An Original "Companion"
An Original "Companion"
By Chris Pitek '00 and Ginger Geoffery


Neil R. Reilly '80: "A Man For and With Others"

Neil Reilly '80 could be considered a Companion even though he was a Canisius High School student before Canisius started its Companions service immersion program. Neil lived a life exemplary of the Companions program and Ignatian call to service although he never participated in any formal school-sponsored immersion experience. During his life, Neil discovered the joy of traveling and fully experiencing the peoples and cultures of the world, not as a tourist, but as an insightful "visiting native."

After graduating from Canisius, Neil responded to the Ignatian call to serve by accepting an appointment to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Long Island. He graduated in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering Systems. From there Neil began his career as a "mate". He rapidly rose to chief engineer and was considered one of the best, most sought after leaders in the global shipping industry. At the same time, Neil diligently and quietly maintained his status in the Naval Reserves and was promoted to the distinguished rank of Captain.

Fellowship and experience mattered most to Neil. A chance to join others in companionship and conversation was far more valuable to Neil than any recognition or reward for his service. He sought out personal relationships with the people in the communities where he served. He enjoyed serving as a mentor for others. Neil's life though was cut short. He died from stomach cancer in 2014.

Neil's character and example of service is a model of what the adult leaders in the Canisius High School Companions program attempt to achieve. Adult leaders utilize their strengths to invite young men to grow in self-knowledge through experiences of service to and solidarity with the marginalized. To ensure the sustainability of the Companions program, Canisius High School has established the Neil R. Reilly '80 Companions Adult Mentorship Fund.

Fund Purpose

The Neil R. Reilly '80 Companions Adult Mentorship Fund will be used to coordinate future Leadership Development Cohorts (LDC). The LDC is a peer-led, professional development initiative designed to train future leaders of the Companions program. It will provide a unique experience of collegial, peer-leadership that enhances the personal, spiritual and professional development of adult leaders. Additionally, it will ensure the sustainability of the Companions program by developing future leaders. A key component of the future of the Companions program at Canisius depends on the formation of its leaders.

The Companions program was founded at Canisius High School in 2008 by Mr. Paul Cumbo '98 and Mr. Adam Baber '01. Companions offers students opportunities to respond to the Ignatian call to service. Students are invited to grow in self-knowledge through experiences of service and solidarity with the marginalized. The program seeks to foster an ongoing desire to serve the needs of others, coupled with a lifelong commitment to justice.

Support the Fund

If you'd like to support this initiative, please go to canisiushigh.org/give and click on the "Donate Now" button. Select the Neil Reilly '80 Fund from the designation drop down menu. For more information on the fund or the Companions program, please contact Mr. Chris Pitek '00 in the CHS campus ministry office at pitek@canisiushigh.org.