The Promise of Niagara

Ensuring Niagara's Future: Robert and Connie Dwyer, '65

Connie and Robert Dwyer

“When I look back on my life, I’m very grateful for the Niagara experience. In many ways, it’s the foundation for who I am today,” says Robert J. Dwyer, member of the Class of 1965.

Dwyer isn’t one to say thank you and move on. He’s been a member of the university’s board of trustees since 1991. In 1998, he and his wife, Connie, also a 1965 graduate, donated $3 million for improvements at the university’s hockey arena, and have since added another $2 million commitment. In 2002, he became chairman of the board of trustees, only the second layperson to hold that position. Now, he has taken on the added duties of national chairman of the university’s $80 million capital campaign, “The Promise of Niagara.”

Dwyer, who retired from the securities industry in 1999 as executive vice president and national sales director of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, was a first-generation college student when he came to Niagara from Syracuse. He’d chosen Niagara because it provided a Catholic education and he’d heard it had a good reputation.

Niagara still provides first- and second-generation students a wonderful education, Dwyer said. “Alumni can’t forget that. They are who we were 30, 40, 50 years ago. Niagara provides these kids the opportunity it provided us.”

Connie Micale Dwyer was a hardheaded young woman from Niagara Falls who insisted she didn’t want to go to college until Labor Day weekend when she told her father she’d changed her mind. He pled her case with the university president and she was admitted to study accounting and education.

The townie and the Syracuse boy didn’t meet until junior year, when they happened to be studying at the same table in the library. He suggests she intended the meeting. “He’s dreaming,” she insists. They married right out of college.

Years later, when one of their three daughters couldn’t decide what she wanted to do in life, the Dwyers pointed her toward Niagara. Maureen graduated with the Class of 1993 and went on to Fordham University for her master’s degree in education.

All of the Dwyers have a firm commitment to giving back to the community. Connie, a breast cancer survivor, is chairman of the Connie Dwyer Breast Center at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark, N.J. For her first teaching job, Maureen chose a school in Harlem over one on Madison Avenue because she felt she could make more of a difference there.

The Dwyer children may have caught the Vincentian spirit at their babysitter’s knee. Brother Stephen J. Kennedy, C.M., was postmaster at Niagara when he and Dwyer met and started a lifelong friendship over a mutual love for golf. Brother Steve would babysit for the young couple when they lived in Lewiston, especially when there was a hockey game on television. After he retired as postmaster, Brother Steve ran the St. Vincent de Paul Center in Niagara Falls and showed many Niagara students the meaning of giving to the community’s neediest people.

Dwyer’s decision to support the hockey program at Niagara wasn’t because he was a hockey fan. He’d never played hockey, even as a youth. Since Niagara already had a successful basketball program, Dwyer thought given Western New York’s passion for hockey, a strong university hockey program would attract more students to NU. The success of the hockey program demanded expansion and improvements to the arena, said Dwyer, now a fan of Niagara’s men’s and women’s hockey teams.

Connie Dwyer said she and her husband are grateful for the outstanding education and moral foundation delivered by Niagara. Both contributed to his success in the business world.

“Other than the cold in the winter and the wind off the gorge, it’s still a great school,” she said.

Dwyer sees his work as campaign chairman as another way to give back to the university.

“I see the importance of Niagara in my life and our family’s life and I want to ensure there is a Niagara providing this Vincentian Catholic education to future generations,” he said.