Community of Purpose

The faculty of a university is its beating heart. At Gannon University we have been blessed with outstanding professors who have served their community, their faith, and above all, their students with generosity and selflessness.

Now in its tenth decade of existence, Gannon University has undoubtedly evolved, but our Mission and our culture has remained remarkably steadfast and strong. 

While it may be difficult to pin-point a singular term that defines the experience of that culture, there is no doubt that it is overwhelmingly conveyed by each one of 
our professors, those who’ve served for decades and those who’ve just joined the Gannon Family.

They provide the richly variegated connections that last a lifetime. They are also the vessels through which the values we all inherit by being a part of that Gannon culture are transmitted through the generations. 
They are the personification of Gannon University’s culture. 

 

A.J.Miceli '86M

retired director of the school of communication and the arts

A.J. Miceli was an integral part of the team that brought the idea of creating a School of Communication and the Arts to reality, an achievement he said, “embodies Gannon’s leadership in a variety of dynamic programs and cultural contributions to the community, and provides a platform for continued innovation and growth.” Miceli, now retired, is revered as an inspiring professor known for helping students reach their fullest potential. He was challenged to fill this role by a legendary figure in Gannon’s history. “Monsignor Nash, who hired me, once told me that ‘at Gannon, who we are in the classroom is as important as what we teach.’”

With careers as a broadcaster, entrepreneur, businessman and educator, Miceli certainly knew his stuff. His experience lent to recognition among students that if you’re up for a challenge that comes with great payoff for your future, you take a class led by A.J. Miceli. As Michael Haas, a student of his, wrote in Gannon’s EDGE blog, “Professors like Miceli give us something more than tidbits of information and anecdotes from their history: they impart life lessons that will be remembered the most when our fundamental beliefs are shaken.” 

 

Carolyn Baugh, Ph.D.

assistant professor of history and director of the Women's Studies Program

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It’s fair to say that Carolyn Baugh, Ph.D., may be the only member of the Gannon University faculty to have won a gold medal at a pan-continental championship event (it was in the women’s four in the African rowing championships). That accomplishment is only one in a still-young career that has brought Baugh to Gannon where she is assistant professor of history and director of the Women's Studies Program.

Baugh studied at the American University in Cairo, also at Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her Ph.D. An accomplished classical pianist, Baugh has also published two novels drawn from her life in Cairo. 

As a historian and novelist, it’s clear that Baugh loves stories, and she’s transmitted that love to the students in her introductory history class through the Erie Voices oral history project. Students conduct and film interviews with families in Erie’s growing refugee communities from which senior seminar students finished videos, thus preserving stories of those who lack a voice.

“Gannon has given an incredible amount of resources,” she said. “I’m so pleased by that because the effects on my students are life-changing. It’s a different way of experiencing history.”

 

Nancy Morris '03

instructor of education

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What is it like for a Gannon graduate to return to the campus where she was once a student looking to establish a career alongside the very people who made that career possible?

For Nancy Morris, instructor of education, it was an emotional and unforgettable experience.

“I wanted to seek out certain professors who made a difference in my life when I was here,”she remembered. “I specifically sought out Dr. DeSanctis. I have the utmost respect for him and the other faculty who are here. I’m sometimes in awe of the people surrounding me and I strive to reach the level that they are at.” 

Morris knew early on that she wanted to be a teacher. “Working in an elementary school with children with special needs was my passion, and I was able to do that for 10 years,” she said, “but the way life works you never know the road you are going to travel.”

In Morris’ case, that road took her back to where she began. “When I walked on to Gannon’s campus 17 years ago, it felt like home, like where I was supposed to be,” she said. “That feeling of family and community is still there. It’s what I love about Gannon.”

 

Jimmy Menkhaus, Ph.D.

assistant professor of theology

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“When the heart is touched by direct experience, the mind may be challenged to change,” said the Rev. Peter Hans Kolvenbach. 

Jimmy Menkhaus, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology, cites that quote to explain why he has brought students to Immokalee, Florida, for the past two years to work with the migrant workers who pick winter tomatoes in suffocating heat by day, and live in rotting shacks. 

It’s an ideal place to learn about economic inequality, social justice and human dignity, causes that are close to Menkhaus’ heart and central to the worldview of Pope Francis. 

“I’m blessed to be able to help my students become more socially aware, implementing the vision of Pope Francis and allowing that vision to become a reality at Gannon University,” Menkhaus said.

“I’d like to look back and hope that I’ve left this school with a better understanding of Pope Francis’ call for social justice and for change in the world,” he said. 

Jimmy Menkhaus has heard that call, and he’s resounded it in his classroom and in the fields of Immokalee. More importantly, he’s touched the hearts of his students and the people he’s served in Immokalee with direct experience.

