Gannon’s I-HACK ceremony set precedence for developments to come


Chloe Forbes

The ceremony took place both in-person and virtually via Facebook Live and Zoom.

Chloe Forbes, Editor-in-Chief

Gannon University officially opened the doors to the Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge (I-HACK) during a dedication ceremony Friday.

The ceremony marked the opening of the first phase of the total $28 million transformation of the Verizon former call center into Gannon’s cyber development center. The facility will house academic programs for cybersecurity and cyber engineering, along with spaces for industry professionals.

University President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., said the Erie community continues to be a trailblazer for modernization with developments in the Erie Downtown Development Corporation and other projects in the city, and, “Gannon is coming in with that same innovative spirit.”

“We continue to stay one step ahead,” Taylor said.

The ceremony included remarks from Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., provost and vice president for student experience; Karinna Vernaza, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering and Business; the Rev. Michael Kesicki, university chaplain; Pierre McCormick, a member of the board of trustees; and cybersecurity students Moses Juah and Alyssa MacLefko.

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, the bishop of Erie, performed a blessing in the building and all its classrooms, moving from the first floor lobby, up the steel-framed staircase and around the second floor. The second floor includes student laboratories, the Cyber Defense Lab, Cyber Attack Lab and Cyber Innovation Lab.

The Pierre McCormick Cyber Learning Center is also located on the second floor, a space focused on advanced educational training and technology development to enhance cyber defense across various career fields.

When he retired, McCormick said he was told he should recreate (as a form of enjoyment and relaxation) and to re-create (to make something new). He did just that, donating $1 million toward the I-HACK building early on. Now he looks forward to seeing what the future holds for the center.

“It could redefine Gannon and the city of Erie,” McCormick said.

The ceremony ended with the ribbon-cutting, both in person and virtually, with community members holding up their own piece of ribbon over a Zoom video conference.

Adnan Morina, a sophomore cybersecurity major, will be in the first class to graduate with a cybersecurity degree. He said the program has so far been very helpful, exposing students to coding and basic technical skills all the way to teaching students what to expect when they get into the field.

In the second phase, Gannon will unveil its third floor, known as The Hatchery. This space will include the Erie Insurance Idea Lab, meant to allow professionals and students to collaborate in a creative space, along with the Extreme Academy, which will provide access to network infrastructure equipment and services for global enterprises, including Erie Insurance.

These partnerships allow for professional training within the facility in addition to business development opportunities. This next phase is set to open in the fall semester.

The upper floors of the building will continue to be built as commercial space for additional business partners.

Iwanenko said that this project is very important to Erie.

“We are not a large city,” Iwanenko said, “so, we really need to find creative ways to bring companies into the space… this will do that.”

He also said with technology moving at such a fast pace, the university’s advantage comes in the core-competency of combining both passions and interest in an academic environment.

The official I-HACK virtual tour can be found at



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