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Donor's Gift Connects to Theater Experiences at Buffalo State

Donor's Gift Connects to Theater Experiences at Buffalo State

Posted: February 11, 2015

When Joseph Grande, ’53, attended Buffalo State, he was something of a Renaissance man.

An elementary education major, he wrote for the Record and immersed himself in the campus theater world. He vividly remembers performing in School for Scandal and Devil’s Disciple and later directing a variety show in Rockwell Hall.  

Although he enjoyed a long and illustrious career in education, he said his theater experiences remain among his most cherished college memories. Those memories live on in Upton Hall where the box office for Warren Enters Theatre was recently named in honor of Grande and his late wife, Marguerite, recognizing their planned gift for scholarships specifically for theater students.

"I paid very little money to attend Buffalo State," said Grande, a Kenmore native who worked his way through college. "Today it costs more, and I want young people to have the opportunity to pursue theater and a college education. My Buffalo State experience was very important to my life. It's where I gained self-confidence. I will forever be grateful for that."

Although he now spends the majority of the year in Sarasota, Florida, Grande said he still feels connected to Buffalo State.

"I have kept in close contact with a number of people who graduated with me," he said. "One year, I hosted the Sarasota reunion at my country club and more than 100 people came."

As an elementary education teacher candidate, Grande completed a couple of stints teaching local fifth and seventh-graders, age groups he said he loves, but he ultimately decided to pursue a career in higher education. From an early age, he developed an insatiable hunger for history. After graduating summa cum laude in August of 1953, he earned his master's and doctorate degrees in history from the University at Buffalo and the University of Notre Dame respectively.

He taught history for many years at D’Youville College where he rose to director of the honors program and vice president for academic affairs; the latter position he held until retiring in 1995. He also served as a consultant to the New York State Education Department and as the historian for the Village of Kenmore. He taught a history course for Buffalo’s Criminal Justice Department and authored several books, including a pictorial history of Amherst. Many summers, he and Marguerite were involved in the Shaw Festival Theater Guild at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

He remains involved in theater today. He is the immediate past president of the Asolo Repertory Theatre Guild in Sarasota, which enables high school students to attend theater performances.

"Many of these students have had no exposure to live theater,” Grande said. "Some just can’t afford it and we want to change that."

His commitment to young people runs deep. This commitment was demonstrated through his generous planned gift, established to ensure that young people who lack the financial means but yearn for a college education have the chance to make their own memories at Buffalo State.   

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