Staff and faculty from Niagara University met with representatives from Oakwood Cemetery at the Levesque Institute to discuss opportunities for collaboration.

Oakwood Cemetery, the final resting place for some of Niagara Falls’ most prominent families, will provide rich learning opportunities for Niagara University students, thanks to a new partnership between Oakwood and the university.

Niagara’s Levesque Institute facilitated a meeting in August for representatives of the two institutions to discuss ways they could collaborate to create educational opportunities for NU students while assisting Oakwood with multiple projects in need of support.

“We were more than happy to connect Niagara University with this Niagara Falls gem,” said Dr. Karen Kwandrans, associate vice president for strategic and external relations. “It is a perfect example of our goal to tie the resources of the university to the needs of the Niagara Falls community, all while creating a real-life lab for our students.”

Staff and faculty from the university’s nursing, art, history, religious studies, English, biology, and computer and information sciences programs attended the presentation and discussed ways to immerse the learning opportunities into their classrooms with Oakwood representatives. Some of the ideas included project-based activities such as website and app development, literary walking, tree inventories, the creation of QR codes for self-guided tours, stone and artwork preservation, projects on local history, the creation of an arboretum, and historical preservation.

“Our discussion ventured beyond the bounds of individual disciplines and extended into a vision to enhance student engagement to create joint funding opportunities,” said Rhonda Bivins-Talley, executive director of the Levesque Institute.

Historic Oakwood Cemetery, which sits on over 18 acres in the center of downtown Niagara Falls, was established in 1852 on land donated by Lavinia Porter, daughter of Judge Augustus Porter, one of the acknowledged city founders. Among those buried at Oakwood are families whose names are associated with the growth and development of Niagara Falls, including the Whitneys, the Schoelkopfs, the Oppenheims, the Siberbergs, the Pfohls, the Haeberles, the Tattersalls, the Holleys, and both Porter brothers. In addition, Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to travel over the falls in a barrel, and Homan Walsh, whose kite and progressively larger ropes sent the cable across the gorge for the suspension bridge, are also buried there.

“We are excited to partner with Niagara University and its students and look forward to sharing Oakwood’s rich history,” said Judie Glaser, president of the Oakwood Cemetery Association board of directors. “In addition to benefiting from the expertise and enthusiasm of young scholars, we also embrace the potential to improve the experience of the greater community when they visit Oakwood, thanks to the projects these students may undertake.”


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