Alumnus Edward J. Brennan, ’78, a global business leader and humanitarian, has been named chairman of the Niagara University Board of Trustees. The appointment was announced by the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of the university.
“Ed Brennan exemplifies the service-leadership we instill in our students,” said Father Maher. “His outstanding professional success and his commitment to excellence and to those on the margins of society are an inspiring testament to his Vincentian heart and Niagara’s exceptional academic experience. His guidance will be a critical resource as we prepare our students to be citizens of a diverse global society and leaders in their communities. We are grateful for his continued dedication to the university.”
Brennan, who began his tenure on the board in 2015, served as chairman, president, and CEO of Duty Free Shoppers (DFS) Group Ltd. During his 25-year career with DFS, he led the organization through substantial expansion, navigating the economic climate while investing for the future. He was an early visionary of the potential growth of the Chinese consumer and, in 2003, made the strategic decision to move DFS headquarters from San Francisco to Hong Kong. Under his leadership, the company became a more than $5 billion global company and was named “Retailer of the Year” by Duty Free International. He remains active with DFS as a nonexecutive director.
Brennan currently owns and operates Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards in Lafayette, N.Y., named the top apple orchard in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards 2020. He also serves as CEO of the Miller Family businesses based in Hong Kong, and on the board of directors of New Age Corp.
Previously, Brennan had a 16-year career with R.H. Macy’s and Co. and Federated Department Stores, Inc., holding positions including senior merchant for Macy’s East, with responsibility for $1.6 billion in company sales; and president of Macy’s Men’s Wear Division. In 1995, he was one of 200 executives and other employees who purchased the then-struggling Macy’s department stores.
Brennan’s business acumen is matched by his philanthropic endeavors, and he has long been committed to education with a great love for international students and those from under-resourced communities. He is co-founder and chairman of Hand in Hand for Haiti, an organization that built a world-class educational facility in the coastal town of Saint-Marc in Western Haiti to provide access to education for children and youth in the most underserved communities of that country. In 2016, Brennan and his wife, Deborah, provided a financial gift to Niagara University to honor his father and establish the Edward A. Brennan Center for Language, Culture, and Leadership, and he continues to be active in the work of the center, which focuses on leading, learning, and serving the needs of international families and students, as well as English language learners within the community through agencies that serve the needs of refugee, migrant, and immigrant populations.