Gannon honors alumni during annual Homecoming weekend

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During Gannon University’s annual Homecoming and Alumni weekend, Alumni Services held the prestigious Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Dinner Friday.

The dinner took place in the elegantly decorated Yehl Ballroom of the Waldron Campus Center. Over 100 students, alumni, faculty, staff and family members filled the room.

The Distinguished Alumni awardees were James A. Schaffner ’68, for the College of Engineering and Business; Edward C. Dawson ’74, for the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences; Margaret A. (O’Bryan) Doheny, Ph.D., ’70, for the Moroksy College of Health Professions and Sciences; Larry E. Gioia ’04 received the Young Alumni and James P. Ahearn ’61 received the Monsignor Wilfrid J. Nash Principles of Christian Conduct Award.

Erin Sekerak, the assistant director of Alumni Services and a 2004 alumna, said the dinner was one of the biggest events planned during the Homecoming and Alumni weekend.

Sekerak is responsible for all the fine details of the dinner from start to finish and has had this role for five years.  She said the National Alumni board wanted to have more of a role in the actual dinner, so for the first time this year the members of the National Alumni board – in attendance – were hosts for the evening.

Choosing the distinguished alumni is a lengthy process that didn’t just begin at the start of the school year.

“We start the process in February, as far as identifying who our honorees will be,” Sekerak said.

The list of names on the radar for whom to even be considered as distinguished alumni has been in the works for years. Once the finalists for each category are chosen, the names are given to the National Alumni Board and voted on during the spring meeting.

“We analyze the person and what they have done with their degree and how they have not only transpired it into being successful in their career but have lived out the mission, Gannon’s mission of giving back in service,” Sekerak said.

“We look at their volunteering, what they do with their church – for society as a whole. We want a well-rounded individual receiving this award.”

Sekerak interviews and collects biographies and photos of each selected distinguished alumnus during the time leading up to the dinner.

“With that information, I promote the chosen alumni to their friends and family inviting them to the dinner,” Sekerak said.

She said some of them are so humble, and feel like they don’t deserve the award, but those are the best candidates – they aren’t doing things because they want to get a distinguished alumni award someday.

Danielle King, a senior nutrition and human performance major and president of Phi Sigma Sigma, said she was honored to be invited to the Distinguished Alumni dinner by her mentor and award recipient, Jim Ahearn.

“I was truly touched and inspired by the recipient’s stories and their strong, ongoing love for their alma mater,” King said. “It really hit home seeing how much Gannon truly influenced these individuals.”

Sekerak said the dinner is an opportunity for the alumni to meet up with old friends and re-start conversations.

“This can be an opportunity for them to make new connections that I want them to continue for the rest of their lives,” Sekerak said.  “I hope that this event is a catalyst to that that keeps people joined together.”

King said the dinner was a chance for her to gain perspective on her educational experiences and to take a look into the future.

“I’m inspired to make the most out of my college career and keep my love for Gannon strong as I graduate and move on to the next stage of my life,” King said.

BECKY HILKER

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