Downs announces move to Niagara University

It has been a year of change and departures for Gannon University. Last week, Timothy Downs, Ph.D., dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, announced that he will leave Gannon for Niagara University in June.

Downs will be taking the position of vice president of academic affairs. He has previously held the offices of assistant vice president of academic affairs at California State University, Los Angeles and dean of graduate studies and research at Emporia State University (Emporia, Kan.).

In 2002, Downs arrived at Gannon as the dean of Humanities, Business and Education.

Downs said that his time at Gannon has been very dynamic and very busy. He said that the university has transformed itself over the past eight to 10 years, through changing practices and adding degree programs and a third college.

“It’s been very busy, which is one of the things I’ve liked about my time here,” Downs said.

As the dean, Downs led all the academic departments in Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the School of Education. He oversaw the ARMY ROTC program and 90.5 WERG. At one time, he supervised the Small Business Development Center.

“That’s another thing I’ve always enjoyed, being in charge of a wide variety of programs,” he said.  “I’ve learned a lot by being the dean. It’s lifelong learning.”

During his time at Gannon, Downs has achieved a lot. Chief among his accomplishments, he said, was upgrading the radio station.

“WERG is something important for the university’s profile in the community,” he said.

Before the station was upgraded, it could only broadcast in downtown Erie and could not broadcast in the afternoon because the radio frequencies coming from the antenna on top of the library interfered with the equipment in the science labs.

WERG was given a new frequency and the antenna was moved to WQLN on Peach Street. The station now broadcasts into three states – western New York, eastern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania.

“It’s really helped give Gannon some exposure and it’s been a great learning opportunity for students,” Downs said.

Along with updating WERG, Downs said he enjoyed being involved in changes the university has made with the institutional policy manual.

“Being a part of the conversation to assist faculty with their professional development and their seeking promotion and tenure using the Boyer Model is something I was a big champion of,” he added.

The renovations of the A.J. Palumbo Academic Center were managed by Downs, who suggested creating a new Commuter Center, something Downs said he is proud of.

Downs said he hired more than half the faculty in the college and that it is “exciting to bring in new people with new ideas.”

Lastly, Downs also worked with Mark Adkins to co-author the Student Support Services grant, a $1.1 million grant award to the Student Success Center last fall.

When he’s not busy as the dean, Downs said he likes to play golf in the summer and that he has gotten back into going to the gym to keep himself healthy. He also bikes and loves going to the movies. The most recent movie he saw was “Unknown,” a film he said ended strangely and just fizzled.

“It’s good to appreciate the arts,” he said. “It’s a good diversion from the day-to-day and we have great performing arts here.”

Students may be surprised to know that Downs graduated from high school in San Diego and he used to be into body-surfing. He also played football for a year in college.

Downs said that he is excited to make the move to Niagara because it’s a campus very much like Gannon. There are fewer than 4,300 students, and it’s a Catholic university.

“The people are very similar,” he said. “Everyone is very nice and there to help the students succeed. When I met with them, I thought it was just like being at Gannon. I felt a real affinity for the campus and the people.”

As a message to Gannon, Downs said he will keep an eye on the progress the university makes as it grows and develops.

“I wish all the best for everyone at Gannon,” he said. “It’s a great place to work. It’s an institution that is really true to its mission to help students develop, to achieve their academic goal and prepare them for ongoing learning opportunities.

“I’ve really enjoyed being at Gannon. It’s hard to leave, but given my aspirations, it’s necessary,” he said. “I’ll be leaving with great memories, great friends and great colleagues.”

BRENNA PETERS

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