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St. Bonaventure University and Hilbert College Trustees Agree to Explore Closer Alliance




St. Bonaventure, Hilbert hire executive director to oversee possible alliance between the schools

August 21, 2014

St. Bonaventure University and Hilbert College announced today the appointment of Teresa O’Rourke as the executive director of the strategic alliance study being conducted by the two Franciscan schools. She will begin work Aug. 25.


The two schools began a relationship more than 20 years ago when St. Bonaventure opened a graduate studies center on the Hilbert campus, located 60 miles north of St. Bonaventure in Hamburg. In October 2013, the two institutions approved a feasibility study to determine if they should expand their unique collaboration in academic programs, facilities and operational practices.


The boards, faculties, and staffs have since then discussed how to bring more collaboration, a greater sense of entrepreneurship, and better, more affordable opportunities to students.


O’Rourke’s position, funded by a grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation, will provide focused administrative coordination to the two schools as they continue to explore a possible alliance.


“We’re grateful to have Teresa on board,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., president of St. Bonaventure. “Her presence will enable the leaders of both institutions to provide adequate direction to both the primary duties they have for their own campus and the increasing work-load created by the alliance study.


“We remain responsible for the overall conduct of the process, but as important as this potential alliance is, it’s equally important that we’re able to maintain the day-to-day functionality of our own campuses.”


Dr. Cynthia Zane, president of Hilbert, stressed that the addition of O’Rourke does not mean the colleges have committed to fully integrate.


“Teresa is here to facilitate this process going forward,” Dr. Zane said. “What we have determined after in-depth discussions over the last 10 months is that this is an idea still very much worth exploring.


“But we’re not done listening,” she said. “One of Teresa’s primary goals, especially early on, will be to compile feedback from a variety of constituent groups at both campuses, including faculty and staff.”


“I am pleased to become a part of this exciting venture,” O’Rourke said. “I commend Hilbert and St. Bonaventure for envisioning an alliance that has the potential to strengthen both institutions and to serve as a possible model for partnerships and collaborations throughout higher education.”


For the past 12 years, O’Rourke served as an assistant dean and then senior assistant dean at the University of San Diego School of Law. In the latter position, she provided leadership to a range of operational areas and was responsible for all of the law school’s accreditation activities and institutional research.


Prior to her appointment in San Diego, she worked as a consultant providing strategic planning and fundraising support to non-profit and religious organizations. She also has served as the dean of student affairs and admissions at Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at Berkeley’s Graduate Theological Union and as the director of student services at UC Berkeley Law.


O’Rourke holds a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Hamilton College and a master’s of divinity from Harvard University. She also has a certificate from the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.


O’Rourke will maintain offices at both campuses.

The Western New York Foundation Supports St. Bonaventure/Hilbert Study

May 9, 2014


The Western New York Foundation has awarded Hilbert College and St. Bonaventure University $20,000 to support the two schools’ efforts to create a strategic alliance.

“The WNY Foundation is supporting Hilbert College and St. Bonaventure University and their efforts to create a strategic alliance, because we feel this process will help each institution build on their strengths and create more educational opportunities for students,” said Beth Kinsman Gosch, Executive Director of The Western New York Foundation.

The Western New York Foundation, incorporated in 1951, makes grants in the seven counties of Western New York State: Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Wyoming, Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua.

Under its Certificate of Incorporation, the Foundation has broad powers to assist all charitable agencies of Western New York other than churches or affiliated religious agencies. The corporate stated purposes are "to conduct and promote educational, charitable, philanthropic, eleemosynary and beneficent works only.”

The Western New York Foundation supports sustainable organizations that improve the quality of life in Western New York. The Foundation makes investments that build on nonprofits’ proven strengths in order to improve their effectiveness and their ability to fulfill their missions.

Oishei Foundation Supports St. Bonaventure/Hilbert Study with Second Award

May 8, 2014

HAMBURG, NY -- The John R. Oishei Foundation has awarded Hilbert College and St. Bonaventure University an additional $175,000 to support the two schools’ efforts to create a strategic alliance. The Oishei Foundation supported the schools’ efforts with a $250,000 grant in December 2013.

