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NU celebrates its heritage with a week of festivities

Vincentian Heritage Week, an annual celebration of Niagara University's history in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, will begin on a lighthearted note with a St. Vincent look-alike contest at noon today in the lower level of the Gallagher Center on the NU campus.

Squaring off to determine who can be made up to most closely resemble a French priest from the 1600s will be Howard Morgan, the university's director of advancement services; Adriano Gatto of the Class of 2006, an artist in residence; and Dino Petrera, an NU senior.

Throughout the week, the university community will honor St. Vincent, a 17th century Catholic priest who inspired and organized his contemporaries to serve the less fortunate, and St. Louise de Marillac, patron of Christian Social Workers who co-founded the Daughters of Charity with St. Vincent.

A Mass at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the upper level of the Gallagher Center will mark the opening of the 2011-12 school year.

Among the week's activities will be the opening and blessing of Niagara's new Institute for Civic Engagement on Tuesday at Roosevelt House, located at the corner of University and Sophomore drives. Light refreshments will be served from 3 to 5 p.m., with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and blessing at 4.

During this time, Niagara's sustainability task force will sponsor a "build day" for the university's second campus garden, beginning at 3 near the greenhouse outside DePaul Hall.

The Institute for Civic Engagement is intended to strengthen NU's community partnerships and form relationships between town and gown. It will be the university's primary point of contact for community members and organizations.

It will serve as a major resource for university professors who wish to conduct research-based projects in the community.

"We have made this investment because it is essential to focus, coordinate and strengthen our many efforts in the community," said the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, president of NU. "Niagara University has been most diligent about serving the economic, social, humanitarian and spiritual needs of this community for 155 years. Now, we must do more, for that is what is needed."

Another major part of the week's schedule is the Vincentian Heritage Convocation, beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Alumni Chapel.

Extraordinary contributions of university employees, alumni and community leaders are recognized at the convocation. This year's honorees are Karen A. Ballard, Class of 1966, who will receive the Niagara Legacy Alumni of Distinction Award; the Rev. Michael Carroll, an honorary degree; and Tom McDermott and Fred Heuer, Vincentian Mission Awards.

Other Heritage Week events include:

A universitywide game of "Vincentian Jeopardy" at noon Wednesday in the lower level of the Gallagher Center.

The Institute for Civic Engagement will sponsor NU Global Connections, highlighting the many humanitarian events that are led by Niagara students, faculty, staff and alumni. It will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday in the lower level of the Gallagher Center.