Presidential Inauguration: History in the Making

Mark your calendars for Friday, Sept. 22 in Erie, Pa. to join us in celebrating the inauguration of Gannon University’s eighth president, Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D.

This celebration will kick off Gannon’s 2023 Homecoming and Family Weekend with a series of events and traditions both old and new with opportunities for the Gannon family to be part of Gannon’s history in the making.  

As we excitedly anticipate this celebration, we sat down with president-elect Iwanenko to hear what’s in store for this milestone occasion.  

An inauguration is a symbolic tradition for universities. What does “tradition” mean to you? 

When I think of the word “tradition,” I automatically think of family. Our university is approaching its centennial celebration, which is incredible – 100 years of tradition built around our Catholic Identity, being a meaningful partner to our community and transforming the lives of students. 

The inauguration is kicking off Homecoming Weekend and it is creating the chance for new traditions.  

I want our alumni to come back to campus to make new memories with their families while revisiting the place they fell in love with and being reminded of the great times they had as a student. I’m excited to have alumni and students alike join together to watch local band The Groove perform on Friendship Green and for our current students to enjoy the return of the Homecoming dance. I hope these become Homecoming traditions every year. 

There are several signature events. What are you most looking forward to? 

I think it’s especially meaningful to who we are as an institution by starting inauguration day with Mass and recognizing our faith. It’s a deep-rooted tradition for us to have Mass before significant events such as the start of the semester and Commencement, so it will be a great way to begin the day with this special tradition as well. 

I am humbled thinking ahead to taking the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity during Mass. It is an honor to have the opportunity to take these, and I will work diligently to uphold Gannon's Catholic values, identity and traditions. 

I am, of course, looking forward to the Inauguration Ceremony. I recognize that this is such a momentous milestone for Gannon’s history – and it is a very important responsibility and challenge that I cannot wait to begin. I am a son of immigrants and a first-generation student, so it will be a meaningful day for my parents, my wife and family, too.  

What does it mean to you to have been selected as one of less than 10 presidents in the university's history?  

This is humbling. I think of the number of students who’ve graduated from Gannon, and then think if each one has impacted one or two others in some way, and those people impact others and so on – this institution has had a transformative impact on millions of people within our nearly 100-year history. How remarkable is that when you get to be the eighth president of a university with this kind of global impact?

The Inauguration of Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D. Eighth President of Gannon University. 9/22/23: Mass at 10:30 a.m., Ceremony at 2 p.m., Block Party Celebration at 7 p.m.

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