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Montante family says thanks to Canisius College with big gift $5.1 million to aid science center project

Canisius College has received the largest gift in its 136-year history.

The $5.1 million commitment from the family of Carl J. and Carol Ann Montante Sr. will be used toward a new $45 million science center, and to continue the college's expansion along Main Street, Canisius President the Rev. Vincent M. Cooke announced Monday.

"The challenge is big," Cooke said, "but we take a giant step today toward making this center a reality, thanks to the generous gift from the Montante family."

"This gift is a measure of our family's appreciation and deep affection for Canisius," said Carl Montante, president of Uniland Development Co. and a 1964 Canisius graduate. "It has provided us opportunities, quite frankly, I could not have imagined 45 years ago."

Canisius in 2002 agreed to buy from Montante's company the four-story building, next to the campus at Main Street and Jefferson Avenue, and convert the interior into classrooms, offices and laboratories for its science programs.

The 237,000-square-foot building -- best known as the former Sears store, and now occupied by HealthNow New York -- would bring under one roof all of the college's science departments and strengthen the school's academic core.

"We also see the development of an interdisciplinary science center as a way that Canisius can play a key role in the emerging life sciences economy developing at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus," Cooke said. "Canisius is a place where the talent necessary to drive this new economy will be developed."

The college plans to acquire the property in late 2007, after HealthNow, the parent company of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, moves out of the building, said John J. Hurley, vice president for college relations.

Construction would start soon after, and take at least a year, Hurley said.

But the project still has a long way to go.

Hurley said the $5 million from the Montantes brings the total raised for the project to about $12 million. Besides contributions from alumni and friends of the college, Canisius is seeking financial support from state and federal sources, as well as corporations and foundations.

In 1998, Carl and Carol Ann Montante donated $1.5 million to Canisius to renovate the former St. Vincent de Paul Church, which was renamed the Carol and Carl Montante Cultural Center in 2000.

Canisius staff and faculty gathered at the performing arts center at Main Street and Eastwood Place on Monday afternoon to hear about the lastest donation from the Montante family, which includes Greg and Laura Zaepfel, a 1986 Canisius graduate and Canisius trustee; Wendy and Carl J. Montante Jr.; Alejandra and Michael J. Montante, a 1991 Canisius graduate; and Timothy I. Montante.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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