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Meet 2021 Distinguished Alum: Denise L. Kolivoski’ 01, ‘08M

Published: 09/21/2021

Denise L. Kolivoski

Denise L. Kolivoski

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, Denise L. Kolivoski’ 01, ‘08M.


College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Denise L. Kolivoski ’01, ’08M
Executive Director, National Alliance of Mental Illness of Erie
Bachelor of Arts, Communication Arts
Master of Business Administration

Denise Kolivoski ’01, ’08M, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, began her relationship with Gannon University as a child. Her father, George Kolivoski, graduated from Gannon in 1976 with a degree in mechanical engineering. A big Gannon basketball program fan, he took his daughter to several home games where she fondly remembers throwing toilet paper for the first shot and eating salty popcorn.

Denise Kolivoski graduated from Gannon in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts. She spent more than a decade working a successful career in local Erie broadcasting, earning several local advertising honors. In 2008, Kolivoski earned a Master of Business Administration from Gannon University.

Kolivoski’s career took a significant turn when she joined the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, of Erie County. Kolivoski came to strongly believe in the life-changing impact of NAMI’s mission of education and support after seeing the challenges families who are affected by mental illness face. Kolivoski joined the agency more than a decade ago. At this time, the agency was overwhelmed with financial and organizational issues. As board treasurer, Kolivoski was tasked with closing the agency. Instead, Kolivoski applied her hard work and dedication to revive NAMI into the successful agency it is today. 
Kolivoski’s interactions over the years with local families battling mental health challenges helped her truly recognize the importance of NAMI’s presence in the Erie community. She created and implemented a strategic plan that was endorsed by funders, financial institutions and donors. She was named executive director of NAMI of Erie County in 2009 and continues in that role today. Early in her time as executive director, Kolivoski established NAMI’s first investment fund and expanded the organization’s educational programming, including the Peer-to-Peer and Family-to-Family programs. These programs – offered at no cost to the community – provide individuals and families the education, skills and tools they need to continue on the path to recovery.

Under Kolivoski’s leadership, NAMI has won several marketing awards from The Public Relations Society of Erie and The Pennsylvania “Telly” awards in advertising communications. In 2019, NAMI of Erie County was named “Nonprofit of the Year” by The Erie Times-News and

Kolivoski is a part of several local health and human services committees and currently serves as a board member at The Erie Club. 

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