LACKAWANNA, N.Y. — A friar who has supported his alma mater for more than three decades and who has worked in academic settings for nearly as long – Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM – was honored last month with the Franciscan Lifetime Achievement Award by the Judge John D. Hillery Foundation. He was recognized at the 61st celebration of the organization that raises money for young men so that they may study at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School.
Gregory, a 1983 graduate of Timon High School, was one of five recognized at the Sept. 27 event. The others were Joe Head, ‘69, Mike Lempko, ‘84, and Marge Carroll, and Maureen Diggins, who received the James R. Hillery Community Service Award.
For more than half a century, the Hillery Foundation has recognized members of the community who have enriched lives through their dedication to others in Western New York. Proceeds from the event go to scholarship funds for the young men attending Timon and those who will attend in the near future.
Since its establishment in 1957, the Hillery Scholarship Foundation has distributed scholarship funds to more than 3,000 students. Its dedication to the young men attending and seeking to attend Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School speaks volumes about the Hillery Foundation’s commitment to the Franciscan spirit of service. The scholarship was established by John Hillery, a judge in Buffalo, and Gerald Whalen.
“It is always a special time when we can come together to celebrate the gifts and talents of members of our Western New York community and to support the young men who attend Bishop Timon,” said Thomas Sullivan, former principal of Timon High School and a Hillery Committee member. “Roughly 180 people attended this year’s event.”
“It was a beautiful event and everyone was very happy for Fr. Greg,” said Jud Weiksnar, OFM, who was among the friends, families, alumni and business associates who gathered Thursday at Lucarelli’s Banquet Center.
Gregory, a parish-based campus minister for the University at Buffalo at its South Campus and Medical School since 2016, serves at St. Joseph University Parish in the University Heights neighborhood of Buffalo. “It is a dynamic, social justice-oriented diverse and welcoming parish that has experienced great success in reaching all people where they are at on their spiritual journeys.”
The Buffalo native has been connected to the more than 70-year-old Timon High School through various forms of support.
He served on the Bishop Timon-St. Jude Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2010. After being solemnly professed in 2003, he visited the school regularly at the invitation of the faculty to promote the Franciscan mission to the students. “When I moved back to Buffalo in 2014, during the first few years, I led retreats on St. Francis and St. Clare for the students.”
Greg graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1987 and from the SUNY School of Law at Buffalo in 1990. Since then, he has served in a variety of positions – as a teacher of business law at SBU, director of vocations for HNP from 2005 to 2007, an instructor and chief operating officer at Washington Theological Union, campus minister at Siena College, and as college chaplain and an assistant professor of liberal studies at Hilbert College in Hamburg, N.Y.
He said feels blessed to have been educated since the age of 14 by the Franciscan friars.
“When I entered Timon in 1979, there were about 12 friars at the school, and they were an integral and daily part of all of our lives,” he said. “Some of these friars became my heroes. As a teenager you wanted to be like them – strong in faith, encouraging, bright, hard working, humorous, authentic, caring, and compassionate. I learned more about what it means to be a good person from these men than from anything I learned in the classroom. I didn’t fully grasp it or understand it then, but time and again these friars would reach out to my classmates and me – especially those who were marginalized – and would see in each of us the things we couldn’t see in ourselves. They saw us as God saw us – and they built us up. And they instilled in us a Franciscan spirit that I thank God for each and every day. Truly, the seeds of my Franciscan vocation were planted at Timon.”
Greg has found his life as a Franciscan satisfying in ways beyond anything he could have imagined.
“I have been blessed to have worked in so many different roles – from the classroom to administration to campus ministry – at such different educational venues — Bonaventure, WTU, Siena, Hilbert College and now at the University of Buffalo,” he said. “Regardless of the role or school, the one thing I have found so satisfying is the privileged opportunity to accompany young men and women grow into becoming fully the person that God lovingly wants them to be.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- Video of Greg Jakubowicz recorded at Siena College, April 2013
- “Buffalo High School Marks 70th Anniversary” – Aug. 24, 2016, HNP Today
- “Bishop Timon- St. Jude High School Launches Franciscan Fund” – Jan. 2, 2013, HNP Today