On Saturday night (Nov. 14, 2012) at the Seneca Niagara Casino Hotel and Event Center, Niagara University celebrated a fundraising milestone and honored two families with longstanding ties to the Buffalo-Niagara region.
More than 400 Niagara alumni, students, colleagues and friends were present for the ninth annual President’s Scholarship Dinner, where it was announced that the university had surpassed the $1 million mark in net revenue raised for student scholarships since the event was instituted in 2004.
“That is a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the generosity of each and every one of you. Thank you,” the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., NU president, told attendees. “These are impressive figures, numbers that we are quite proud of, but we, as a university, must continue to do more. We must do more to offset the rising cost of education. We must do more to help those who have been adversely affected by the economy, leaving them less flexibility to afford a college degree. We must do more because it is part of our heritage – it is what St. Vincent taught us to do.”
Fittingly, during the event, Niagara presented the St. Vincent de Paul Award to the Castellani family as well as Harold and Rose Brown and their children. The award is conferred upon individuals “whose vision, accomplishments and good works reflect the life and ministry of St. Vincent de Paul.”
Armand Castellani was the chairman and chief executive officer of Tops Markets, formerly of Niagara Frontier Services Inc. He was twice named an Outstanding Citizen by The Buffalo News, and twice honored by the National Conference of Community Justice. Armand has received numerous other awards for his success in business, community involvement and as a patron of the arts. Armand received the honorary degree of doctor of commercial science from Niagara in 1964, and he and his wife, Eleanor, received the university’s President’s Medal in 1990. Armand is the founder of the Castellani Art Museum, which opened on Niagara’s DeVeaux campus in 1978. The present museum, a 23,000-square-foot facility, opened on the main campus in 1990. Armand and Eleanor’s 11 children have followed in their footsteps, supporting numerous community-minded organizations, including Niagara Hospice, the United Way and Niagara University. In light of their philanthropy, the Castellani children were presented with Niagara University’s Founder’s Award in 2001.
Harold Brown earned an accounting degree from Niagara in 1948. While he was an undergraduate, he became close with the Vincentian priests and brothers, who allowed him to pay for much of his tuition through the work-study program. Rose, a SUNY Brockport graduate, came from a strong Italian family in Niagara Falls. She taught for years in the Niagara Falls City School District. Six of the couple’s eight children are Niagara University graduates, as are five of their grandchildren. Harold and Rose were active in numerous parent/teacher groups, the Rotary Club, the Health Association of Niagara County, the United Way, the Knights of Columbus, and many others. Their children are also involved in dozens of nonprofits, especially in Niagara County.
Christopher Ross, a member of Niagara University’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Mary, served as the dinner’s chair couple. The Rosses received undergraduate degrees from Niagara University in 1982.
Maryalice Demler, a member of Niagara University’s class of 1986 and anchor at WGRZ-TV Channel 2, was the mistress of ceremonies. Attendees also heard remarks from current student James Tipa and were treated to a rendition of The Impossible Dream by theatre major Alex Garcia.
The purpose of the President’s Scholarship Dinner is to generate funds for scholarship assistance for qualified Niagara University students. During the 2011-2012 academic year, 98 percent of undergraduate students received scholarship assistance from the university that totaled $35,118,000. During that same period, 361 undergraduates received endowed scholarships totaling $1,059,912.