Environmental Center dedication brings opportunity

Gannon University dedicated the Donald M. and Judith C. Alstadt Environmental Center in a ceremony at the facility on Oct. 4 that celebrated the generosity of the Alstadts and opened the door to new opportunities for students.

Judith C. Alstadt was the guest of honor at the outdoor ceremony and was surrounded by trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members at the center in Spring Creek, Pa.

Many prominent members of the Gannon community participated in the dedication, including the Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of Erie and the chairman of Gannon’s board of trustees, who gave a blessing during the ceremony.

Among the speakers at the event were Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., Student Government Association President Kendra Walker and Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., the vice president for academic affairs.

“It is entirely fitting that we dedicate a center that will, in turn, be dedicated to the twin pursuits of education and science,” Taylor said.  “Judy Alstadt’s teaching career in Erie’s schools was almost four decades long while Don Alstadt was a man of science, a chemist and physicist known worldwide.

“I can think of no better tribute to them than to carry on their life’s work of increasing knowledge and passing it along to future generations.”

The center is seated on 3.57 acres of land in Warren Country and is uniquely fitted to aid in the study of a variety of ecosystems. It consists of two main buildings constructed around a 50-foot observation tower that overlooks Brokenstraw Creek and 98 acres of hardwood forest that was administered by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

Students, like freshman environmental science major Wesley Wohlford, are intrigued by the prospect of engaging in various kinds of research, including soil sampling, watershed analysis, water treatment and soil erosion.

“As a freshman, I don’t have much in the way of field experience but this does excite me to be a part of Gannon’s environmental science program because it will likely give me the opportunity to conduct hands-on research in my field of study,” Wohlford said.

The Center was originally built in 1968 by Judith Alstadt and her late husband, Donald M. Alstadt, who was chairman of LORD Corporation and a large proponent of learning and of Gannon, its students and programs. The couple built the lodges as a place of retreat, reflection and immersion in nature.

Judith Alstadt presented the environmental center to Gannon in December to be used by students and faculty to live, learn and conduct research in a setting that offers direct access to diverse ecosystems.

Gannon students and faculty in biology, freshwater marine biology, environmental science, environmental engineering and other disciplines can conduct hands-on research on and nearby the site. The center features four bedrooms to accommodate research teams, retreats, meetings, living-learning communities and other uses the university deems fit.

Additionally, the center opens up the possibility for potential collaborations with government and nonprofit agencies, and primary and secondary schools throughout the region.

“The extraordinary setting of the center presents a world of opportunities for interdisciplinary study and research,” Iwanenko said.

“One of our goals at Gannon University is to provide faculty and students with opportunities to learn and conduct research together.”

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