Hidden in Plain Sight

At Gannon University, history is all around us, but sometimes it hides in plain sight. That was certainly the case with a humble wooden desk that turned out to be a time capsule for one of Gannon University’s legendary figures. 

Monsignor Nash Desk

The desk that had been in the Nash Library director’s office didn’t look like much, and it had been there for years. When Ken Brundage moved into that office and changed the furniture, the old wooden desk was moved aside. “I think it was placed in a corner somewhere and stacked with cardboard boxes,” Brundage said, adding, “I’d heard that it was Msgr. Nash’s desk, but as far as I knew, the story was apocryphal.”

Apocryphal, perhaps, but tantalizing. Monsignor Wilfrid J. Nash ’33, the library’s namesake, was the beloved and respected president of the University from 1956-77, a period of dramatic growth and change.

Andy Nagle, Campus Services Crew Leader, heard the legend when the desk was moved into storage in advance of the library renovation project, and he passed it along to Tony Fulgenzio ’82, when he inquired about furniture for his office.

Fulgenzio, retired executive director of philanthropy and communications, was interested in the desk and the legend, which he was determined to authenticate. “I was able to find a yearbook photo from the 1970s that did confirm that it was Msgr. Nash’s original desk while he was president of Gannon,” Fulgenzio said, but the search didn’t end there.

A chance discovery was made when Fulgenzio moved the desk earlier this year, providing unmistakable proof. Inside the desk, he found documents and a letter dated January 1958 from Bishop Alfred Watson, at that time the vicar of St. Peter Cathedral, granting Msgr. Nash permission to use the church to perform the wedding ceremony of the late William Rowane, M.D. ’48 and Joyce Herbstritt.

“Needless to say, Dr. Joe Rowane [’86], son of the couple, was overjoyed at finding such a piece of family history,” said Fulgenzio, who gave him the original letter.

With that gift, a circle was closed and a mystery satisfyingly solved. And a discarded piece of old furniture was revealed to be a hidden gem, a buried treasure from Gannon’s history.

Save the Date

Nash Library Dedication and Blessing Ceremony is January 19,2018.