Call 1-800-GANNON-U
Skip to main content

Meet 2021 Distinguished Alum: Dave J. Gustafson ’71, ‘73M

Published: 09/21/2021

Dave J. Gustafson.

Dave J. Gustafson.

The Gannon University Alumni Association is proud to recognize the five Distinguished Alumni honorees for 2021. For thirty years, the Distinguished Alumni Award has been presented to Gannon and Villa Maria college alumni in recognition of meaningful contributions in their professions, community and the university. It is the highest honor an alumnus can receive.

Read on to get to know 2021 Distinguished Alum, Dave J. Gustafson ’71, ‘73M.


Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences
Dave J. Gustafson ’71, ‘73M
Retired, Professor Gannon University
Bachelor of Science, Biology
Master of Education, Natural & Environmental Sciences

David J. Gustafson ’71, ’73M, retired professor at Gannon University, earned his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 1971 and a master’s degree in biology and natural sciences in 1973 from Gannon College. He continued his graduate education at Saint Bonaventure University, the University of South Florida, Syracuse University and Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Gustafson began his career as director and assistant professor in the Biology Department at Villa Maria College in Erie. For 18 years, he taught courses in microbiology, ecology and environmental issues. He also served as president of the College Community Council, as faculty representative to the Board of Trustees and on the Capital Campaign Steering Committee. During the 1970s, Gustafson also taught marine ecology at the St. Thomas Institute in Palm Beach, Fla.

Gustafson joined Gannon in 1988 as the director of the pre-physical therapy, pre-pharmacy and sport and exercise science programs. In 1992 he became the chair of the Biology Department where he taught microbiology, medical microbiology, principles of ecology and Yellowstone ecology until his retirement in 2016. He co-founded and facilitated more than 30 summer biological travel study trips for students, friends and alumni in Yellowstone National Park. For many years, he taught scuba diving and underwater photography on summer trips to the Bahamas. During his career, he also directed and taught numerous summer programs for local students.

Gustafson was the recipient of several grants to research wetlands ecology in Pennsylvania and New York. He served as director and principal investigator for the Cascade Creek Wetland Study for the Erie Port Authority. He was also co-director and principal investigator of a two-year environmental assessment study that led to the establishment of the Findley Lake Nature Center in New York. He has been the featured speaker at career days, luncheons, meetings, and conferences, as well as programs including the Northwestern Regional Governor’s School of Excellence Program for many years. He has authored research studies for the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, Pennsylvania Game Commission and Erie County Department of Health.

Throughout his career, Gustafson was honored with many awards including the Service and Excellence in Teaching from Villa Maria College, Excellence in Teaching Award from Gannon’s Student Government Association and the Sears Roebuck Foundation Award for Excellence in University Teaching. In 1998 he was honored by Gannon University with the Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2014 he received the Bishop Lawrence C. Persico “Veritas in Caritate” Award for Excellence in Christian Community.

Gustafson is a life-long learner. He is involved with the American Society of Microbiology, Tri Beta Biological Honor Society, and the National Audubon Society. Locally, he has served on many environmental committees and advisory boards including with United Way and as an executive board member of the Presque Isle Audubon Society. Gustafson is an experienced naturalist, wildlife photographer, birding enthusiast and world traveler.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented on Sept. 25 during Gannon University's Homecoming and Family Weekend in the Yehl Alumni Ballroom of the Waldron Campus Center. To register for the event, visit