Canisius History 1966-1990

1966-1990: Protest, Promise and Progress

Seismic social and political changes began to roil the country – and the world - at this point in history.  Protests continued over U.S. involvement in the burgeoning Vietnam War. Racial inequality persisted despite a civil rights movement that successfully fought to outlaw racial segregation and discrimination.  And unrest about full equality for women remained.  

As Americans reeled in rage, a moral revolt ignited among college students who opposed U.S. political policies and questioned social norms of oppression and prejudice. Here at Canisius, students marched into history rather than just read about it.  

canisius student protest1967: A Force for Change  

A small but resolute group of African-American men challenged the status quo at Canisius in fall 1967.  Troubled by the lack of diversity in the student body and the academic curriculum, they founded the Afro-American Society.  A student club, yes, but one with an infrastructure focused largely on advocacy initiatives aimed at bringing diversity to campus.  
 
With the full support of President Rev. James M. Demske ’47, SJ, the Afro-American Society established the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship.  The program offered full academic scholarships to students of color who met the college’s admissions criteria. 
Approximately 40 promising students in need of financial assistance were admitted in the program’s initial year (1968).  

1968: A Time for Action; A Time for Reflection 

If not the cause, the war in Vietnam certainly was the catalyst for a chain reaction of events that engulfed college campuses nationwide.  Canisius was hardly exempt and saw its share of social and political strife.  
 
Questioning the morality of the war and the right of individuals to refuse to participate in it, a small Canisius group formed Students for Peace and Involvement (SPI) in December 1967.  
 
As the group matured in number and intention, Canisius became the site for peace vigils and protests.  In March 1968, two weeks before President Lyndon Johnson publicly withdrew his name from contention to succeed himself, the Canisius Student Government took the unprecedented action of adopting a resolution condemning his administration for its Vietnam policy.  

1979: The Old Gate that was Newgate 

A piece of the world’s most famous common law jail found a permanent home outside Bouwhuis Library in September 1979 when a gate from the death cells of London’s Newgate Prison was donated to Canisius College.  
 
The 1,800-pound door was the last through which prison inmates walked before being executed for their crimes.  Many of those inmates included Jesuits priests who, during the late 1600s, were punished for plotting to overthrow the Anglican church of England.  

Of course, Jesuit education existed centuries before it arrived in Buffalo at 2001 Main Street.  And certainly, it’s continually adapted to changing circumstances and times:   An education appropriate to a 17th century Spaniard, an 18th century Frenchman or a 19th century Englishman would not be appropriate to a 20th century American at this time in history.  

But so long as Jesuit education has adapted itself, it too has remained constant in its pursuit of academic excellence.  A diverse faculty and the search for truth are equally important pieces of the whole equation.  And as the troubled times of the late 1960s and early 1970s gave way to a new decade at Canisius, both teaching and learning were taken to greater heights as the college aggressively began to grow its academic programs and build a distinct brand of excellence.   

1982: First female named ROTC Corps Commander

Canisius sophomore Christina (Celentani) Mortel ’85 is named ROTC Corps Commander, making her the first female to attain such a rank in the 31-year history of the military program at the college.  

Celentani earned the assignment as a result of high evaluations for her performance as company commander, platoon leader, platoon sergeant and executive officer of her company.  She held the position for one year and commanded 105 cadets.  

1985: Tipped for the NIT Tournament 

Coach Nick Macarchuk guides men’s basketball to a 20-10 mark in the regular season and the team’s first post-season appearance in 22 years with an invite to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).  

The Griffs ultimately bowed to Nebraska, 79-66, but went on to win 106 games over a four-year period behind the spectacular play of Sugar Ray Hall ‘85 and the low post dominance of future NBA center Mike F. Smrek ‘85.   

1988: Fulbright Scholar Canisius First Fulbright Scholar

Thomas W. Maulucci Jr. ’88 becomes the first Canisius College student to be awarded a coveted J. William Fulbright Scholarship. Named for the late U.S. Senator from Arkansas, the Fulbright is the U.S. government’s premier scholarship program, designed to foster mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchanges.

Maulucci used his Fulbright to study relations between Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc countries at the University of Saarlandes in Sarrbrücken, Germany.  At the conclusion of his 10-month Fulbright study, Maulucci went on to earn his PhD in history from Yale University.  He is currently a professor of history at American International College in Springfield, MA.  

1989: Multimillion Gift Endows Business School 

Canisius becomes one of the first mid-sized colleges in the country to have an endowed business school, following a nearly $2 million donation from Richard J. Wehle, president and chief executive officer of Wehle Electric Company.   

The gift marked the largest single donation to the college, at the time.  In gratitude, the Canisius Board of Trustees renamed the School of Business Administration, the Richard J. Wehle School of Business. 

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