Schember Third Consecutive Gannon University Graduate to Lead City
Posted: February 8, 2018
Inauguration Brings Together Two Old
Joe Schember stood smiling on the steps of a historic firehouse
in downtown Erie in early January ready to celebrate his
inauguration as the city's 48th mayor - and the third consecutive
Gannon University graduate to lead the city.
Dauphin County Court Judge John Cherry, Schember's longtime
friend and fellow Gannon alumnus, was there, as he had been for so
many other important moments in Schember's life, overcome with
pride. He'd administered Schember's oath of office an hour earlier
at Erie City Hall, an act Cherry said was "the most important
administration of an oath I've ever done."
"It was very uplifting and very overwhelming in a lot of ways,"
said Schember, Gannon Class of 1972, who sat down for a
conversation with Cherry in Gannon's Old Main following the
inauguration. "I'm still honestly on a high from it. It was a great
experience, and I'm especially pleased to have my good friend John
Cherry here to swear me in and be a part of it."
Schember and Cherry met at St. Mark's Seminary - both once had
thoughts of entering the priesthood - and their friendship grew
through their time at what was then Gannon College, where Schember
majored in English and Cherry majored in history. Later, both
worked at Elk County Christian High School in St. Mary's, Schember
as a teacher and Cherry as a teacher, coach and administrator.
When their paths diverged - Cherry went on to practice law and
served as district attorney of Dauphin County before being elected
to the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, Schember began a
40-year career at PNC Bank- the good friends kept in touch, always
picking up where they'd last left off like no time had passed.
Their lives, and the lives of their families, remained
"Some people you just kind of click with, it's like you know
each other when you first meet," Schember said.
"That's how I feel about John. He's a great guy and I'm
fortunate to have him as a friend."
Cherry has been a part of many inauguration ceremonies. This one
"I had felt some emotion, but it never got to me until we walked
up the steps for the little soiree Joe had afterward," said Cherry,
Gannon Class of 1973. "He walked up and got to the top of the steps
and there was this thunderous applause and cheers for him. And I
lost it. I'm very proud of him."
Schember and Cherry have a deep love of Gannon, a place both
said shaped them as people and helped pave their way to success. In
2003, Cherry and his wife, Camille, established the Dr. Thomas L.
Szendrey Endowed Scholarship to honor Cherry's favorite professor.
Szendrey and a long list of other professors inspired him, Cherry
Taking advantage of all Gannon had to offer "put me in this
chair today," he said.
"The aura of this place and all the people who walked through
here … it had a profound effect on me," Cherry said. "All the
things, particularly faith-based things, that I learned here all
had an effect on my life. … You're being formed internally. You
don't realize it, but you are."
Gannon is more than a brick-and-mortar institution where
students can receive a first-rate education. It's a place, Schember
and Cherry said, that fosters the kind of special connections like
It's also critical to Erie's success, Schember said.
"Gannon is a vital part of the city," he said. "You can't
separate the two."