Gift opens up opportunities at NU

From left, Niagara University President Rev. James Mahar, Edward Brennan, Deborah Brennan, Dr. Lori Quigley, Nathaniel Johnson, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello and Mayor Robert Restaino.

A $5 million gift from Niagara University alumnus Edward J. Brennan, ‘78, a global business leader and humanitarian, and Deborah Brennan, will enable talented, high-achieving students from under-resourced communities the opportunity to access  Niagara University.

The scholarship program, named the Lois Lyon Brennan Scholars in recognition of Brennan’s mother and his family’s legacy of investing in access to higher education, will offer students financial support for tuition, room and board and books for their four years at Niagara University. Acceptance into this program allows for financial support to enhance persistence, academic excellence, engagement on campus (residency) and graduation. 

A particular emphasis will be given to first-generation college students from national and regional areas, including Niagara Falls, Tuscarora/indigenous communities, rural districts in New York state, and urban areas.

“Ed and Deborah Brennan have continually demonstrated their commitment to education and their unwavering support for those who may live their life on the margins of society,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “Today we are excited to launch the Lois Lyon Brennan Scholars Program, and we are extremely grateful to Ed and Debbie Brennan for living their lives with Vincentian hearts, for their continued commitment to education, and for their incredible support of Niagara University. Through their generosity, not only will they influence the lives of Niagara students, but we know that these scholars will create an impactful and lasting change in the Vincentian tradition.”

Students selected as Lois Lyon Brennan Scholars will participate in high-impact practices, including study-abroad and community service, and complete a related capstone course as part of the program. These opportunities will elevate their engagement with the campus, enhance their leadership skills, and increase their global awareness, creating a path to both graduation and career success.

“Debbie and I are extremely pleased to build upon our mission of providing education to the underserved,” said Brennan. “The Lois Lyon Brennan scholarship program builds upon our commitment to helping the underserved, which includes the construction of a school, and scholarships for roughly 400 students in Haiti. As an alumnus of Niagara University, I welcome the opportunity to bring our Vincentian values and inclusive excellence to high-achieving students who may not have this access to college and the engaging experience that leads to success.”

Brennan, who currently serves as the chairman of Niagara University’s Board of Trustees, was chairman, president, and CEO of Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) Group Ltd. During his 25-year career with DFS, he led the organization through substantial expansion, navigating the economic climate while investing for the future. Under his leadership, the company became a more than $5 billion global company and was named “Retailer of the Year” by Duty Free International. He remains active with DFS as a non-executive director.

Debbie Brennan’s family has owned and operated Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards in Lafayette, N.Y. The Brennan’s son Eddie and daughter-in-law Marianne (fifth generation) now own and operate the farm. Ed also serves as CEO of the Miller Family businesses based in Hong Kong, and on the board of directors of New Age Corp.

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