This article by Dan Kubacki originally published in The Gannon Knight on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012.
It may not be the tallest structure, but it watches over students every day.
Gannon University’s Seventh Street arch stands 20 feet above the road and stretches a 44-foot span between the columns. The steel and concrete structure serves as the median link between the north and south brick paths of AJ’s Way and was completed in 1999 around the same time as the Waldron Campus Center, according to Gary Garnic, associate vice president of campus services.
“We didn’t have any kind of a marker, a main gate, something that would identify our campus, like other [universities] do,” Garnic said.
The arch was the icing on the cake of the completed AJ’s Way and nearly finished Waldron Campus Center projects, which were a part of a university master plan sketched by Pittsburgh-area WTW Architects. Gannon then employed local contractor Building Systems Inc. to build what would become Waldron.
Building Systems Inc. even donated the steel and concrete materials needed to build the arch. Garnic said one of the difficulties in building Gannon’s recognizable entrance was the amount of utilities underneath the street.
“We had a lot of engineering work to do that we hadn’t planned,” Garnic said. “But in a couple of months we were able to put the thing together.”
The arch cost an estimated $160,000 to build. No single donor footed the bill for the arch’s construction, unlike the Palumbo or Morosky academic centers. Gannon paid for the installation even though Building Systems Inc. provided the materials.
Almost a teenager, the arch does require upkeep every so often. The structure is frequently painted, but Garnic said that more importantly the concrete’s hairline cracks must be sealed to prevent water damage. That’s to be expected, though, with Erie winters.
“If you don’t seal it often enough, the moisture freezes in the wintertime,” Garnic said. “It can start to spall that concrete. So it’s about time to seal the thing, but other than that, it will last a long, long time.”
The arch has long been considered the campus’s focal point, especially to the first impressions of students. Senior occupational therapy major Nicole Crozier said the arch was the first thing she saw when attending her transfer student orientation.
“I felt like I was truly entering Gannon’s campus when passing by the arch,” Crozier said. “Of course my mom insisted on taking pictures of me in front of it. It’s a pretty good attention grabber.”
Laura Bodde, another senior occupational therapy major, agreed about the structure’s ability to make a good first impression.
“It’s the one focal point that signifies where campus is,” Bodde said. “It’s the heart of campus.”
Garnic said the arch provides a comfort to the university even though its campus is urban, not enclosed.
“Obviously we’d love to have a main entrance somewhere with a main gate—that’s so perfect—but we can’t,” Garnic said. “We’re mixed in with a lot of non-Gannon properties, so that point of arrival was something to tell our visitors and the community that they have arrived at Gannon’s campus.”
Nick Pronko, the media relations officer of the university public relations and communications department, said the arch adds a unique element to the campus’s atmosphere.
“It’s one of those things that over the years has given the university more of a campus feel,” Pronko said.
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