A glimpse of the future arrived on Nov. 2 when the Most. Rev. Lawrence Persico, J.C.L., Bishop of the Diocese of Erie and chairman of Gannon’s Board of Trustees, announced that Walter Iwanenko Jr., Ph.D., will become Gannon University’s eighth president.
Iwanenko, 52, an occupational therapist and epidemiologist who is Gannon University’s provost and vice president for student experience, will succeed President Keith Taylor, Ph.D.
Taylor announced in August that he will step down as president effective June 30, 2023. Following his announcement, the university conducted a campus-wide process that included evaluating and ultimately recommending Iwanenko for this role, which he will begin July 1, 2023.
Watch as the next president of Gannon University is announced.
“We are delighted to announce Dr. Iwanenko will be our next president,” Persico said to nearly 200 students and employees gathered in the Yehl Ballroom. “He has contributed much to the university in his role as a vice president and provost, and we have even higher expectations for him and the university when he assumes his new role next year.”
Tina Donikowski ’85, a Gannon trustee and chairwoman of the Leadership Search Committee, said Iwanenko distinguished himself throughout the process.
"We are delighted to announce Dr. Iwanenko will be our next president. He has contributed much to the university … and we have even higher expectations for him and the university when he assumes his new role next year."
- Bishop Lawrence Persico
“Dr. Iwanenko proved to us he is ready for this role,” she said. “He has the institutional knowledge, the aptitude and a commitment to both the university and to its Catholic traditions to advance Gannon’s positive momentum.”
Iwanenko, who worked at Hilbert and D’Youville colleges prior to joining Gannon in 2016, shared his gratitude to family, colleagues and mentors, along with his experience and drive that made him the best fit to become Gannon’s eighth president.
“I am the son of immigrants and a first-generation college graduate. I know what a college degree can do for someone’s life – because it happened to me,” Iwanenko said. “I want to do my part to ensure the window of opportunity is open for others.”
“I will do my very best to bring my unique blend of experiences and skills to leading Gannon University toward a brighter future as we seek to transform lives and elevate the fortunes of those pursuing a better, greater life for themselves.”
"I will … bring my unique blend of experiences and skills to leading Gannon University toward a brighter future as we seek to transform lives and elevate the fortunes of those pursuing a better, greater life for themselves."
- Walter Iwanenko
Persico mentioned that Iwanenko will inherit a university “that is experiencing record enrollment, has stable finances, exceptional employees and an inspiring student body across its two campuses in Erie and Ruskin.”
Much of that can be attributed to Taylor’s careful stewardship of the university since becoming president in 2011. Throughout his 18 years of service, Taylor achieved many notable accomplishments that continue to drive forward-thinking development of Gannon’s academic and campus infrastructure; continue to serve our communities to advance educational, interpersonal and economic growth; and continue to foster a campus environment that inspires transformation.
“Dr. Taylor has advanced the university with so many projects – some moved us by leaps and bounds,” Persico said following Taylor’s announcement in August. “I am grateful for all he’s done for Gannon, and I am confident the momentum will continue.”
"Having a smooth transition is important for the university. There are many other priorities, too – and those all start and end with our students. We must be focused on transforming their lives just as they and everyone here continue to transform ours."
- Keith Taylor
His announcement to step down coincided with the opening of South Hall in Erie and an expansion project on the Ruskin, Florida Campus – only the latest in a long string of about $157 million in new buildings and renovations during his tenure. These projects created opportunity for new academic programs that align with and meet the needs of today’s industries, as well as tremendous gains in philanthropy.
Gannon’s endowment doubled to a high of $83.5 million during his presidency. He successfully closed the Vision 2020 campaign, raising $67.5 million and is leading the university toward the $100 million goal of its current campaign, Believe. Inspire. Transform. Gannon’s Next Century.
He has redefined the culture of the university’s campus. “Gannon family,” “humble, hungry, smart,” “Wildly Important Goals” and “transforming lives” are part of Gannon’s lexicon because of his relentless drive to differentiate the Gannon experience for students and employees, which has led to record enrollment and distinction as a “Great College to Work For.”
Taylor, 58, is not retiring and he is not leaving Gannon entirely. He plans to take a year-long sabbatical and return to Gannon in a different role that is not yet fully defined, but will be resolved in consultation with his wife, Mary Jean, the Board of Trustees and Iwanenko. He looks forward to time with his wife and children, travel, tennis and golf in the months following his presidency.
Watch as Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., announced his plans to step down as president during a community meeting on Aug. 26.
For now, though, most of his attention is on the year ahead – not for him but on the many things needed for Gannon.
“We have a lot of work to do and there are many things I want to see through,” he said. “Having a smooth transition is important for the university. There are many other priorities, too – and those start and end with our students. We must be focused on transforming their lives just as they and everyone here continue to transform ours.”
By Doug Oathout, chief of staff and director of Marketing and Communications