 

David Kozak, Ph.D. '66

retired professor of political science

If Gannon University, as so often has been said, is a family, then David and MaryAnne (Mandeville) Kozak '67 might be the University’s first family – quite literally. “MaryAnne was in the first graduating class of women 50 years ago,” Kozak, who retired as professor of political science earlier this year, said. “When we were married, we became the first graduates of Gannon to marry each other.”

David Kozak, Ph.D., returned to his alma mater following his retirement with the rank of Lt. Colonel from the U.S. Air Force and an academic career teaching college-level political science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the National War College of Washington, D.C. and as a visiting professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He also is an author, editor and academic in-residence where his expertise in politics and policy issues made him a frequent guest on C-Span, CNN and the BBC.

Yet Gannon called David and MaryAnne and they answered, both enjoying fruitful teaching careers here. The call was heard by their children, too, all of whom attended Gannon. “All three are Gannon kind of kids and they’ve all done very, very well. As you get older, you realize your children are your treasure,” Kozak said.

The many students who were inspired and mentored by David Kozak consider him a treasure, too. 

 

Scott Love, DPT

assistant professor of physical therapy

Scott Love, assistant professor of physical therapy, acquired a flesh-eating Acinetobacter from one of his patients, an injured soldier at a rehab center in Texas where Love was working as a physical therapist. He spent 67 days in a hospital, lost 75 pounds and, after 15 failed limb-saving surgeries, he lost part of his right leg as well. 

Five years later, Love’s story of courage, dedication and faith brought him to Gannon’s Ruskin, Florida, campus. His experience, both personal and professional, is an invaluable asset to his students, but Love also found a thread that would bind him to the Gannon community, his family and his faith. “What drew me to Gannon was the strong Catholic heritage and the emphasis on community service,” he said. “Serving the needy and unloved people in this world abides by a biblical principle instilled in me by my dad. He reminded me from a verse in Hebrews that ‘Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.’ We should care for everyone as we might care for Christ if he was among us.”

"What drew me to Gannon was the strong Catholic heritage and the emphasis on community service."

 

Ted Yeshion, Ph.D.

professor of criminal justice

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“I consider myself a ‘pracademic,’ a practitioner and an academic,” said Ted Yeshion, Ph.D., professor of criminal justice. With the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Yeshion served as a forensic scientist with a specialty in DNA analysis, and worked on some of America’s most high-profile cases, including that of 1970s serial killer Ted Bundy.

The decades of experience that have made him a sought-after expert witness and contributor to television true-crime programs pays off for the students he teaches in Gannon’s Forensic Investigation Center (FIC), a place he describes as “absolutely unique and valuable.” Yeshion’s long experience in crime labs led to enhancements to the FIC’s arsenal, including the creation of an impressions lab to identify and study footprints and tire tracks. “Here at Gannon University, I’m able to bring my real-world experiences into the classrooms, and my passions and the passions that I know my colleagues share,” he said. “We’re training the next generation of investigators to go out and do their jobs as best they can.”

 

Phil Kelly, D.A.

retired Professor of english

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Retired Professor of English Phil Kelly is an embodiment of legacy at Gannon University. 

Kelly arrived on campus in 1968, when he was recruited for a position in English by the legendary John Rouch, Ph.D. “The warmth of John and the recognition that when he was hiring somebody he was hiring the whole family was perhaps the reason why I chose Gannon,” Kelly recalled. And he carried the tradition forward with the warmth and congeniality that would become hallmarks of Kelly’s career, as well.

Kelly had a parallel career in administration dating to his earliest years at Gannon. Before his retirement last year, he held positions as a dean, as interim provost twice and even as interim president.

“All the time I was in any of those professions,” he reflected, “I recognized that, first and foremost, I’m a tenured English professor and I get to go back to my teaching job.”

It was a job he was made for, and his students were grateful for his wisdom and generosity.

“The real treasure for me was working in the classroom. Working with students was clearly the payoff, the reward and the joy of the work that I did here.”

 

Amy Brzuz, OTD '98

assistant professor of occupational therapy

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Unless you were enrolled in one of her classes, it would be easy to mistake Amy Brzuz, OTD for a student. Her enthusiasm and energy are instantly apparent. As a graduate of Gannon’s occupational therapy program herself, Brzuz, assistant professor of occupational therapy, effortlessly identifies with her students. “Because I’m new and fresh here at Gannon, everything is exciting to me, just as it is for the students,” she said. “So I think I can offer them my excitement.” She also offers them the benefit of her experience and expertise. Earlier this year, she accompanied a group of OT students from Erie on a service trip to Ecuador, a life-changing experience for student and professor alike. “I’m excited to be here every day and to help them. I care about them and their learning, and about what they’re doing outside of school, and I think it’s gratifying for students to know that I care . . . so that when they leave they can take that, plus everything they’ve learned in our liberal studies core, and go out and be good people–not just good OTs and PTs and chemists and mathematicians or engineers, but good people.”

"Because I'm new and fresh here at Gannon, everything is exciting to me, just as it is for the students."

