Universal Bonaventure Celebration Commemorates Milestone

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

ALLEGANY, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University here hosted the final in a series of 26 gatherings last month with the school’s history as its theme and friars among the guests.

This concluding event was held in Boston and was part of SBU’s Universal Bonaventure Celebration (UBC) to commemorate the school’s 150th anniversary.

The UBC gatherings were held at locations around the country, beginning Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis, in Olean, N.Y., and in Hartford, Conn. The final UBC was March 26 at the Top of the Hub of the Prudential building in downtown Boston.

Though varying in venue — some were held in homes, others in restaurants and schools — the UBCs all included similar elements.

Guests were shown a video about the history of the university, with an introduction by SBU president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, and were given an update on campus news by a representative of the university, an administrator or member of the board of trustees. Guests also received literature about the school, shared SBU memorabilia and photos of historic campus scenes and events, and were given a card showing a special anniversary prayer.

The purpose of the UBC, according to alumnus Jerry Ford, ’62, who initiated the UBC concept, was to offer an opportunity “for alums and other members of the Bona family to get together to celebrate all that SBU stands for.”  Ford, former vice president of SBU’s National Alumni Association Board (NAAB), worked with Alumni Director Joe Flanagan to plan the events.

Successful Program
More than 1,200 alumni and friends attended the events, including several friars.

William Jud Weiknsar, OFM, of Camden, attended the Oct. 25 UBC in Cherry Hill, N.J., to reconnect with the Bona community. “We all enjoyed watching the DVD,” said Jud, who was at SBU from 1999 to 2005 as director of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern and as an instructor of Intellectual Journey and Catholic Social Teaching.

Brian Cullinane, OFM, of Wood-Ridge, N.J., and a member of SBU’s class of 1967, attended a UBC in Chatham, N.J. He said it was “a great opportunity to join with and rekindle connections with other alumni.” Brian, who had worked as vice president of university relations at SBU from 1975 to 1984, said he “enjoyed telling my story of going to Bonaventure, presumably for one year, and how I ended up staying for nine.”

Because not “all alumni were able to travel to campus for the major commemorations being held during the feast of St. Francis weekend, we decided to bring the celebrations to as many cities as possible,” said Marvin Stocker, of Maryland, president of SBU’s NAAB.

Each event was designed to engage the attendees in commemorating the 150 years of St. Bonaventure’s existence in Western New York. Several presented a birthday cake in honor of the milestone anniversary. At a UBC event held near Halloween, a guest brought a pumpkin carved like a Bonnies wolf logo.

Daniel Riley, OFM, a member of SBU’s class of 1964, celebrated Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York. This was the most well attended UBC, with 158 participants. Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM, class of 1987, celebrated Mass for alumni in the Washington, D.C., area.

Celebrating the Bonaventure Family
Other friars who attended the UBCs included Daniel Hurley, OFM, of Mt. Irenaeus, class of 1942, F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, SBU’s vice president of the Franciscan Mission, class of 1970; and Daniel Dwyer, OFM, a former member of the SBU board of trustees, who teaches history at Siena College near Albany, N.Y.

The diversity of the attendees represented the depth of the Bonaventure community.

“Bonaventure is like a family, with aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces; every representative is like a family member I either have not met yet, or have not seen in a long time,” said Kevin Foley, class of 1981, of Freehold, N.J., who served for six years on the NAAB.

The UBC was developed by the NAAB. The concept was suggested by Ford who had heard about a universal night held by the college his sons attended. The UBCs were planned by a committee, led by Ford, which comprised NAAB members past and present.

“The events  provided opportunities for alums and others, not only to socialize and reconnect, but also  was an educational/informational component as well as a chance to celebrate the University’s 150th birthday,”  Ford said.

UBC locations were selected by the committee and programs were organized and hosted by alumni.

Flanagan said the goal of the UBC was “to celebrate St. Bonaventure’s 150th anniversary, to cultivate alumni loyalty and commitment, and energize alumni for the end of the capital campaign.”

The enthusiasm for the university and its traditions was evident through the nearly six-month long celebration, Ford said. Attendees left the programs with more memories to add to their archives of SBU recollections. Flanagan said SBU’s Alumni Office is considering offering a similar series of gatherings in the future.

“I think it would be valuable to hold future events like the Universal Bonaventure Celebration,” Brian said.

Pictured above: SBU alumni Robert Daugherty, Kevin Foley, Jocelyn Thomas, Jerry Ford and Robert Grom at the Central Jersey Universal Bonaventure Celebration held in October.

— Jocelyn Thomas, a St. Bonaventure graduate, is director of communications for Holy Name Province. She organized UBC No. 11, held in October in New Jersey.