The motto of Niagara University, “Ut Omnes Te Cognoscant,” translated means “That All May Know You.” It is derived from the Gospel of St. John.
The priests and brothers who staff Niagara University are known as Vincentians, a name derived from their founder, St. Vincent de Paul. The order was established in 1625 as the Congregation of the Mission, hence the initials “C.M.” St. Vincent also co-founded the Daughters of Charity (D.C.) with St. Louise de Marillac.
Bishop John Timon, C.M., and Father John J. Lynch, C.M., were co-founders of Niagara University. Bishop Timon was the first bishop of Buffalo. Father Lynch was consecrated bishop of Toronto on Nov. 20, 1859. He became the first archbishop of the archdiocese of Toronto.
Another Vincentian, the Most Rev. Stephen V. Ryan, C.M., was the second bishop of Buffalo and the first chancellor of Niagara University.
Father James E. Quigley, an alumnus of 1874, was consecrated the third bishop of Buffalo in February 1897.
Nov. 21, 1856, is considered the birthdate of “Old Niagara.” On that date, Father Lynch and Father John Monaghan, C.M., established a seminary on Best Street in Buffalo.
On May 1, 1857, 23 weeks after being founded, the College and Seminary of Our Lady of Angels, the forerunner of Niagara University, moved from Best Street in Buffalo to its present home on Monteagle Ridge.
The 110-acre farm that formed the setting for Monteagle Ridge was purchased from James Vedder of Niagara Falls on Feb. 23, 1857, with a down payment of $2,000. The adjacent 156-acre DeVeaux estate and farm was purchased on April 6, 1857, for $15,500.
The New York State Legislature chartered Niagara on April 20, 1863, empowering the College and Seminary of Our Lady of Angels to confer degrees.
Father Robert E. V. Rice, C.M., was Niagara’s fourth and youngest president. He was 26 when he became acting president in 1863.
Father Rice is also called Niagara’s “second founder” for leading the drive to rebuild the Administration-Seminary Building, which was destroyed by fire on Dec. 5, 1864. Loss of the structure had forced the university to close for a nine-month period.
The Rev. Abram Ran, C.M., a faculty member at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in the early 1860s, went on to become the “Post Laureate of the South.”
Thomas Hopkins, a student from Brooklyn, was killed in the fire of Dec. 5, 1864. Legend has it that his “ghost” still haunts Clet Hall.
The Niagara Index, the university’s student newspaper, was founded in January 1870 by Father John W. Hickey, C.M., who served as its first editor.
Michael McGivney of Connecticut, later to be ordained a priest, is said to have conceived the idea for the Knights of Columbus while at Niagara in 1871. The Knights today look to “Old Niagara” as their birthplace.
Marcus Brown, a Jewish merchant and longtime friend of “Old Niagara,” saved it from foreclosure in 1882, walking to the university from the Village of Suspension Bridge through knee-deep snow to deliver the needed amount. Two years later, he was repaid in full, but refused to accept the interest on the loan.
On Aug. 7, 1883, Gov. Grover Cleveland of New York signed the documents which erected the College and Seminary of our Lady of Angels into Niagara University.
The Niagara Medical College was opened by the university on Oct. 10, 1883, in Sisters Hospital and in the YMCA building in Buffalo. The medical school opened its doors to women in 1893. In 1897, it became the first such institution in the state to insist upon four years of study—double the length of time required by most colleges before granting the M.D. degree. Other medical schools followed Niagara’s lead. The next year, New York state made a four-year course of study compulsory.
Niagara’s fifth president, Father Patrick V. Kavanagh, C.M., was the first alumnus to fill the post.
The Niagara Medical College merged with the medical section of the University of Buffalo in 1898. During the college’s existence, it graduated 137 doctors and ranked fourth nationally among the foremost medical schools in the United States.
