The Promise of Niagara

NU Receives Major Gift for Theater Renovation

May 16, 2008

Niagara University has received a capital campaign commitment of $850,000 for renovation of its on-campus theater complex.

The gift from alumnus George A. Wiegers will permit the theater department to develop the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theater. The existing Leary Theater will continue to be housed in the complex.

Elizabeth Clune is the daughter of Robert and Jo Ann Clune of Ithaca, members of the NU Class of 1958. Wiegers, a classmate of theirs, asked that the new theater complex be named for their daughter, an ardent theater fan. Robert Clune is a member of the university's board of trustees.

"This is a wonderful investment in one of our premier programs," said the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University. He added, "The work that will result from it will provide even more evidence of the exciting transformation that is under way on our campus. We are most grateful to George for his confidence and generosity."

Wiegers, who spent more than 30 years as a partner and managing director of several major securities and investment banking companies, resides in Vail, Colo. He is currently a partner in Vail Valley Jet Center in Colorado and maintains other business interests. He also serves as president of the Wiegers Family Foundation.

Niagara University honored Wiegers in 1993 by presenting him with its highest honor, the President's Medal

The latest gift brings to nearly $2 million the amount raised for the theater expansion and renovation project, which is part of the university's current $80-million capital campaign, "The Promise of Niagara … The Next 150 years."

"I am thrilled at this very generous gift that Mr. Wiegers has given us, just as I am thrilled by the giving of others who have allowed us to reach our fundraising goal for the theater," said Brother Augustine Towey, C.M., director emeritus of Niagara University Theater. "I am also thrilled that the complex will be named after Elizabeth Ann Clune, one of our dearest friends," he added.

Gregory Fletcher, director of Niagara University Theater, said the new complex will provide an opportunity to consolidate theater operations. "Currently, so much of our theater operation is spread across campus as well as off campus. With the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theater, our costume and scene shops, our rehearsal and dance studios, and our storage facilities will all exist under one roof, which will be a huge relief and benefit."

The theater project calls for a major renovation of the theater, including repositioning of the stage to provide more leg room and comfort for theater patrons. A two-story lobby and atrium will be added to the complex, featuring an elevator and direct access from parking.

The timetable for the theater work is being coordinated with other projects planned for the campus.

In announcing that commitments for the theater project have reached almost $2 million, Brother Augustine gave credit to three high-school classmates who assisted in fundraising efforts. Drs. Hugh Babinski, Dick Cheshire and Gordon Weil, who attended Hempstead High School on Long Island with Brother Augustine, voluntarily developed a proposal for the theater campaign that was accepted by the university.

"They said they wanted to do what they could to see that our physical theater is renovated to equal the excellence of our theater program," Brother Augustine said. "That's how it all happened."