Niagara Gazette

July 30, 2013

Father Levesque honored by Niagara University before heading out to St. John's post

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The Rev. Joseph Levesque is on his way to his new, temporary job at St. John's University. But before his new school could get its hands on him, his home for the past 42 years needed one last chance to celebrate and say goodbye.

Niagara University's outgoing president of 13 years, and a mainstay on the campus since the early 1970s, is on his way to his new temporary home today and will begin as interim president at the Vincentian sister school in Queens, where he'll assume leadership from the outgoing the Rev. Donald Harrington.

It's a move he wasn't planning on making when he announced his intentions to vacate Niagara's leadership in February. At that point, he was prepared to serve as president emeritus. But plans change.

"My reason for changing my mind is that I'm part of the Vincentian community," he said. "My community and the board of trustees at St. John's contacted me and asked if I was willing to serve as interim president. It wasn't part of my plan, but I see it as a temporary thing and hopefully I'll be able to help the school in transitioning from its longtime president, (the Rev.) Donald Harrington, into the future. And hopefully, I'll be part of the process of selecting a new president. So, while it wasn't my original plan, I did it in the spirit of helping out."

Levesque assuming the role of president in New York is just the latest round of musical chairs the two schools have played with each other this year.

After he announced his intentions, Niagara's board of trustees formed a committee searching for a new leader. The group identified the Rev. James Maher as its preferred candidate and hired him to take Levesque's place.

Maher studied at St. John's and, once ordained, was hired at the school. He was serving as executive vice president for mission and student service for the university when he interviewed at Niagara for the position. Essentially, the two schools have traded leadership, at least short-term.

Still, on his final day in Lewiston, Levesque had an opportunity to sit back, greet his friends he's made over his long tenure and remember what it was about the community which he loves the most.

He's most thankful for his opportunities he's realized while on campus, he said. It's all experiences he said have left him fulfilled. It's the perfect feeling for transitioning to another part of life.

"I came to Niagara in 1970 and I did whole variety of things," he said. "I served as a teacher, a dean of one of the colleges here, I served on the board of trustees. And I was asked to serve as president of Niagara. I've come to know Niagara very, very well. I've come to know the people here very well. I've been very happy here and well accepted. I feel fulfilled."

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.