 

Susan Sapone

retired assistant professor of biology

Until her retirement last year after a teaching career that spanned more than 30 years, Susan Sapone, assistant professor of biology, set an example for scholarship, research and academic excellence that left a deep impression on her grateful students at both Villa Maria College and Gannon University. The gratitude extended in both directions. “The students Gannon University recruits are not only academically qualified, they are also ones to readily show their appreciation for the contributions faculty make to their college careers,” she said. “I will always remember one student who enrolled in nearly all of my classes and conducted immunology research with me one summer; after which she gave me a beautiful fruit basket in appreciation of the experience. The bonds that are created between students and the Gannon faculty are strong, enduring and something I will always treasure. It was a rewarding career, and the students kept me coming back. The students were very polite and respectful and they were a joy to be around. They kept me young.”

"The bonds that are created between students and the Gannon faculty are strong, enduring and something I will always treasure. It was a rewarding career, and the students kept me coming back."

 

Dave Gustafson '71, '73M

retired associate professor of biology

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Dave Gustafson knew that as a freshman at Gannon he had found a place where he could ask the most challenging questions about life. It’s a life that the retired associate professor of biology has dedicated to family and to Gannon.

Gustafson began his teaching career at Villa Maria College in 1971 and served in many roles at his alma mater through the years, including chairman of the biology department. He was the recipient of Distinguished Faculty Award in 1999 and the Bishop Persico “Veritas in Caritate” Award in 2014 for exemplifying faith, hope and love within and outside of the Gannon community.

“This is what makes Gannon University a special place:  the commitments that the faculty, the administration and the supportive staff and the friends of the University make to helping our students deal with the very important question of how they want to live their lives,” Gustafson said.

For more than 40 years, Dave Gustafson has provided an answer to that question: selfless service, and that makes him a beloved professor and a role model.

 

Eric Dart '03, '07M

instructor of theology

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Eric Dart could scarcely have imagined as an undergraduate at Gannon University that he would someday return as an instructor of theology. An Erie native, Dart began his undergraduate career majoring in the sciences, but a life-changing encounter with a beloved professor changed the course of his career and life.  

“As I began to do more work with the church, it was Father Wozniak who, when I was doing my master’s degree work here, asked me, ‘Have you ever thought about getting a Ph.D. in theology?’”

The pivot to the liberal arts has borne fruit through Dart’s deep involvement with the annual Bishop Donald Trautman Lecture in Catholic Theology and the Thomas J. and Mary H. Loftus Lecture on Catholic Thought and Action. 

Working alongside Father Wozniak and other professors who influenced Dart’s life has been an indelible experience.  “When I look back on my career in the Gannon Family, walking the halls is a reminder of the people who instilled in me a commitment to my education. To stand alongside them and call them colleagues is a reminder of the great gift that I was given when I came to Gannon.”

 

Kristin Valdes, OTD

assistant professor of occupational therapy

Kristin Valdes, OTD was one of the faculty members chosen to inaugurate the Ruskin, Florida, campus in 2015. She might be new to Gannon University, but within her profession, she is a well-known figure.

Earlier this year, Valdes, an assistant professor of occupational therapy was named president-elect of the American Society of Hand Therapists, in acknowledgement of her leadership in her field. With more than 30 publications to her credit, Valdes has made her mark on the occupational therapy profession. Now she wants to do the same for her students at the growing Ruskin campus.

Though Valdes’ time at Gannon University has been fairly brief, she is a big-picture thinker, and she is already considering her legacy and how she will leave her mark on her students.

“I would consider my legacy a success when Gannon sends out a dynamic group of occupational therapists that search for evidence to support their interventions with patients that have functional limitations. Gannon University emphasizes excellence and there is no better way to demonstrate excellence than by understanding the ‘why’ of the intervention you are providing to patients rather than the ‘how.’”

 

Jerry Clark, Ph.D.

assistant professor of criminal justice

In the official records, it is known as FBI Major Case #203, but the title of the book co-authored by Jerry Clark, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminal justice, said it all: “Pizza Bomber: The Untold Story of America’s Most Shocking Bank Robbery.”

Clark served as the FBI’s lead investigator on the infamous 2003 case, which was designated as one of the few major cases in the bureau’s history. 

Clark brings this one-of-a-kind practical experience to his students every day. This also led to the creation of another singular resource, the Forensic Investigation Center located in the former TKE house that is home to a forensic laboratory, firearms simulator and a mock crime scene.

With multiple national television appearances, two books to his credit and a third on the way, Clark is a busy man, but teaching students, in person and on the wildly popular Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) he created, remains a priority.

“It is extremely rewarding for me to use the knowledge and experience from my 27-year law enforcement career to help train future generations of crime fighters,” Clark said. “I am particularly thrilled to watch students graduate from Gannon University and go out and make an impact on the criminal justice community and their country.”