The Promise of Niagara

Promoting Hospitality: The Statler and The John R. Oishei Foundations

Students interning in Italy, graduates sought after by top hotels, an international tourism expert working on campus — Niagara University’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Management is winning praise and recognition around the world.
Part of the reason for that success is the support of two Buffalo-based foundations: the Statler Foundation and the John R. Oishei Foundation. “Both of these foundations have transformed the college,” said Dr. Gary D. Praetzel, dean of the college. “They really are true partners.”

The Statler Foundation has been a friend of the college for more than 25 years. Every year, the foundation provides about $200,000 for scholarships. It also has funded hardware for computer labs (most recently $75,000 in 2005). In 1999, it provided $1.525 million to help transform the fourth floor of St. Vincent’s into a top teaching and dining facility. In the past school year, it provided $202,000 for practical industry applications, such as sending students to industry events, bringing experts to campus and developing joint degree programs with The Leading Hotel Schools of the World partner schools in Peru and Germany.
The Statler Foundation is named for Buffalo hotel pioneer Ellsworth M. Statler, who died in 1928. His will directed that his foundation support research and training efforts to benefit the hotel industry.

“When he endowed the Statler Foundation, Ellsworth Statler had a vision for promoting the growth of the hospitality industry. The programs offered by Niagara University at its school of hospitality and tourism are shining examples of what Statler had in mind,” said Bernie Tolbert, chairman of the Statler Foundation board of trustees. “We view the work at Niagara to be an important part of the ideals and standards that Ellsworth Statler subscribed to and look forward to continued opportunities to partner with Niagara for the benefit of the hospitality industry.”

The Oishei Foundation helped the college provide world-class programming with an initial $1.5 million grant in 2001 to expand curriculum and provide practical learning experiences, and then with a $600,000 grant last year to help with promotion of regional tourism. NU is working with the Binational Tourism Alliance on this, as well as with the Advancing Arts and Culture Buffalo Niagara initiative and the UB Regional Institute and the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

“Our main objective in providing the support is to promote economic development throughout the region, especially by playing to our strengths in assets such as the Falls and the myriad of other cultural and natural heritage attractions unique to this region,” said Robert D. Gioia, Oishei Foundation president. “We are also dedicated to promoting collaboration and cooperation among groups and institutions in order to leverage the limited resources available here for the greatest possible positive impact.”

The latest grant has brought in Eddie Friel as an expert-in-residence at NU. Friel, who has spent 35 years in both public and private sectors of the tourism industry, is considered the person most responsible for helping turn Glasgow, Scotland, from a decaying industrial city into a vibrant tourist destination. The grant establishes the Buffalo Niagara Cultural Assets: Research into Action Initiative, in which the university will be a leader in implementing programs to promote the cultural, historical and heritage treasures of the region.

What’s it like having an expert like Friel working so closely with the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management? “In one word, phenomenal,” said Praetzel.