Opening Remarks

Opening Remarks

Time has a way of passing quickly. It’s difficult to imagine that it’s been 13 years since my inauguration as the 25th president of this wonderful university. A few months ago, as I prepared to announce to the Niagara community that I would be stepping down as president, I was flooded with thoughts of just how much has changed on our campus since that March day in the year 2000, and all that has happened as we all worked together for the transformation of Niagara University.

Back then, we were planning to make major technological improvements to St. Vincent’s Hall, necessary renovations that taught us how to be resourceful in our fundraising. Today, we are grateful for having completed an $80 million capital campaign, easily the most transformative in Niagara University’s storied history. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this extraordinary campaign, for you have helped to make Niagara University better and stronger.

The goals that we set and accomplished over the last 13 years began and ended with our students always in mind. Our students have been our focus, and our labor is for their benefit. We are educating more young people than ever before. Compared with our statistics from 1999, the number of freshmen at Niagara University has increased by 11 percent, transfer numbers are up 47 percent, and there has been a 48 percent spike in those enrolled in our outstanding graduate programs. Serving more students has been one of our primary objectives, and it will continue to be despite the mounting challenges we face as an institution of higher education. Thank you for the support you have lent us in this regard. We hope that you will continue to help us as we strive to make a positive impact on more students.

A significant factor in the growth of Niagara’s enrollment is the superb quality of our academic programs. We are a leader in active, integrative learning, effectively combining the theory of the classroom with the reality of the workplace. Our reputation for scholarly excellence is routinely praised in prominent national publications such as U.S. News & World Report, the Princeton Review, and Colleges of Distinction. This is a tribute to the excellence of our students and faculty, the depth and breadth of our learning communities, and the willingness of our alumni to contribute to the Niagara experience in so many ways. Niagara University is indebted to all of you in this regard.

Also weighing on our ability to attract students is our community’s Vincentian enthusiasm to educate all of God’s people, regardless of their backgrounds. One of the cornerstones of “The Promise of Niagara” was to generate funding for endowment and student scholarships, something we were successful in doing to the tune of more than $9 million. As a result, over 98 percent of our current students receive some sort of financial assistance, allowing us to bring talented, bright and promising young people to Niagara University. Without the Niagara Fund and endowed scholarships, many of these individuals might not have the opportunity to attend Niagara. We thank you, our alumni and friends, for your outstanding help and generosity.

As a Vincentian university, we have always promised to be faithful to our mission, to be a Catholic and Vincentian university. We are faithful to Catholic teaching, and we try to emphasize Catholic social teaching in many different ways. We seek to inspire our students to serve others, especially those who are among the neediest and most marginalized. We teach that giving back to society is a spiritual value that flows from the long and respected tradition of Catholic social teaching. Our nationally recognized, award-winning service-learning programs provide evidence of our commitment to helping others in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1999, our students performed 35,000 hours of community service. Last year, they contributed more than 56,000. Thank you for remaining committed to our mission.

There are so many people to thank at this particular time that I cannot do everyone justice in the limited space here. Just please know that all members of our Niagara University community appreciate you, every person reading this, for you have each played a role in one of the happiest and most successful times in the history of your alma mater.

Nothing important or great can be accomplished without the hard work of each member of the university community, but much can be achieved when we work together, as hard as we can, all the time. As I have said often, more will always be demanded of us, and we should be generous.

I am happy to say that I will be able to stay on at Niagara University, working in ways that I can assist the new president, the administration and all members of our community. NU has been my “home” for over 40 years, and it will continue to be for many years to come, God willing.

At this particular time, I would like once again to invite you to come visit Niagara University, and to feel free to let me know your thoughts and recommendations. Just give me a call, schedule a visit, or contact me at jll@niagara.edu.