This article by Joe Cuneo appeared in the Gannon Magazine, Summer 2012 issue.
No matter when you graduated, there are certain things alumni from every generation can relate to: hanging out in the cafeteria, enjoying Erie winters, celebrating Mass. Something alumnus Larry Gioia ’04 and his father, Carmen Gioia ’77, have in common, however, is a bit more unique.
“Most everyone recognizes Dr. Frank Pelczar as professor of chemistry—what only a few others may know is that he is also a professor of racquetball,” Larry Gioia said. “My father always told me stories of how he and Dr. Pelczar used to play racquetball after class. When I came to Gannon, I also had the opportunity to befriend Dr. Pelczar, and he taught me the finer points of the game. His talent was still evident, as I didn’t win many games, either! I’ve always appreciated having that connection and knowing that he was a part of both our lives at Gannon.”
The lessons Gioia learned at Gannon were not limited to the Rec Center, however. The Pittsburgh resident completed his undergraduate work at Gannon with a Bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems (MIS), which he followed up with a Master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. He is now a Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where he works closely with Fortune 500 IT executives and advises them on business and IT strategy.
“My work focuses on defining strategies for mobile, social, collaboration and innovation platforms across the enterprise,” he explained. In addition to his work at PwC, he is working on a new mobile application for business professionals and students. The Alphabot is a tool that allows users to quickly and accurately decipher the meaning of acronyms in the context of their usage.
Gioia had the opportunity to demonstrate his passion for technology early on in his time at Gannon, as the Student Government Association’s first vice president of technology.
“I joined SGA at a time when the organization was making a push to connect with the Gannon community via the Web. One of my fondest memories was leading the design, development, and rollout of the SGA online voting system—it was the perfect opportunity to apply my degree in an organization on campus,” he said.
When not attending to his responsibilities in the corporate world, he likes to trade in his smartphone and briefcase for a pair of hiking boots, a compass and a kayak. He is the co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of True North Outdoor School. His Pittsburgh-based company provides professional instruction in wilderness survival, map and compass navigation, wilderness medicine, outdoor leadership and paddlesports.
“From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., I am a management consultant. From 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., I am an entrepreneur. Somehow I find time to sleep in between,” he said. “True North is a complete departure from my daily work inIT. It combines my passion for the outdoors with my interest in leadership, team building and entrepreneurship.”
He points to his time at Gannon as the origin of this enterprising spirit. While a student, Gioia ran a freelance Web and graphic design operation, GioiaDesign.net, out of his dorm room.
“Dabbling in Web design and working with real paying clients really kick-started my interest in working for myself, and also influenced my current career as a management consultant,” he said. “I have had a very strong interest in entrepreneurial endeavors ever since my time at Gannon.”
Since Gioia’s diverse interests took root during his time at Gannon, he encourages current students to follow suit. “One piece of advice I would give to current students: use your time at Gannon to not only explore your interests, but more importantly, determine what you are truly passionate about. Once you have found that passion, do it for a living.”
5 Minutes, 5 Questions
If technology scares you, I encourage you to do everything you can to embrace it. You will quickly be left playing catch-up if you subscribe to the notion that mobile is just a fad. We have just begun to scratch the surface with what can be done on that little device in your pocket that was once used only to make phone calls.
Starting a business is a lot of work. When you work for a large company, you take for granted all of the behind-the-scenes work that makes it tick. It’s not uncommon for me to spend a few hours a day working on True North or the Alphabot after putting in a full day at the office.
My can’t-live-without-it device is my iPhone. I use it to manage both my personal and professional life (see the first question above).
I learned the most about campus as an orientation adviser and as a Gannon Student Ambassador. I really enjoyed the opportunity to welcome families and new students to campus and reassure them that Gannon was the right decision.
My favorite GU activity was the time I spent with my brothers in the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity.