father Levesque became president of Niagara. In his first community meeting, he talked about his passion for Niagara, his passion for St. Vincent, and his passion for serving the community. His talk profoundly affected how I viewed my own life. My good friend and colleague Dr. David Taylor was touched by Father’s words in the same way, and together we asked Father, ‘What can we do?’

“As a result of his long relationship with Niagara, Father Levesque understood the relationship between the campus and the City of Niagara Falls. He asked for people to become agents of change for the city, and as I am a Niagara Falls native and Dr. Taylor is an expert on the challenges of declining cities, how could we say no? Together, we worked with Father to come up with ways to help the community. We didn’t have a grand, overarching vision or crystal-clear mandate, but that was what made the process so enjoyable. It allowed us to explore options, have conversations, and look at how the university was integrated into the community. We weren’t just an ivory tower –– we were part of the fabric of the community. Ultimately, our journey did have an impact. It spawned new programs such as the Boarder Community Service Program, COPC (Community Outreach Partnership Center) and ReNU Niagara. Ultimately, it led to the creation of the Institute for Civic Engagement, which, fittingly, was recently renamed the Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., Institute for Civic Engagement*. The Levesque Institute will now hold an even more prominent place on campus. This is something that Dave and I had always hoped would happen, and now it is a part of Father’s living legacy at Niagara.

“Here is a snapshot of what it is like to work with Father Levesque: He has a legendary commitment to returning phone calls and emails within 24 hours … he listens in a way that makes you feel like you are the only person in a room filled to capacity … he reaches out to help no matter where he may be at the time. And, not so much because he is the president or a priest, but when Father asks you to do something, it is almost impossible to tell him ‘no’ because you are inspired. You don’t want to let him down. These things will not appear in the history books or on plaques that adorn the walls of campus buildings, but they are the reason Niagara has seen such a positive transformation over the past 13 years.

“I am confident that many people would agree that Father Levesque has not only served as our university president, but he has fulfilled a number of roles in our lives.

“Father’s passion for St. Vincent and serving the poor is infectious. As a result of his leadership, I am more understanding of the plight of the poor and underserved, and more motivated to act in their service. I recognize now that I have been captured by the Vincentian spirit. I wouldn’t be in the place I’m in life without having known Father for all these years. He has been a priest, an advisor, a mentor, and a friend to me. My own father died 10 years ago, and Father Levesque’s relationship with me at that time filled that void in my life. In many ways, he has truly been a father to me.

“With Father, it’s not the big things, it’s the subtle things. There’s just a presence about him that’s hard to explain, but it leaves you feeling profoundly grateful for the opportunity to know him.”