AlumKnights: All in the family

One question that the Gannon University Alumni Association regularly asks itself:  How can we help students?  In the fall of 2009, the National Alumni Board proposed to create a scholarship to benefit the children of Gannon or Villa Maria College alumni.

As a result, the Gannon University Alumni Association Endowed “Power” Legacy Scholarship was established.

The scholarship endowment grows through the financial support of alumni and through contributions from several commercial business partnerships via the Alumni Association Benefits program.

Thanks to contributions already collected, the first Endowed “Power” Legacy Scholarship was awarded this year to Alan Tarasovitch, a freshman nursing major.  Tarasovitch said he is grateful to the Alumni Association for giving him the opportunity to further his education.

His father, Scott, is a 1985 graduate of Gannon.

“It means a great deal to me that I have been awarded this scholarship and I feel blessed to have it,” Tarasovitch said. “Having a parent who is an alum is really valuable and a good opportunity that not a lot of students have.

“It gives you someone to talk to about what college is like and the best way to manage time at Gannon. My dad has been a very influential person in my college career.”

As Gannon students and staff, we commonly hear about the “Gannon Family,” but this is a very literal statement for those who are related to several generations of Gannon and Villa Maria College graduates.

The Cilano family counts three members that are now “Gannon Family” too.  Vince Cilano ’89 and Dana McGary Cilano ’90 have a daughter, Raven, who is currently a sophomore.

These Gannon parents enjoy sharing memories and finding events, professors and classes that they now have in common with their child.

“We enjoy giving Raven our two cents about life at Gannon,” Dana Cilano said. “We enjoy going to many of our old stomping grounds with [Raven] and finding new places to enjoy together.” Vince added, “I have watched [Raven] grow into more than I could ever imagine.  Then I think, ‘Wow, Gannon University has changed Raven, like it did me.  [Gannon] has molded me and I see it doing the same to her.’”

Raven Cilano did not initially intend to come to Gannon.

“For many years,” she said, “I told myself I would go anywhere but Gannon simply for the fact that I wanted to make my own mark.  But somewhere along the line, I lost this resolve. Hearing about all the things [my parents] experienced and took part in has made it that much more exciting.

“In many ways I have both followed in my parents’ footsteps, as well as created my own. Gannon is a great place to breed tradition.”

The Toohey family is another Gannon Legacy.

James F. Toohey, Esq. is a 1956 graduate and a current member of the Gannon University Board of Trustees.  Toohey notes that while none of his six children began their college careers at Gannon, two transferred in to complete their degrees and two others attended classes.

“I don’t think I really appreciated what a fine institution Gannon was until [my children] shared their Gannon experiences with the family,” he said. “Gannon was competitive with their ‘big’ universities and they felt very fortunate to have had this opportunity to include Gannon as an integral part of their college resume.”

One of those children who finished his Gannon degree is Jim B. Toohey, Esq. ’93, who serves as an Erie regional coordinator on the National Alumni Board.  Jim recalls that Gannon has been a part of the fabric of his dad’s life as long as he can remember.

“Whether attending Gannon basketball games with him, listening to stories of his college days, or hearing of yet another Gannon event he attended, I always knew of Gannon, but it was not until I transferred here that I understood the reason for his connection,” he said.

Jim also said Gannon has an intangible aspect that is tough to describe.

“It connects deep and becomes a part of who you are. I recall one professor taking my class on an architectural tour of Erie churches, and another professor taking the class to the peninsula to study wildlife and erosion,” he said. “So it’s tough for me to think of my dad or Erie without thinking of Gannon. I imagine that Gannon is now a part of my fabric too, and I don’t think son or father would have it any other way.”

The Tarasovitch, Cilano and Toohey families are just a few of the many families with a shared Gannon experience.  While the physical campus and academic program offerings have grown and expanded throughout the years, the quality of a Gannon education remains true.    This school grows in stature and reputation because of the graduates who call Gannon home.  The Alumni Association is proud to directly support the next generation of outstanding Gannon alumni.



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