Father Maher, NU Faculty Members Visit Haitian School Founded by Alumnus

August 7, 2014  |  by Michael Freedman

  • Maher in Haiti

    The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., and Dr. Debra Colley spend time with Ed Brennan, '78, and the students of Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable.

  • Maher in Haiti

    Drs. Peggy Choong, Henrik Borgstrom and Michelle Ciminelli pause for a photo while visiting a Haiti-based school established by 1978 NU grad Ed Brennan.

  • Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable

    Aerial view of Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable. Photo courtesy of Hand in Hand for Haiti.

A Niagara University alumnus who spearheaded the development of a world-class school in Haiti is receiving reinforcements from his alma mater this week.

In 2010, Ed Brennan sought to build a sustainable school complex for the children of Saint Marc, Haiti, an area that was devastated by a catastrophic earthquake in January of that year. The 1978 Niagara graduate and retired CEO and chairman of DFS Group generated extraordinary monetary support for the endeavor from the travel retail industry.

As a result, the world-class educational facility, Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, opened its doors Oct. 3, 2011.

This week, administrators from Niagara University – including the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president, and Dr. Debra Colley, dean of the College of Education – are in St. Marc to determine ways that the university can advance its relationship with the institution.

Father Maher noted that forming a partnership with the Haitian school is Vincentian in its truest sense, amalgamating service to the poor, a commitment to excellence and making impactful and sustainable change in the lives of people living in poverty.

“The humanitarian work that Ed Brennan is doing in Haiti is exemplary of the values that Niagara University seeks to instill within its graduates,” commented Father Maher. “St. Vincent de Paul instructed us to assure our eternal happiness by living and dying in the service of the poor, and that is exactly what Ed is doing in Haiti, where about 80 percent of residents live in poverty. As a Vincentian, educational institution with a global identity, we are willing to do whatever we can to help him.”

Dr. Colley is hopeful that the schools can establish a reciprocal agreement, allowing for Niagara faculty members, and teacher education, social work and language majors to accrue tremendous field experience while addressing the needs of children and families in St. Marc.

“We see a lot of opportunities that can benefit both institutions,” she said. “Ed has put a great foundation in place and we would like to offer our vast human resources to further enhance the lives of these students.”

Joining Father Maher and Dr. Colley in Haiti are Drs. Michelle Ciminelli, assistant professor of education; Peggy Choong, associate dean of the College of Business Administration; and Henrik Borgstrom, French professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Lycée Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable is being constructed in phases to ultimately house 720 students from preschool to secondary school. It is being built to be hurricane-proof, anti-seismic and sustainable.

Construction of the educational complex came about through Brennan’s role as chairman of Hand in Hand for Haiti, an organization he founded to help Haitians recover from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that destroyed most of the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince.

Brennan returned to NU last November to speak during Niagara Reaches Out to the World, a daylong summit showcasing the good work being done by Niagara University students, faculty, staff, and alumni across the globe. Following his remarks, NU students presented Brennan with a $2,012.71 check earmarked for Hand in Hand for Haiti.

For more on Hand in Hand for Haiti, go to http://hihh.org.

To learn about the mission of Niagara University, please visit www.niagara.edu/our-mission.