Opening Remarks

Opening Remarks

You’ve surely heard the story by now.

Traveling back to campus following a game in Pittsburgh, the bus carrying our women’s basketball team became stuck in snow-muddled traffic on the New York State Thruway in the wee morning hours of Tuesday, Nov. 18. As time passed, and with no imminent end to the storm in sight, the team rationed food, melted snow for drinking water, and welcomed a marooned driver aboard the team bus.

Twenty-six hours later, having finally been rescued by a courageous group of first responders, the perseverance, perspective, and social media savviness of these 25 individuals had evolved into a national and international sensation.

Our Communications Office fielded inquiries from all 50 states, Australia, India, and Japan. Coaches and players were interviewed by The Associated Press, CNN, ESPN, Sirius/XM, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Anderson Cooper 360, as well as all of the major cable networks.

Luke Russert, Arsenio Hall, and Thurman Thomas joined the chorus of well-wishers who sent thoughts and prayers to the team via Twitter.

Through all of the coverage, Head Coach Kendra Faustin, her assistants and student-athletes remained gracious and grounded. Although beleaguered and tired, these young women, demonstrating wisdom and humility beyond their years, continuously expressed their gratitude to their rescuers and their concern for the motorists who were still stranded.

St. Vincent de Paul once said, “God allows us to give rise to the practice of two beautiful virtues: perseverance, which leads us to attain the goal, and constancy, which helps us to overcome difficulties.”

As president of Niagara University, I am extremely proud of the way these team members demonstrated these Vincentian qualities throughout their trying ordeal.

Many say that sports are a microcosm of our society. I would say that #NUWBBstrandedonbus, as it was referred to online, was emblematic of what it means to be a Niagaran.

We talk often about what makes Niagara University different — it’s our people and the manner in which we come together to encourage one another, to grow, and to make each other better. Here is an example of that community, a bus full of young women stuck on a dark highway amidst a historic snowstorm. Not once did they panic or become malcontent; in fact, the experience allowed them to bond even closer as a team. They encouraged one another. They sang. They prayed together.

The outpouring of support they’ve received from our students, alumni, and friends has been as monumental as the situation itself. Social media gets a bad rap but, in this case, it kept a team connected to the outside world. Technology allowed NU graduates from across the globe to send inspiring words to these young women, letting them know that they were in our thoughts and prayers.

In the days that followed the snowstorm, some creative professionals from Buffalo-Niagara’s regional tourism agency produced a song dedicated to the resilient people of Western New York. Of course, Let It Snow was sung by Michele Marie Benzin, Niagara University Class of 1998.

Thank you, Michele. And thanks to all of you for your support of our students.

The roadways have long since cleared. As always, I invite you to visit us, and let me know your thoughts and recommendations. I encourage you to email me your comments at jjm@niagara.edu.