How the School Was Founded
Founded by the Vincentian Community in 1856, Niagara University is a private liberal arts university with a strong, values-based Catholic tradition. Its four academic divisions include the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, and Hospitality and Tourism Management. The university also maintains an Academic Exploration Program that provides a learning community for students who are undecided about their major. Located on the Niagara River overlooking the Province of Ontario, Canada, the university is located at the northern limits of the City of Niagara Falls, N.Y., about four miles from the world-famous cataracts. More than 4,200 students are enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs.
Nov. 21, 1856, is generally regarded as the birthdate of Niagara University. On that day, six seminary students, accompanied by two faculty members, moved from the residence of the Most Rev. John Timon, C.M., the first bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, into a vacated orphan home for boys on Best Street in Buffalo. The six-acre site, however, was less than ideal, and so the two Vincentian faculty members, Fathers John J. Lynch and John Monaghan, immediately began a search for a more ideal setting for the seminary.
During a visit to the Village of Suspension Bridge (now Niagara Falls) that same winter, they learned that the 100-acre Vedder farm, located a few miles north on Monteagle Ridge, was for sale. Negotiations ensued, and on Feb. 23, 1857, an agreement was reached for purchase of the property. Less than two months later, Father Lynch purchased the adjoining 200-acre DeVeaux farm complete with a barn and the two-story tavern known as The Half-Way House. On May 1, 1857, 23 weeks after its founding, the College and Seminary of Our Lady of Angels moved from Buffalo to its new home on Monteagle Ridge.
The barroom and bowling alley in The Half-Way House (named for its location between Suspension Bridge and Lewiston) became the sacristy and chapel, respectively. The attic, and later the barn loft, provided dormitory facilities. The fall of 1857 saw enrollment increase from six to 24 students. The following year it rose to 80, resulting in expansion of existing facilities. The year 1859 also saw Father Lynch, the university's co-founder with Bishop Timon, appointed coadjutor bishop of Toronto, Ontario.
In response to the growing number of collegians and seminarians, a new building was constructed in 1862 to serve as the administration-seminary building. The following year, on April 20, 1863, the New York State Legislature granted a charter empowering the College and Seminary of Our Lady of Angels to confer degrees upon its graduates.
Disaster stuck on Dec. 5, 1864, when fire destroyed the administration-seminary building. As a result, the school was forced to close. Reconstruction began in April of 1865 and the school reopened in September of that year.
On the occasion of Niagara's 25th anniversary on Nov. 21, 1881, Bishop Stephen V. Ryan, C.M., provincial superior of the American Vincentians at the time of his appointment as the second bishop of Buffalo, congratulated the college and seminary, which had graduated 300 priests, 25 doctors, 47 lawyers, 40 professors, 15 newspaper editors, 25 brokers, 245 merchants, many members of the Legislature, and hundreds in other walks of life.
Niagara Gets Its Name
On Aug. 7, 1883, New York Gov. Grover Cleveland signed the documents that erected the College and Seminary of Our Lady of Angels into Niagara University, though the name of the seminary was preserved. The seminary remained at Niagara until 1961, when it was moved to Albany. It has since closed.
Over the years, Niagara has evolved into a comprehensive university, offering more than 50 professional and career-oriented programs for its 3,300-plus undergraduates. More than 950 graduate students are enrolled in a variety of programs in the College of Education and in master's programs in business, criminal justice and interdisciplinary studies.
True To Our Roots
True to the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Vincentian Community and universal patron of charitable works, Niagara maintains a comprehensive community service program. Annually, Niagara University students contribute more than 50,000 hours to the local neighborhoods through their community service and through the service learning experiences of Learn and Serve Niagara. Courses with a service learning component are offered in all colleges. Service learning promotes the mission of Niagara University by enhancing students' academic skills and life-long learning, by promoting and working towards social change, and by attempting to instill in students the value of service to others. Most importantly, it ensures the continuance of necessary advocacy and assistance for the people of Western New York and Southern Ontario.
The Learn and Serve Niagara program focuses upon two areas of public service: education and human needs-related activities. By addressing these community needs, Niagara University students, with related majors, are able to utilize their classroom-acquired knowledge in practical settings. NU students are active in more than 40 social service and community agencies in Western New York and southern Ontario.
More than two dozen buildings dot the picturesque Niagara University campus. In 2001, the university completed an $11 million renovation of one of its more historic buildings, St. Vincent's Hall. Built in 1905, the four-story, collegiate Gothic-style building was gutted and returned to service in less than nine months. It now houses a ground floor devoted to information technology, two floors of classrooms with the latest in instructional technology, and a fourth floor, featuring a large atrium, that serves as home of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management. In the fall of 2002, an $11 million apartment-style housing complex opened on campus. The university is currently in the midst of an expansive $80 million capital campaign, the results of which include the new Academic Complex and adjacent Bisgrove Hall, a residence for the Vincentians, a renovated theatre and several other additions.
Seventy-five percent of Niagara's students come from New York state, with nearly half of that number from Niagara and Erie counties (48%). About 6 percent are from out of state and 18 percent are from Canada and other foreign countries. The College of Education has a large Canadian enrollment in its graduate programs in education. Niagara is the only Western New York college or university with ministerial consent to offer its programs in the Province of Ontario. About 1,500 students live on the NU campus.
Niagara University is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Individual colleges also hold major accreditations from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), and the Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education (CHRIE). Among the university's more popular academic programs are business, education, hospitality and tourism management, criminal justice, psychology, theater studies, biology, communication studies and political science.
Niagara competes in 18 Division I NCAA sports as a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Its men's and women's hockey team play in the College Hockey America conference. Among Niagara's sports legends are National Basketball Association Hall of Fame member Calvin Murphy, former Utah Jazz coach and president Frank Layden, former New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown and the late Larry Costello, former coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.