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History of Gannon University

  • Gannon College of Arts and Sciences, founded as Cathedral College under the 1925 charter of Villa Maria College, was established by then-Archbishop John Mark Gannon, who in 1941 purchased one of the most elegant buildings in downtown Erie—the Strong Mansion (now known as Gannon’s "Old Main")—as the current campus’ central site. Renamed Gannon College in 1944, it received its own charter as a four-year men’s college. In 1964, Gannon became co-educational and established a graduate school. In 1979, the college attained University status.

    A private, Catholic, comprehensive co-educational institution, Gannon has emerged as Northwestern Pennsylvania’s premier Catholic university and is a valuable community and regional resource.

    Key to Gannon’s mission is the personal and professional development of students. Leadership is fostered through a range of campus organizations and activities which enhance academic interests as well as volunteerism and community service, and which provide opportunities for intellectual, moral and spiritual growth.

    Today, Gannon University is committed to building on its successful history of preparing leaders by focusing on a dynamic future of change and new opportunities. Gannon is focused on a total commitment to academic excellence, to its Catholic identity, its future financial growth from external sources, its strengthened development of the faculty’s teaching and scholarship, its involvement in and service to the local and regional community, its undergraduate and graduate enrollment, and its enhancement of technology.

    Past Presidents

    Monsignor Joseph J. "Doc" Wehrle (1933-56)

    The institution's first president, "Doc" Wehrle is widely credited with putting in the hard work—and overcoming immensely difficult challenges—to advance Gannon to where it is today. Wehrle Hall, a Gannon residence hall located on West Sixth Street, is named in honor of "Doc," who is fondly remembered for his dedication and devotion to and love for the school's students.

    Monsignor Wilfrid J. Nash (1956-77)

    Monsignor Nash, who had been the school's Dean, succeeded Monsignor Wehrle as president in 1956. Monsignor Nash proved to be an ideal successor: the institution advanced qualitatively and quantitatively under his leadership. During his 20-plus year tenure, the Learning Resource Center (later renamed Nash Library in his honor) and the Zurn Science Center were constructed. Fittingly, a proclamation on the first floor of the library pays lasting tribute to him as a "unique and dedicated man."

    Joseph Scottino, Ph.D. (1977-87)

    Dr. Scottino, a Gannon graduate, later returned to his alma mater as a professor, provost and vice president for academic affairs, dean, and ultimately president. In 1979, then-Gannon College was granted university status by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While the attainment of university status generally is recognized as Dr. Scottino's crowning achievement, he also led many other initiatives, including the Gannon-Hahnemann Family Medicine Program, evening and summer sessions, and the Liberal Studies Program.

    M. Daniel Henry, Ph.D. (1987-91)

     Dr. Henry's term is best remembered for Gannon's integration with Villa Maria College in January of 1989. A task force formed to study the issue had concluded that a "total and combined effort" between Gannon and Villa was "feasible and advantageous to assure the future of quality Catholic higher education in the Diocese of Erie." The task force also resolved that an integration would promote unity in the delivery of Catholic higher education in Erie.

    Monsignor David A. Rubino, Ph.D. (1991-2000)

    Monsignor Rubino oversaw the renovation of the former Carlisle’s department store into the A.J. Palumbo Academic Center and the renovation of campus buildings like Beyer Hall, Zurn Science Center, and the Hammermill Center. The Waldron Campus Center was constructed during his presidency. Monsignor Rubino also completed the most successful fund-raising campaign ($15.5 million) in the University’s history and commissioned the first academic program review to strengthen the curriculum across the board.

    Thomas S. Ostrowski, Ph.D. (2000-01)

    Dr. Ostrowski moved from the role of provost and vice president for academic affairs to that of acting president. He also had served Gannon for 25 years as a member of the faculty in the Political Science department. After his service as acting president, Dr. Ostrowski returned to his role as Professor of Political Science.

    Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D. (2001-2010)

    During his nine and-a-half years as president of Gannon, Dr. Garibaldi helped the University achieve significant gains in several key areas, including enrollment, facilities, fundraising, Catholic Identity, and regional and national academic reputation. Under his leadership, Gannon’s enrollment increased by 24 percent, to more than 4,200; the University’s endowment more than doubled; the number of colleges increased from two to three; and Gannon was ranked for seven years in the top tier of universities in the northern region of the United States by U.S.News & World Report’s "America’s Best Colleges." Gannon was also ranked in the Great Schools, Great Prices category for five years and as a Top Up-and-Coming School in 2009. In 2008, Dr. Garibaldi completed the largest comprehensive campaign in the University’s history, raising more than $31.5 million in private gifts and nearly $40 million total, including two first-ever multi-million dollar federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education (Title III and Student Support Services) and more than $5 million of federal and state grants to establish the Erie Technology Incubator. He also transformed the campus as more than two dozen buildings were constructed, acquired and renovated. Garibaldi was the keynote speaker and honorary degree recipient at Gannon’s 2011 Spring Commencement.

    Keith Taylor, Ph.D. (2011-2023)

    Throughout his 12 years of service as president of Gannon University, Keith Taylor, Ph.D. reorganized Gannon’s academic structure to a more integrated three-college model, created a growing satellite campus in Ruskin, Fla., added new strategic academic programs to meet current and future market needs and broadened the community focus to a global perspective. The number of campus facilities in Erie and Ruskin grew to more than 60 and includes the Alstadt Environmental Center as well as the modernization of the Recreation and Wellness Center; Nash Library and Learning Commons; Beyer Hall and the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel. He ardently supported Gannon’s commitment to social justice and Catholic social teaching and instituted the Erie-Gannon Alliances to Improve Neighborhood Sustainability and Our West Bayfront programs. During his tenure, the university experienced a record-breaking enrollment of more than 4,700 students. Employment also reached a record as he supported initiatives on holistic well-being and improving employee workplace experience. At the end of his time as president, Taylor was honored by the university’s Board of Trustees with the distinction President Emeritus. He is the first president in Gannon’s nearly 100-year history to be granted this status.