Remarks from Jerry Bisgrove gift news conference””Jan. 23, 2006

Good morning, and welcome to Niagara University. In September, we will begin observing the 150th anniversary of this wonderful university. The actual birth date is Nov. 21, but there will be many occasions before and after that date when we will celebrate our rich heritage.

As we approach our sesquicentennial, we have many plans for the continued growth and development of the university. Some are very ambitious, and I must admit that I pray a lot to see our aspirations fulfilled so that we might continue to provide our distinctive Vincentian education to future generations of students.

I come before you today to tell of a response to my prayers, and it is this:

Niagara University has received the largest single donation in its history, thanks to the extreme generosity of one of our alumni.

I am delighted to tell you that Jerry Bisgrove, a member of the Class of 1968, has given his alma mater a gift of $5 million. It comes at a very important time in the university's history, and it will allow us to embark on a wonderful project, which I'll talk about in a minute.

But first, Jerry Bisgrove. Who is he, and why did he give such a gift to Niagara University?

Jerry is the chairman and CEO of the Stardust Companies, which are based in Scottsdale, Ariz. After he graduated in 1968, he returned to his home town of Auburn, and joined his father's trucking company. He eventually acquired the business, Red Star Express. When he sold the company in 1986, it was ranked in the top 1 percent in profitability among trucking companies in the United States.

For the last 15 years, he has been involved in land development in Arizona with Stardust Development, a business he entered with a portion of the profits from the sale of the trucking company. He is also the founder of the Stardust Foundation, which receives 100 percent of the profits of Stardust Real Estate Holdings.

Besides the amount, there is something very special about Jerry's gift. It truly comes from the heart, a heart that was indelibly influenced by one of the Vincentian priests who was here during Jerry's years on Monteagle Ridge.

Jerry considered Father Joseph Dunne a friend, a mentor, and a motivator. He readily admits that it was the guidance and direction he received from Father Dunne that allowed him to graduate. In fact, when some suggested that Jerry might not be college material, Father Dunne told him otherwise.

Jerry tells us that his gift is in appreciation for the support and education he received while studying in our College of Business Administration. As he put it, "I would never be where I am today without my Niagara education." He has also said--and unfortunately he could not be with us today--that he is indebted to members of the faculty and the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers, especially Father Dunne.

Father Dunne, who died in 1984, was a special person. He was interested in helping students, especially those who were struggling academically or financially. He served in a variety of capacities at NU over a period of more than 20 years, including those of executive vice president and director of student financial aid. He was also a teacher, a spiritual director, and, for a time, dean of men. He was held in such high regard by students that the Class of 1984 established a memorial to him outside of Clet Hall.

Now, about Jerry's gift: Some $4.5 million of it will serve as a catalyst for construction of new facilities for the College of Business Administration, which will be called "Bisgrove Hall." The facilities will be included in a new $19.4-million academic complex that will house the colleges of Business Administration and Education. The complex will have state-of-the-art instructional technology, as well as community outreach initiatives within both colleges. The university expects to break ground for the academic complex in the spring.

A portion of Jerry's gift, $500,000, will be used to establish the "Father Joseph G. Dunne, C.M., College of Business Administration Academic Programming Endowment."

This $5 million, an unprecedented gift, will assist Niagara University in realizing some of its immediate aspirations. The spirit in which it comes affirms the vitality of our educational mission and the Vincentian ideals upon which the university is built. With this assistance, I am even more confident that Niagara is at a unique moment in its history, and that an exciting future of new achievements lies ahead.

On behalf of the university, I wish to thank Jerry for this wonderful gift. I also want to extend my appreciation to the advancement staff, especially Patrick Hanley, our vice president for institutional advancement, and Father Frank Prior, vice president emeritus. It was his visit with Jerry that prompted this extraordinary generosity.

Thank you for being here. Before taking questions, I would like to call Patrick back to the microphone.