When B. Thomas Golisano bought the Buffalo Sabres in 2003 he not only saved the city's beloved National Hockey League franchise, he brought the possibility of future philanthropy. The billionaire businessman is known for his generous giving in Rochester, home of his company, Paychex.
This week that possibility suddenly and dramatically became reality, as Golisano announced his plan to donate $10 million to Niagara University. It's the largest gift in the university's 152 years of existence, and one of the largest single donations any Buffalo-area college has received from an individual. It will make a valuable difference.
Acquired as part of the university's $80 million fundraising campaign, Golisano's gift will pay nearly half the $25 million cost of what is to be the B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences. The donation is to be made in $2 million installments, with the first check delivered on Wednesday.
The center is designed as a two-story, 44,000-square-foot building that will offer state-of-the-art preparation for students who will work in the region's emerging biotech industry and for advanced studies at research universities.
In that, it will help Buffalo Niagara achieve one of its critical economic development goals. But it will also accomplish something else that Golisano said is dear to him. "Anything I can do to help the psyche of Western New York, I'm going to try to do," he said in announcing the donation.
That he has done, partly by the vote of confidence in the region's future and also in his acknowledgment of its existing strengths. The gift, which he said was diligently researched, is based on "the quality of the institution."
"What matters is this is a great organization and great institution and that's what this gift is based on."
The Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, the university's president, responded to the donation using just about the only words that would suffice. "Thank you," he said. "A thousand times thank you."
Make that a thousand and one.