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Niagara University scholarship gets half-million dollar gift

Niagara University

Prospective Niagara University students from rural communities in Central and Western New York will have a better shot at earning a scholarship.

CoBank CEO and Niagara University alumnus Robert Engel, along with his wife Lynda, gave $500,000 dollars to the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. Endowed Scholarship. Engel, who graduated from the university in 1975 and is on the board of trustees, credits his alma mater with positively shaping his life when struggled through hardships as a young man. Now, he sees a chance to give back.

“If you take a look around the world, I think we understand the need for leaders that really embody the spirit of service that St. Vincent de Paul did, and if we don’t get going on these leaders, I’m afraid where this world might go,” said Engel. “There’s a sense of urgency for me to get these young people to really get this world back on track, and I’m confident they will.”

University President Father James Maher told WBFO News the scholarship is already having an impact.

“One of the recipients is a nursing student originally from Lockport. She’s going to go back into the community and be a nurse and be incredibly productive, so there’s great social and economic impact from a scholarship like this for the region,” said Maher.

The scholarship, established in 2013, targets students from rural areas, who Engel says can be at just as much of a disadvantage when applying for higher education as students from urban areas.

“Our rural areas provide a highly disproportionate share of our military in this country, and I think one of the reasons it does that is because kids aren’t afforded the opportunity. So let’s make sure they get the opportunity as well,” said Engel.

Engel’s gift brings the endowment over the one million dollar mark. Ninety-nine percent of incoming freshmen and transfer students are offered financial assistance from the school, totaling more than $43 million.