Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. Biography
The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., is a native of North Tarrytown, N.Y., and was ordained as a Vincentian priest in 1967 after studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pa. He taught religious studies at St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn and at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Princeton, N.J., before being assigned to Niagara’s religious studies department in 1970. Father Levesque left his teaching duties at Niagara University to pursue his studies in theology at The Catholic University of America, where he received his doctoral degree.
In 1978, Father Levesque resumed teaching at Niagara, and was also named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the college’s graduate division. He remained in the post until 1986, when he returned to seminary work, serving as president of St. Joseph’s Seminary. Father Levesque was elected provincial superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission in 1990 and served his maximum nine-year term.
Father Levesque served as chair of the boards of St. John’s University and Niagara University during his term as provincial. He was concurrently active in the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, a leadership organization that serves all male religious in the United States. Father Levesque served as president from 1995-97, gaining a national presence through his work with the Catholic bishops and with church authorities in Rome. He was the conference’s liaison to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy from 1991 to 1994.
Upon completion of his term as Provincial of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, Father Levesque returned to Niagara University to assume the role as the 25th president of Niagara University in January 2000, a position he held until 2013. His 13 years of service makes him the fourth longest-tenured president in the history of the Catholic and Vincentian institution, behind only the Rev. Patrick V. Kavanagh, C.M. (1878-94), the Rev. Robert E.V. Rice, C.M. (1863-78), and the Rev. Joseph M. Noonan, C.M. (1932-47).
During his time at Niagara University, Father Levesque was instrumental in building the campus into what exists today. As outlined in his inaugural address, Father Levesque’s goals included establishing and stabilizing a “new Niagara,” all while remaining faithful to the university’s mission and the best interests of its students and the community it calls home. Under Father Levesque’s leadership, Niagara University has experienced a continuous process of transformation that has significantly developed the physical character of the university’s campus and its 21st century approach to teaching and learning. Close to $100 million has been invested in new construction, renovation and improvement projects at Niagara University since the advent of Father Levesque’s presidency. All of the initiatives undertaken are consistent with a comprehensive master plan that, at Father Levesque’s direction, was created as the blueprint for the redevelopment of Niagara’s 160-acre campus.
In order to accomplish the master plan, Father Levesque led an $83 million capital campaign – “The Promise of Niagara…The next 150 years” – the largest fundraising initiative in the university’s history. The cornerstone of the campaign, the state-of-the-art B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences, opened as scheduled in fall 2013. In addition, Meade Hall, the former Vincentian residence, was renovated into the Gacioch Family Alumni and Admissions Center. In August 2007, construction was completed on the 56,000-square-foot Academic Complex and adjoining Bisgrove Hall, which now house Niagara’s accredited colleges of Education and Business Administration. Since then, the university has also completely renovated its theatre complex and built a complementary lobby and reception area; revamped student food services and furnishings in the Gallagher Center (student union) and Clet Hall; upgraded campus-wide technology capabilities; and constructed a new residence for its Vincentian community.
In addition, the campaign raised in excess of $9 million toward scholarships and financial assistance for graduate and undergraduate students. This funding includes money to increase existing scholarships and fund new endowed scholarships for future students. In 2013, a scholarship endowment fund was established in the name of Father Levesque to reach first-year Niagara students living in the surrounding eight rural counties.
In keeping with his promise to remain faithful to Niagara’s mission, ReNU Niagara, a university outreach program since 2006, moved its location to downtown Niagara Falls in 2013. In June 2013, Niagara University announced that its Institute for Civic Engagement would be renamed the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., Institute for Civic Engagement to honor the long-tenured president and his commitment to the community. During the press conference in 2013, Father Levesque stated, “My colleagues from Niagara University and I have long waited for this day and this event, to have a special place where we could emblazon our name on a building right here on Main Street in Niagara Falls.” The former president then invited residents to come in to talk about how we can work together for a better Niagara Falls, to improve our neighborhoods, to find justice for those who need it most and to build up a community that is important to this region.
Father Levesque, after serving for 10 months as interim president of St. John’s University, has returned to Niagara as president emeritus, a titled bestowed on him by the university’s Board of Trustees. In this role, Father Levesque will be empowered to continue to help Niagara, especially in the areas of institutional advancement and in relation to the Institute for Civic Engagement.
Father Levesque holds honorary degrees from Niagara, DePaul and St. John’s universities, all three Vincentian institutions of higher education in the United States. He also holds an honorary doctorate from Christ the King Seminary, an interdiocesan seminary in East Aurora, N.Y., where he has served as a board member for several years.