LEWISTON - The founder of a Niagara University scholarship fund for students from Western New York's rural communities donated another $500,000 to the fund Friday.
Robert B. Engel, a Buffalo native and Niagara trustee who is CEO of CoBank in Denver, announced the donation, which brought the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque Endowed Scholarship Fund above the $1 million mark.
Engel, who graduated from Niagara in 1975, and his wife Lynda started the fund three years ago with a $280,000 gift. They named it after Levesque, the former university president, who was Engel's religion professor at Niagara more than 40 years ago.
Niagara U trustee Robert Engel donates $500K to scholarship fund for WNY students at NU. pic.twitter.com/44U4ng0oFl
— Thomas Prohaska (@ThomasProhaska) November 18, 2016
Among this year's four recipients is Emma Bow, a sophomore nursing major from Newfane, who was thrilled at the assistance. She said Niagara gave her $10,000 in financial aid last year, and the new scholarship will be "one less bill that (my mother) has to worry about paying for."
Bow hugged her mother, Carla, a single parent who never was able to complete college herself.
"Receiving this scholarship means the world to me," Emma Bow said.
"I'm hoping to encourage other graduates whose lives were touched by Father Levesque in particular to further fund this scholarship," said Engel, who was named Denver's corporate citizen of the year Friday by the Denver Business Journal. He's also chairman of the board of trustees of Regis University in Denver.
He said, "I'd really like to get some momentum here and get this scholarship bigger. It really is the challenge of higher education, affordability. These kids can't make it without scholarships, and universities can't survive without endowed scholarships."
Rev. James J. Maher, Niagara president, said Engel's involvement with Niagara was "a gift of God born of great tragedy."
Engel, who played football at Kenmore East High School, was all set to go to Notre Dame, play football and study to become a doctor when his father, an accountant, suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed. Engel decided to stay local, enrolled at Niagara and became an accounting major.
"Niagara University wrapped its arms around me," Engel said.