RICH TRADITION. BOLD VISION.
Bob Reger '66 and Pete Augustine '83 graduated from Canisius nearly two decades apart. But in true Crusader spirit, they have come together to co-chair a capital campaign in celebration of a century-and-a-half of educational excellence at their alma mater.
"Pete and I attended Canisius at very different times but we share that special connection to our school that only an alum can understand, no matter what year he graduated," Bob says. "As the elder of the co-chairs, I often kid that I am the tradition and Pete is the vision; but our points of view coalesce in a way that demonstrates a deep affection for our school and a recognition of the importance of this campaign."
Bob and Pete have devoted countless hours in leading a committee for the campaign which is aimed at positioning Canisius for the future. "I think we all agree that we were extremely fortunate to spend those most important formative years at Canisius," Pete says. "It is difficult to quantify, but there is a unique spirit that lives in each of us and it was instilled at Canisius. Bob and I are honored to co-chair the campaign."
Bob grew up in Buffalo, the eldest of six children. He remembers discussing with his parents his desire to go to Canisius because it was, in his young opinion, the best high school in Western New York. Never mind that his maternal grandfather and a maternal uncle had attended St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute.
"When I was in grammar school, my mother dragged me – reluctantly – to watch a neighbor in a high school speech competition," Bob recalls. "There was a student from Canisius who was so eloquent and well-prepared – I believe his team won the competition. I knew right then I wanted to go to Canisius."
Having won the debate with his parents, Bob worked during the summers as a landscaper to help pay his tuition – work that he continued to do during college and law school. At Canisius, he was soon a top performer on the debate team, helping the team to win national competitions. His brothers, Mark Reger '69 – a member of the Canisius Athletic Hall of Fame – and Ron Reger '70, would follow him to Canisius.
In his sophomore year, Bob met Barry Goldwater, the five-term senator from Arizona and Republican nominee for president of the United States in 1964. Following that meeting, Bob began to take an interest in politics and served on student government at Canisius while continuing to build on his debate skills. In his senior year, his classmates voted him Mr. Canisius.
"I think I was the most surprised at being selected as Mr. Canisius," Bob muses. "The school presented so many opportunities and experiences in which to get involved and I simply wanted to embrace as many as I could."
Bob earned a bachelor's degree, summa cum laude, in English from Fordham University where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He then earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and began his career with Reid and Priest, a New York City law firm that became Thelen Reid and Priest, a noted, national firm. He practiced law with the firm for 35 years and then moved on to an international firm. He recently stepped back from his law practice, while remaining active in a number of business ventures, including The Inn at Woodstock Hill, a well-known inn and conference center in Northeast Connecticut.
"The elements of my success were formed at Canisius – the discipline, the world view and the critical thinking," Bob explains. "I was given all the tools to excel in every aspect of college and law school and then in my career."
Growing up in Williamsville, the middle child in a family of three, Pete Augustine attended St. Gregory the Great grammar school and many of his friends were headed to Canisius for high school. But Pete's father was disabled by multiple sclerosis and money for the tuition was tight. A maternal aunt recognized the value of a Canisius education and helped pay the tuition, while Pete helped out by working summers at a golf course, caddying and assisting in the pro shop.
At Canisius, Pete competed with the track and field team, worked on the yearbook, and was a member of the ski club. "Canisius set high expectations and I was motivated to rise up to the challenges. Whether in advanced math, history or English class, you always came into class ready," Pete recalls. "In my career, leading a consumer products company, I understood the importance of setting high expectations for our employees. That foundation was set at Canisius."
Pete says the challenges of teachers such as Fr. Paul Naumann, S.J. – who had students memorize poems and be ready to recite them at a moment's notice – and Dr. Thomas McPherson – who commanded students focus – were building blocks of that foundation. "They showed us what was possible when we put the work in and did not accept that we could not handle the subject," Pete explains.
After Canisius, Pete says he felt well-prepared when he attended the State University of New York at Buffalo where he earned a degree in accounting and finance. As an added bonus, he met his wife of 29 years at UB. Upon graduating, Pete began working for a smaller accounting firm that counted New Era Cap among its clients. Before long, New Era brought Pete on as the cap manufacturer's very first controller.
Pete went on to become the company's chief operating officer, and in 2001 was named president of New Era. After 25 years of service at New Era, Pete left the family-owned business to pursue other interests including his own consulting firm. He has served as a mentor for Buffalo's 43North program since its inception, a program which aims to bring companies to Western New York through an annual competition for start-up funding. He serves as a judge for the competition and recently began to work as a mentor for those companies that win the competition and locate in Buffalo.
"I will always be indebted to Canisius for the opportunities I was given," Pete says. "We sent our two sons to Canisius – Matthew '12 and Jack '19 – so that the tradition continues and they are building on a similar foundation."
Bob and Pete have combined their many skills to lead the Canisius' "Rich Tradition. Bold Vision." capital campaign. They both note that the campaign is among the most comprehensive in the school's history with very specific goals and initiatives to help ensure the Canisius mission and identity are not only sustained, but also enhanced.
"Canisius has always had very generous benefactors but as with all educational institutions, the need for resources is always growing," Bob concludes. "The committee working on the campaign is the most cohesive, energetic and respectful group of people of any board I have worked with – we can all have a say in the future of Canisius."
"The people who invested in me during high school made such a difference in my life, so I am more than happy to give back to Canisius as co-chair and contributor," Pete adds. "It's a chance for every Crusader to connect and play a role in shaping future generations."
Click here to learn more about the "Rich Tradition. Bold Vision." campaign.