“We made the first grant because we found the proposal from presidents Carney and Zane to articulate a vision that is exactly what Western New York needs in the realm of higher education: more collaboration, a greater sense of entrepreneurship, and better, more affordable opportunities for students,” said Oishei Foundation  president Robert Gioia. “This additional grant represents our confidence in the process to date.”


The John R. Oishei Foundation strives to be a catalyst for change to enhance economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grantmaking, leadership and network building. The foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corporation.

The two Franciscan schools located 60 miles from each other in Western New York announced in early October that they were embarking upon a feasibility study to determine whether there are significant opportunities to build upon their20-yearpartnership.  St. Bonaventure has offered graduate programs on the campus of Hilbert College in a weekend format for the past two decades.


December 11, 2013
The idea to build on a successful 20-year partnership between St. Bonaventure University and Hilbert College, both Franciscan institutions in Western New York, gained considerable momentum with major foundation support.

The John R. Oishei Foundation has granted $250,000 to support and expand the present collaboration, sharing of facilities, curriculum development and complementary cultures.

The Oishei Foundation support is based on the belief that the two schools together can provide additional learning opportunities for a wider range of students at a more affordable cost.

The Boards of both institutions voted in September to conduct a feasibility study to discover how to form an even stronger alliance to deal with the disruption in higher education. The study will explore how to bring more collaboration, a greater sense of entrepreneurship, and better, more affordable opportunities to students.
The grant will enable the schools to make progress in their analysis of the strategic alliance alternatives. Campus leaders and faculty in the last few months have shared documentation and information with each other to determine whether there are any ‘deal breakers’ to prevent the schools from moving forward. 

With that part complete, working through the nitty-gritty of what a closer alliance might look like will require significant dedicated time, creativity, and persistence.

The Boards of Trustees for the schools held their regular December meetings last week. Both voted to continue with a second phase of feasibility study, while also creating opportunities for the boards to interact directly with each other. 

The schools’ ad hoc strategic alliance board committees and administrative teams will continue to investigate initiatives designed to improve student success and learning outcomes, realize synergies, address cost increases, and foster growth with the goal of presenting additional information to the Boards for consideration at their respective March 2014 meetings.  



 October 1, 2013 - Announcement

Over twenty years ago, two proud Catholic Franciscan institutions in Western New York joined forces to share resources and broaden access to graduate programs.

Our partnership has expanded over the years to include sharing of facilities, curriculum development and a complementary culture. This relationship has blessed our students with extraordinary learning opportunities they never would have experienced otherwise.

Given our success in the past, we are now engaged in a feasibility study to discover the data and information necessary to determine whether our institutions can work even closer together. Our Boards have approved this feasibility study, which grants authority to share data and information on all relevant aspects of the past, present and predictable future of our organizations. 

While the feasibility analysis is a ‘discovery process’, we wouldn’t be investing in this effort if we didn’t think there were likely some ways in which St. Bonaventure and Hilbert College could collaborate more closely and achieve greater synergies.

While there is not a lot more to say at this point, until the feasibility process is completed, what we can tell you is our purpose starts – and ends – with students, who deserve the very best higher education experience we can provide, and access to the great minds and energy in both institutions.

Higher education can no longer count on annual tuition increases, an abundance of qualified applicants, a steady flow of fundraising dollars, and traditional methods of classroom instruction.

It’s a new world out there, not for the faint of heart.

That’s why we take the step today to see if two Franciscan organizations can together rise to a challenge like the one President Obama recently posed: to do more to innovate curriculum, attract top students and faculty, keep rising costs in check, and offer life-changing educational opportunities. We’ve been doing this for decades, but there is much more we can do.

As we go about the process of considering options, we will always keep in mind the importance of the college years for our students, and the need to preserve the heritage, culture and close-knit communities that make us unique.

We will keep you informed during the process, and invite you to provide feedback and share your opinions about something so important to all of us.