Niagara Gazette

December 22, 2013

TOP STORIES (9): Year of big changes at Niagara University

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — What a year it’s been for Niagara University.

It all started late January, when the Lewiston school called a press conference, citing  a “major announcement concerning the future of the university.” A day later, the Castellani Art Center filled with school officials and friends to hear 13-year President the Rev. Joseph Levesque announce he would step down from his position.

Levesque acknowledged his age and health concerns in his announcement that day, inviting the school to bring in “new blood” to lead the school forward. He said he’d be staying with the school in the newly created president emeritus position.

“I never planned on being president,” he said following his bombshell announcement. “It was never in my dreams. The fact that I could be president of a place I’ve loved since I came here in (1970) to give leadership and take the university’s ideas and my ideas and make them real. You can make some things happen and that excites me.”

New blood arrived on campus two months later, when the same space once again filled with important folks to hear the Rev. James Maher would replace Levesque in his position at the beginning of August, complete with a transition period.

Maher, who agreed to join Niagara from a leadership position at St. John’s University, recalled at his introduction in March how he’d spent time in Lewiston while his brother, the Rev. John Maher, worked to complete his college degree at Niagara in 1976.

With leadership changes looming, a different wrinkle developed when Levesque decided he’d change his mind, at least temporarily, about his new position. He was approached by St. John’s, Maher’s former employer, to serve as interim president while the New Jersey campus searched for its next permanent president. 

Levesque accepted and left Niagara Aug. 1, temporarily changing Maher’s plan for transition.

But the world didn’t end and the school made its way into the Fall 2013 semester with new focus. And shortly after students walked on campus, a new building helped make it possible.

The B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences opened its doors after two years of construction. At an official ribbon cutting and dedication in October, the man with the vision to make the state-of-the-art building possible, Levesque, and the man whose donation made it possible, Golisano, joined Maher to see the fruit of everyone’s labor.

The center is designed to provide biology and chemistry students with impressive work places, as many tools they could use to achieve their goals and a modern-looking space to enjoy their time, which caught the eye of Golisano as he took his first steps inside.

“I like the way it’s organized,” Golisano said at the time. “I’m very happy with the building. Also, it blends in well with the campus. I think it fits well.”

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

TOP 10 The Gazette is counting down its top stories of 2013 through Jan. 1. Here's the list so far: • 10: Teens involved in Isabella Tenant murder sent to prison. • 9: 2013 brings change to Niagara University. • 8: Coming Monday

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