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  • The Rainbow Never Fades: Niagara University, 1856-2006
  • Philip Gleason
The Rainbow Never Fades: Niagara University, 1856-2006. By John B. Stranges. (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.2007. Pp. xiv, 256. $42.95 paperback.)

Niagara is the oldest, but least well known, of the nation's three Vincentian universities. It is also the smallest, with a student body roughly a quarter the size of St. John's in New York (est. 1870) or DePaul in Chicago (est. 1898). Niagara's relatively out-of-the-way location is partly responsible for the difference, but its seminary orientation was also a major factor. It began in 1856 as the seminary of Our Lady of Angels and, though chartered as a university in 1883, the seminary was the tone-setting element in the whole operation through much of the twentieth century. It was not finally separated from the university until 1961. The author is mistaken in saying that it was "untypical, though precocious," to combine collegiate and seminary instruction. On the contrary, that arrangement was quite common before the Civil War; thereafter it rapidly became outdated. Its long persistence at Niagara reinforced the institution's commitment to residentiality (day students were not admitted until 1911) and to curricular conservatism.

Pressure to gain accreditation from the Middle States Association led to the elimination of prep students in the early 1920s. Graduate courses were added in that decade; later modernizing moves included setting up schools of business, education, nursing, and an Institute of Transportation, Travel, and Tourism. Yet Niagara's academic mediocrity prompted a critical 1957 Middle States review that Stranges characterizes as "a salutary shock." Since then the university has striven to upgrade itself academically, but financial stringency and other strains led to the creation of a faculty union in 1975. In connection with financial stringency, it is interesting that Niagara refused Bundy aid in the 1960s, but accepted it twenty years later.

Stranges—a Niagara alumnus, long-time faculty member in history, and vice-president for academic affairs since 1977—covers these and many other matters competently, but his book could have been improved by footnotes, a fuller bibliography, and a more adequate index.

Philip Gleason
University of Notre Dame (Emeritus)


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