March 16, 1945 – July 11, 2017
Sandra Mann Ormsby was an organizer extraordinaire.
As director of university events at Niagara University from 2002 to 2013, she orchestrated the outcomes of commencement exercises and dozens of other special occasions annually. She synthesized three years of planning and suggestions from faculty, staff and administrators to bring together one of NU’s largest-ever celebrations, the 150th anniversary convocation in 2006.
“She was very focused on all that had to be done,” said Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, the university’s president from 2000 to 2013, with whom she worked closely. “She handled it very carefully, but her manner was always very gracious. When you’d see her at the event, it was as a greeter. She had done all the hard work ahead of time.”
She already was well into making arrangements for a personal milestone, her 50th wedding anniversary in September, when she suffered a serious fall in her Lewiston home on June 30. She died from her injuries Tuesday in Erie County Medical Center. She was 72.
Born Sandra Mann in Niagara Falls, she moved to Lewiston with her family as a teenager and was a 1963 graduate of the former Madonna High School in Niagara Falls.
At Niagara University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in English in 1967, she wrote for the school newspaper, The Index. Her mentor, NU publicity director Edward T. “Bus” Flynn, encouraged her to pursue a career in journalism.
After graduation, she landed a job at the Niagara Gazette, where her fiance, Linus L. Ormsby Jr., was a reporter. They were married Sept. 23.
“That’s the Feast of St. Linus,” her husband said. “She picked that date so I wouldn’t forget what our anniversary was.”
She worked as a reporter and feature writer in the Gazette’s family news department for five years, then took time out to raise her daughter.
She returned to work 10 years later as director for the former Lewiston Business and Professional Association. When Niagara University advertised for a new alumni director, she applied. Her husband, meanwhile, was appointed NU’s director of public relations.
“She got hired,” her husband said. “She beat me by a week. She began the last week of September 1984 and I started the first week of October.”
She traveled to alumni events across the country and planned annual alumni weekend activities. She also applied her previous journalistic experience as the editor of the Eagle, NU’s alumni magazine.
“She had to deal with a range of graduates, including the 50-year guys who knew how it all should be done,” her husband said. “She handled them all. She could expedite everything that needed to be done.”
When she was promoted to director of university events, she considered it the best job. She gave special attention to what was served at the dinners.
“She planned all the meals,” her husband said. “She always insisted on using seasonal vegetables, not only because of the season, but because of the cost.”
“She would always ask me after an event what I thought about this or that,” said Levesque, the former college president, “and she made sure at the next event to make the changes.”
Before she retired in 2013, she was inducted into the university’s honor society, Sigma Alpha Sigma.
She also served for a time as chair of the board of Stella Niagara Education Park.
In addition to her husband, survivors include a daughter, Maureen P. Allen; two brothers, William Mann and Kevin Mann; a sister, Kathleen Lepley; and two granddaughters.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 600 Center St., Lewiston.