Opening Remarks

Opening Remarks

In the few months since I officially commenced my term as Niagara University’s 26th president, I’ve welcomed the opportunity to speak with hundreds of alumni and friends, both near and far. It is through these conversations that I’ve gained a better understanding of what Niagara means to those who have come to know our people and programs.

Notice that I used the present tense — “means,” not “meant.” That’s because their affinity for Niagara University never wavers, even years, decades after their classification changes from student to alumnus or alumna. Oftentimes, it grows stronger.

Never was this more apparent than during Alumni Weekend in October, when 600-plus Niagarans returned to Monteagle Ridge to reflect on the special moments they shared together as classmates and friends. Many of these alumni described Niagara as a “magical place” — it was wonderful to witness them recapture the “magic” with their classmates.

Some came from as far away as San Diego, Calif.; others were 70 years removed from their time as undergraduates. Yet no matter how far they traveled to get here, and regardless of their advanced age, they all spoke glowingly of what brought them back.

And yet as much as the faces on campus change, that sentiment remains the same. The Niagara students of today are drawn here by the outstanding quality of our academic offerings, our state-of-the-art facilities or our border-neighboring location that cannot be duplicated anywhere in the world. But once they arrive, they are touched by the Catholic and Vincentian mission that is administered carefully and compassionately by our wonderful faculty and staff.

These students are now crafting their own Niagara stories the way you once did. It is our responsibility to imbue in them the passion to make a difference in the lives of others, to uphold and advance the legacy of those who came before them. We want them to share their experiences at Niagara in the same reverent and enthusiastic manner that our alumni do at all corners of the globe; in other words, we want them to bleed purple.

Within this magazine, you’ll learn about senior Joseph Hotchkiss, who was so inspired by one of his Niagara professors that he began revitalizing an abandoned park in the prime tourism corridor of Niagara Falls. Like a modern-day St. Vincent, he has accumulated resources — mostly human, some monetary —to forward the cause, one that will continue once the weather breaks. By the time you read this, Joe will have graduated from NU and turned some of his attention to starting a business downtown, doing even more to restore the proud city to its former glory.

When news of Joe’s efforts was made public, the first photojournalist on the scene was Ed Reilly, a 1980 Niagara University graduate. As an employee of the local ABC affiliate, Ed, the alumnus, met with Joe, the student, to record a 2-minute piece (lengthy by television standards), which aired as part of the channel’s “Good Things” segment during its Nov. 14 newscast.

Ed Reilly is in the business of telling stories. We want to delve into that business, too. We’re not planning to launch a television station by any means; rather, we want to communicate the “magic of Niagara” organically, by word-of-mouth, through this magazine, our website and our social media presences.

We want to tell Niagara stories — your stories— to a larger audience, one that spans continents, languages and cultures. Institutionally, we are making it a strategic priority to expand our presence internationally. It’s a way to sustain the university from an enrollment perspective and it will significantly enrich the diversity of the on-campus experience for our students.

To do so, we need to hear your stories, your successes and challenges, and how Niagara has been an important part of shaping the person that you are today. We want to hear your stories so that we can share them with prospective students. Please consider my inbox always open. I encourage you to email me your comments at jjm@niagara.edu.

Thank you for contributing to the “magic of Niagara.”