Sister Denise A. Roche, D’Youville College’s president since October 1979, on Tuesday announced she will retire on July 1, 2016.
She advised the college Board of Trustees of her plans at their last meeting of the academic year on May 7.
“These years at D’Youville have been a great blessing in my life, Sister Denise said. “I am very grateful to God for the people I have met, the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned. Being at the college has made it a joy to go to work each day. The years have passed quickly because it has been such a pleasure to together with the students, faculty, staff and trustees to make exciting changes and address the challenges we have faced together.”
When Sister Denise was named 14th president at age 37, she was the youngest president in the college’s 71 year history.
A Buffalo native, she entered the Grey Nun of the Scared Heart in 1961, completed her academic work in sociology and social work at D’Youville, earned a master’s degree in sociology at Boston University and her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts.
Prior to being named president, she served as an instructor, teaching assistant, assistant professor, chair of the sociology department, associate dean, assistant to the dean of academic services, and assistant to the Dean of Faculty.
While president, enrollment grew from 1,153 students in 1980 to approximately 3,000 students today.
The college endowment was $1.2 million then and is now more than $38 million. The annual budget 35 years ago was $6.1 and today stands at nearly $60 million.
Sister Denise was instrumental in the addition and development of a significant number of new academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate level at the private college. These included occupational and physical therapy, physician assistant, dietetics, community health nursing, nurse practitioner, health care management, health policy and education, educational leadership, chiropractic, pharmacy and most recently, health analytics. Several cooperative programs with the Buffalo Public Schools were also implemented.
Efforts in international student recruiting were initiated under her leadership and at one time D’Youville enrolled the most Canadian students of any college or university in the United States.
A nationally recognized veterans program was created in 2006 and currently enrolls more than 500 veterans and their dependents.
Under her leadership, more than $100 million was invested into the physical expansion of the West Side campus. Included were the new Montante Family Library in the former Holy Angels School, a new gymnasium, student apartments, a new academic center, a Niagara Street office building, major building renovations and most recently a new athletic field at the foot of Porter Avenue. A new Arts and Science Building on Niagara Street is scheduled for completion this fall.
“Sister Denise has guided D’Youville College through changes and fluctuations in enrollment, fiscal demands, student demographics, faculty demands and a myriad of challenges over the decades,” said D. John Bray, director of public relations, who has served the college for more than 30 years.
Wayne H. Redekop, chair of the D’Youville Board of Trustee said: “D’Youville College as we know it today is very much a reflection of the character and values of Sister Denise A. Roche. She has touched the lives of many and left an indelible mark on Buffalo and Western New York. She has been an inspiring leader and will be very difficult to replace. All of the trustees wish Sister Denise an exciting and fulfilling retirement.”
During her time as president, Sister Denise has served on the boards of numerous community institutions ranging from the United Way, American red Cross, AIDS Family Services and the Association of Colleges and Universities to name a few.
Sister Denise has been widely recognized for her accomplishments, including being named Citizen of the Year by The Buffalo News in 1994, a member of the Women’s Hall of Fame, recipient of the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal from the State University at Buffalo, and honorary degrees from Canisius College and Niagara University.
The college Board of Trustees will form a special search committee and begin a seeking a new president this fall.
Sister Denise plans to remain in Western New York after she retires.