In this season of commencements and honors, From the Archives notes that the Buffalo News the morning of May 20, 1990, featured an article concerning the Niagara University Commencement held the previous day at which our own Sister Mary Frances Welch received the University’s Caritas Medal.
She received the award “because her life reflects ‘the charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century Frenchman from whom this university takes its inspiration, and who had a special concern for the poor, the sick and the outcast of society.’”
The article went on to explain that, since 1977, Sister Mary Frances had been serving as a liaison of the New York State Education Department with the 80 statewide private colleges and universities and the 13 state prisons that had the Higher Education Opportunity Programs (HEOP—state-supported effort providing tutorial assistance and funding to give academically and economically disadvantaged students the chance to succeed in college).
The citation accompanying the medal was signed by Brian J. O’Connell, C.M., then president of Niagara University. It elaborated on Mary Frances’ career during which she had spent about 20 years as a teacher and principal in elementary schools in New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. After receiving her master’s degree in philosophy from Niagara in 1967, she began her tenure at Rosary Hill/Daemen College where she directed the college’s HEOP program. In 1974 she helped to found the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, which was sponsored by Canisius and Daemen Colleges and Niagara University. At the time she received the Caritas medal, the Consortium had college programs in Attica, Wyoming, and Collins correctional facilities in the Western New York area.