Niagara University held a ceremonial opening and blessing of the Gacioch Family Alumni and Admissions Center on Sept. 9, 2014. The renovated hub for admissions and alumni engagement, formerly Meade Hall, was made possible by a $2 million gift from William Gacioch, a 1961 NU graduate.
I’ve titled my brief remarks today “The Dream of Niagara University.”
We are incredibly pleased to welcome home Bill Gacioch, Nancy Gacioch and the Gacioch family on a day that is the fulfillment of a dream for Bill, but also the fulfillment of a dream for Niagara University.
I’d also like to begin by acknowledging some people who were integral in bringing this project to fruition. It is with deep gratitude that we recognize the capital campaign leadership of Mr. Robert Dwyer, chair emeritus and national chairman of “The Promise of Niagara,” Marsha Joy Sullivan, the vice chair of the campaign and current Niagara University Trustee, and I’m pleased to welcome back Don Bielecki, our vice president for institutional advancement who was so involved during this process as well.
It is with great appreciation to my predecessor, to my Vincentian brother, Father Joseph Levesque, C.M., our president emeritus, whose direction and spirit were at the heart of this project; we give thanks for all his wonderful work that has made this possible. Joe, welcome home.
I would be remiss if I didn’t express my thanks to the numerous people who worked on the ground in planning and developing this renovation: Dr. Bonnie Rose, Michael Jaszka, Dr. Judy Willard, Dan Guariglia, Bill Duquin, Chris Ferguson, Chris Sheffield, Karen Kosmala and many others. Please join me in thanking them for their wonderful work that has made this day possible.
And of course, the Gacioch family, you have been so generous to Niagara University through the years, and I speak for all of us when I offer my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all that you do not only for Niagara University, but for this wonderful region of Western New York. Thank you to the Gacioch family.
Here at Niagara University, we refer to ourselves as compassionate learners and teachers. Our faculty, staff and administrators are deeply concerned and care about our students who are entrusted to us – the young people who come here yearning for a better life to form relationships and seeking mentors and relationships that will last a lifetime.
As you heard Alexis say a few moments ago, we are a family. It shouldn’t come as a surprise for me to tell you that Bill Gacioch had been adamant that any acknowledgment of his generous gift to Niagara University include the word “family.”
For starters, Bill is wonderfully humble. He is justifiably proud of his wife, Nancy, and their children, Michael, David and Katherine. Each of the Gaciochs has experienced success in their professional lives and embodies the Vincentian ideals instilled in them by their parents.
We often speak about, in the national discourse of higher education, the role of people in retention and student engagement. Pay attention to this.
Bill Gacioch was a young man who needed a chance, and Niagara University gave him that chance. And one of the loyal sons of St. Vincent de Paul, Father Edward Burke, a faculty member, reached out to Bill, who only had $450 to his name, but he possessed great faith in God, great faith in his ability and a desire to gain an education that would prepare him for life after Niagara University.
Father Burke saw the promise in Bill and saw to it that this young man would be able to realize his Niagara Dream.
Father Burke arranged for a series of odd jobs that would help to pay Bill’s way through school. He met with him every three weeks to go through his financial progress and his scholastic performance.
Four years later, Bill Gacioch, in a testimony to his faith in God and his own abilities – and the help of Father Burke and Niagara University – left NU with a business degree, a very bright future for himself, his family and Niagara University.
And so today he seeks to make that dream possible for other young people who yearn for a better future and who yearn to make a difference for Niagara University.
So what we celebrate today is the Gacioch Family Center, which was the home to the Vincentian priests and brothers, a place where the sacraments were celebrated, a place where Vincentian confreres gathered in sadness, in happiness and, as we say in our marriage vows, in good times and in bad to share life together in the name of St. Vincent de Paul.
And today that legacy continues, as we open these doors to this hallowed building to our Niagara University family, to prospective parents and students, that they too might catch and breathe that Vincentian life and spirit that so animated the life of Bill Gacioch. That’s what we celebrate today, the passage of that life that’s generative, that’s formative and that builds dreams and a future together.
That’s what we celebrate today. Thank you to Bill Gacioch, Nancy Gacioch and the Gacioch family. Thank you very much.