On Oct. 10, 1887, the law department of Niagara University, known as the Buffalo Law School, was opened. It occupied part of the Niagara Medical College. Four years later, the Buffalo Law School became the law department of the University of Buffalo.
The university has had its own post office since Dec. 29, 1887.
The Rev. Edward J. Walsh, C.M., Niagara’s ninth president (1908-12), started the Day School on campus. It permitted young men whose homes were in the vicinity to combine home life with university life.
Military training became part of NU’s curriculum in 1918.
Niagara became a member of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in January 1922, two years after the association was formed.
The Niagara Preparatory School, a high school operated in conjunction with the university and as old as the university itself, was discontinued in 1927.
The College of Business Administration was opened in September 1930.
An 18-hole golf course was established on 180 acres of university property in the early 1930s. At one time, 240 acres were under cultivation, including orchards and vineyards. The farm was discontinued when the golf course was built. The golf course was lost when the Niagara Power Project was built in the late 1950s.
During its 56-year history (1946-2002), a total of 3,439 bachelor’s degrees were awarded by Niagara University’s College of Nursing.
Niagara University’s baccalaureate program in travel and tourism is the oldest in the nation, having been established in 1968 by the Institute of Transportation, Travel and Tourism, the forerunner of the present College of Hospitality and Tourism Management.
The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University houses one of the finest collections of contemporary art in Western New York.
The Army ROTC program at NU was instituted in 1936.
Niagara began admitting women in 1926, but only to the off-campus Niagara Extension School. NU became coeducational on a large scale in 1944.
May I. Lanigan and Lilly Rush received the first bachelor’s degrees awarded to women by the university in 1936.
Niagara’s first basketball team compiled a 5-2 record in the 1905-06 season.
The Purple Eagles reached the 1,000-win mark during the 1985-86 basketball season, joining a select list of Division I teams to have reached that milestone.
Former professional basketball coaches Frank Layden (Utah Jazz) and Hubie Brown (New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies) were teammates and roommates at Niagara in the early 1950s. A third NU graduate, Larry Costello, coached the Milwaukee Bucks for a time.
NBA Hall of Fame member Calvin Murphy is the leading scorer in Niagara basketball history with 2,548 points, 866 more than Ed Fleming, who is second on the list. Murphy’s single-game scoring record of 68 points was set against Syracuse on Dec. 7, 1968.
Niagara’s colors, purple and white, are taken from the university’s seal.
The eagle on the university’s seal is indicative of NU’s location on Monteagle Ridge.
Msgr. Nelson H. Baker, who is being considered for sainthood, studied for the priesthood at Our Lady of Angels Seminary at Niagara University. He was ordained a diocesan priest on March 19, 1876, and returned to Niagara the next day to celebrate his first Mass.
The Dwyer Ice Arena is named for Bob and Connie Dwyer, members of the Class of 1965, who, in 1998, announced a gift of $3 million to expand the existing twin-pad ice complex and hockey program. Their gift was the largest in the history of the university, and funds were used for two additions that were completed in 1999 and 2000. Ground was broken for the facility in August of 1995, and opening ceremonies were held on May 10, 1996, the year Niagara University’s men’s team entered Division I hockey. The women’s team began play in 1998.
The $11 million student-apartment complex opened in October 2002 after a one-year construction period. Each of the six two-story frame-and-brick buildings contains eight 1,200-square-foot apartments. Four students reside in each apartment. Total capacity of the complex is 192 students.
A three-story, 55,000-square-foot Academic Complex, housing the colleges of Business Administration and Education, officially opens in August 2007. The College of Business Administration wing was subsequently named Bisgrove Hall in recognition of the support of Jerry Bisgrove ’68. Its lobby was entitled the Glynn Family Atrium in recognition of The Glynn Family's generosity.
The reconstructed Leary Theatre, replete with a new two-story lobby and atrium, is unveiled to the public in May 2010. The addition will be called the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre thanks to the generosity of George and Betsy Wiegers and the Wieger Family Foundation.