Tonawanda News — To those who knew him, Brother Augustine Denis “Bro” Towey was many things.
Saturday marked a memorial service for the long-time fixture at Niagara University, where he taught for many years. Those in attendance shared many laughs and a few tears as a man described as artistic, compassionate, loving and charming throughout his life was honored.
“ ‘Bro’ was surrounded by God’s grace,” University President Rev. Joseph Levesque said as he remembered his friend and fellow educator. “Everyone could see this early in his life. (He) was artistic. He could entertain you again and again. He ... was a poet who saw himself as someone created by God to create other creators.”
Brother Towey, 75, who passed away Nov. 22 after a lengthy illness, started teaching at Niagara University in 1964, bringing his love for words – especially poetry – to the campus. He taught English literature and speech.
But it was another hobby of his, the love of the stage, which ended up carving his legacy within the school. He’s credited with developing the theater program from a couple of courses in the English department into a nationally recognized program.
In all, Brother Towey directed more than 135 performances through the Niagara University Players and nurtured several actors throughout his time on campus.
Sharon Watkinson, Ph. D., chairwoman of the university’s Department of Theatre and Fine Arts, said Brother Towey served as both a mentor and a colleague of hers during her time with him.
She first met him when she, as a student, took a class with him in his first year on campus, she said. He introduced her and countless other students to the works of Emily Dickinson, Eugene O’Neill and the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, among others.
But it wasn’t until after she’d gone on into graduate studies — by recommendation by Brother Towey, she said — that she was afforded the opportunity to call him a colleague.
“He called me on the phone and told me there was an opening in the university’s English department and if I wanted it, it was mine,” she said. “I couldn’t turn him down. So, I started teaching in 1968. It wasn’t until after I started that I finally found out what his master plan actually was, which was to create a nationally recognized theater department. We received accreditation by New York state in 1988, and the rest was history.”
In addition to teaching, Brother Towey, originally from Hempstead, N.Y., was also a published poet. He has produced seven collections of work, along with two compact discs, through his tenure at the university.
At the time of his death, Brother Towey was living at St. Vincent’s Seminary, the Provincial Headquarters of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, in Philadelphia, Pa. He is survived by his beloved sisters, Anne Towey and Brenda Romanski; his nephew, Scott Romanski; his niece, Helen Tostaine and her husband, Gregory and his sister-in-law, Helen Towey. He is predeceased by his brother, Douglas.
Memorial donations may be made to the Brother Augustine Towey Theatre Scholarship Fund, Niagara University, Office of Institutional Advancement, Lewiston Rd., Niagara University, N.Y. 14109.