A Manhattan securities broker who attended Niagara University on the GI Bill has pledged $1 million to his alma mater's capital campaign.
Richard F. Chapdelaine, of Manhasset, a World War II veteran who graduated from Niagara in 1949 and went on to establish two successful bond-trading companies, said the gift was in appreciation for the Vincentian influence on his life. Niagara University is sponsored by the Vincentian Community, an order of priests and brothers founded by St. Vincent de Paul.
"Dick Chapdelaine's gift is especially meaningful because it comes from the heart," said the Rev. Richard J. Devine, C.M., acting president of Niagara. "The university is as grateful to him as he is to Niagara."
The $1 million gift, the eighth of $1 million or more to the capital fund drive Together, Tomorrow, Niagara!, pushed the drive well beyond its goal of $25 million. The university exceeded the goal last month after receiving a $1.525 million grant from the Statler Foundation for development of the university's hospitality program. The drive, which concludes as the end of the month, has raised more than $26.5 million.
Drafted at the age of 18, Chapdelaine served from 1943-45 with the U.S. Army 8th Air Force. He flew 35 combat missions in the European Theater of Operations, earning the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.
With numerous other war veterans, Chapdelaine entered Niagara in February 1946. Married the following August, he and his wife, Therese, settled into an apartment at Fort Niagara in Youngstown. Twenty-nine other couples, the husbands all veterans, formed a tightly knit group at the fort. "They were a great group of people," he said. "We had a great experience."
During his time at Niagara, veterans outnumbered traditional students, Chapdelaine recalled. "We were a unique group of people," he said. "We knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. Education was never more in demand."
The reception accorded veterans and the support provided by the Vincentian community at Niagara produced a great affection for the university. One particularly vivid recollection of Chapdelaine's was the day the veterans, as freshmen, appeared in front of the upperclassmen for their introduction to hazing. Looking deliberately intimidating and sporting foxhole beards, the veterans got the desired result. "Welcome to Niagara," the younger upperclassmen said. There was no hazing for war-seasoned veterans.
Chapdelaine first met the Vincentian Fathers as an altar boy in Queens and continued the relationship at St. John's Prep, a Vincentian high school in New York City he attended on a football scholarship.
"I lost my father when I was 6," he said. "After that, the Vincentian Fathers were my father."
Chapdelaine fondly recalls another act of kindness at the hands of the Vincentians. Shortly after arriving at Niagara, he learned only days later that his mother had died. Returning to his room, he found airline tickets to New York for both himself and his roommate, compliments of Father Bud Murray.
"I'm forever grateful for what they did for me," he said of the priests.
The accelerated programs for veterans allowed Chapdelaine to complete his studies for a bachelor's degree in economics in the summer of 1948 and to graduate with the class of 1949.
After gaining experience in the securities industry, he founded and built two successful companies, Chapdelaine & Co., a municipal bond broker, and Chapdelaine Corporate Securities Co., which deals in corporate bonds.
A former member of Niagara University's board of trustees, he currently serves as a member of the board of St. John's University, another Vincentian institution, and several other boards. He holds honorary degrees from both Niagara and St. John's and received the Dunleavy Award on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Niagara at Alumni Weekend in October 1999. The Dunleavy Award recognizes success in one's chosen career, outstanding charitable service, and consistent loyalty to Niagara University.