by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — After 13 years, Niagara University President The Rev. Joseph Levesque is calling it a career.
The long-time fixture at the school – a teacher and dean long before his tenure as president – gathered the campus community to announce he’s stepping down from the college’s chief position, effective this coming summer.
“I never planned on being president,” Levesque said following his bombshell announcement Tuesday. “It was never in my dreams. The fact that I could be president of a place I’ve loved since I came her 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.
“Looking at my life, I had accomplished a great deal. I know I’m aging and it’s time to bring in some new blood with new ideas. I talk to the students ... about being innovative. I think that I’m innovative, but I know there are many others who are also innovative.”
The decision to step down came as a shock to much of the college’s community, which assembled in the general room of the Castellani Art Museum Tuesday afternoon for what the college called an “important announcement.”
In a short address to the crowd, Levesque, the 25th president of Niagara, clarified his role going forward and what he hopes to bring to the school in the future.
“I am not retiring,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I will stay on at Niagara University, working in ways that I can assist the new president, the administration and all the members.”
Figuring out his new role at the campus will be hashed out further later this year, as the board of trustees conducts a national search for his replacement. But Levesque said he’s particularly interested in continuing the university’s already established directives to be a force for good in the general community.
He said making the community better has always been a goal of his, one he strives to accomplish every day through conversations with local leaders and investment in the future of Niagara Falls, Lewiston and all of the surrounding areas.
“I promised the community here when I came that I’d work for the people of the community,” he said. “We are not an ivory tower here at the university. We are part of the community and I will do all I can to make it better.”
Levesque said he’s also interested in helping more with students, as well, lacking from his duties as president. He said he wants to be able to meet with the student body more and listen to some of their concerns and feedback.
This news was well received by Jordan Hernandez, a graduate assistant who works closely with the university’s student government and represented the organization at Tuesday’s announcement.
“He’ll have more time to spend with the students and we’ll see him even more,” Hernandez said. “It’s a joy to see Father Levesque, he’s a key leader on our campus.”
He’ll also be involved in institutional advancement, according to board Chairman Jeffrey Holzschuc, who also announced Levesque will receive a new title, president emeritus, to help him accomplish his new responsibilities.
Holzschuc said the new president, who will, Like Levesque, be of the Vincentian order, will be announced as early as mid-March this year with an intent on quickly acclimating the choice and getting him started this coming summer.
He said the board has spent two years in succession planning and will begin interviewing candidates immediately.
“We feel it is important to move the process along without delay so that we can continue to advance the university and take advantage of the momentum Father Levesque’s leadership has provided,” he said.
Throughout his long tenure, Levesque has made many friends. James Glynn, who served as board chairman when Levesque was hired for the position in 2000, said he’s thankful for the friendship he’s shared with Levesque and is saddened by his decision to step down.
“We’ve been good friends for a long time,” Glynn said. “He’s been a great asset to the university and to the community, too. Under his leadership, the university showed tremendous growth.”