Jubilarian Profile: Basil Valente Celebrates 25 Years as a Friar

Wendy Healy Friar News

This is the last in a series of profiles of friars commemorating their anniversaries of profession in 2012. The last newsletter issue featured Frank Sevola, OFM, who is also celebrating 25 years.

ALLEGANY, N.Y. — “On the road again” is the phrase often used to describe Basil Valente, OFM. The St. Bonaventure University professor of integrated marketing communications — who celebrated his 25th anniversary as a friar last month — caught up with HNP Today before traveling to England’s Oxford University with students studying abroad this summer.

In addition to his busy schedule in the classroom, Basil has directed the Francis E. Kelly Oxford program for SBU for the last 15 of its 25 years. When he is not accompanying the students abroad, he’s recruiting tutors and professors to work one on one with Bona’s in this unique program, a hallmark of his ministry. He is credited with building the program and expanding it to graduate students.

“This is a significant program in terms of what our SBU students can accomplish on the other side of the pond,” said Basil with a smile. Based on a tutorial system of learning, the tutor or professor gives students materials to read and they discuss them in a critical discussion. The six weeks is a very different approach to learning and a unique program offered at few colleges.

The roughly 30 undergraduate and graduate students in the program will work with companies on real-life marketing communications programs, earning nine credits. “The best thing,” he said, “is that this program is very Franciscan in a lot of ways. First, we look at more than a student’s grade point average for admission to the program.”

This program has defined Basil’s educational/marketing communications ministry, an assignment he first accepted in 1990 as a young instructor in St. Bonaventure‘s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Although he has spent most of his ministry at SBU, he earned his degree in English with a concentration in marketing management from Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., the other Upstate New York school sponsored by the Province.

Thankful for the Franciscan Community
The Rutland, Vt., native said he chose Siena because he wanted to go to a school outside of Vermont. “It was there where I met friars and really enjoyed the community. I liked the welcome I received. I liked the people.”

Not sure what direction to go in after graduation, Basil left Siena and traveled as a dancer with a musical group. “I knew I wanted to get into marketing and communications work, and I also wanted to consider the friars. I had thought about joining the friars but that prospect just wasn’t as vivid as working in communications and advertising.”

With degree in hand, Basil worked in advertising for Eastern Airlines. He was first professed in 1987 in Brookline, Mass., and was assigned to do public relations and promotions for Mustard Seed, a newsletter produced by the St. John the Baptist Province in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1989, he became the assistant to the director of communications for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men in Washington, D.C.

He earned graduate degrees in pastoral communications from Washington Theological Union and Boston College, Boston, Mass.; and in public communications from American University in Washington, D.C. He also studied philosophy at St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y.

In 1990, Basil was assigned to SBU, where he taught until 1993. He was then assigned to the Holy Name Provincial Office in New York City as the assistant to the director of communications. After a year, he returned to SBU, becoming assistant director of communications.

He returned to the classroom in 1996, and has been teaching four to eight classes a semester of integrated marketing communications ever since. The unique program combines all the disciplines of marketing and communications used today. Unlike past generations of students, today, said Basil, it is expected that a person will understand everything about writing, editing, editing a video, economics, advertising, public relations, communicating, social media, and developing a marketing plan.

“It’s all combined under one umbrella,” he said, “and is positioned with a business perspective.”

Basil holds one of his nieces. Both are smiling at the camera.

Basil and one of his nieces at the jubilee celebration in New York City. (Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Thomas)

Appreciative for the Province
“The Province has always been entirely supportive of my ministry and vocation as a Franciscan,” said Basil. “It’s always been around to nurture and assist me so I can apply what I believe are Franciscan values as it applies to higher education. It allows me to work with students on so many levels and respect the dignity and worth of everything created, especially to respect the dignity of the individual.”

Many friars, he said, have been wonderful mentors and he’s appreciative of the “depth of love I’ve felt.”

His loves outside the classroom include cooking, traveling and enjoying theater “on both sides of the pond — London and New York.” He is also an anglophile and a traveler.

“I’m always on the road,” he said. “Oxford, SBU, Buffalo, Albany, NYC.”

He also enjoys visiting his brother, two sisters, and “all sorts of nieces and nephews.” His mother, Eugenia, who lives in the Saratoga, N.Y., region, came to New York City last month with other members of his family to attend the Province’s jubilee celebration.

Basil took a moment to reflect on his jubilee, and said it was “hard to believe profession was 25 years ago.” He easily recalls, however, the memorable final profession event in New York, and being professed by Flavian Walsh, OFM.

“I’m very grateful to the Province, for allowing me to grow spiritually, emotionally and professionally.” 

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.