Ralph Frasca, Ph.D., reflects on journey from sportswriter to director


At just 16 years old, Ralph Frasca was invited to be one of the first co-anchors for the Sports Center broadcast on ESPN.
Frasca was meeting, interviewing and writing about athletes like Hank Aaron, Bobby Thomson, Larry Doby and Red Miller for the Sports Collectors Digest magazine in high school. ESPN was in its infancy and contacted Frasca along with Bob Ley to offer him a job.
“They were horrified to find out I was only 16,” Frasca said. “It never occurred to me, and they never asked my age.”
Now serving as the director of Gannon University’s School of Communication and the Arts, Frasca once dreamed of being a professional baseball player.
“I think I had just enough ability to fool myself into making that plan,” Frasca said.
That dream was cut short when he was injured by a high inside fastball and missed his senior baseball season.
Frasca said he made a new plan to write about professional sports if he couldn’t play them. That path led to an interest in writing other forms of journalism, and jobs in broadcasting and print journalism.
Before succeeding former director AJ Micelli, who retired in the spring at Gannon, Frasca was the chair of the Department of Communications at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He taught at several other universities before that.
Mount St. Mary’s made news numerous times in 2016 for its president’s treatment of the campus newspaper. Frasca described last year as horrendous, and he was looking to move out of his position when he applied to Gannon.
Students involved in Mount St. Mary’s newspaper had to deal with the firing of their faculty adviser and censorship from the university president. Frasca offered advice for students facing censorship, saying they need to consider what kind it is.
“It’s really important for journalists to know legally what you can and cannot do,” Frasca said. “And to think ethically as well.”
Frasca said he feels like Thomas Jefferson coming to talk to the French court in place of Benjamin Franklin in his new position. Jefferson said he was merely succeeding Franklin.
“I can’t replace AJ Micelli, because no one ever could,” Frasca said.
Frasca is known as a Benjamin Franklin scholar, and has studied his development of the printing process for the Poor Richard, as well as his network of printing.
During his time at Gannon, Frasca said he wants to increase the number of students in the school of Communication and the Arts.
Frasca, who holds a doctorate in mass communication, said he and the faculty are talking about revising the curriculum to appeal to more students. He is also currently working on three different faculty searches, hiring a conductor for the Erie Chamber Orchestra and balancing the budget, among other administrative tasks.
This semester, Frasca is teaching Media Ethics and a History of Communications class. He will teach a Media Law class in the spring and supervise internships.
Frasca said he does have other plans during his time at Gannon.
“I want to learn how to fondue,” he joked.
Tom Barton, a senior theatre and communication major, said he enjoys Frasca’s teaching style.
“He’s got a very informal but effective style of teaching, which makes it easier to remember the information he’s presenting,” Barton said.

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