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Gannon Celebrates Dedication of Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge

Published: 02/19/2021

Bishop Persico blesses the space inside I-HACK at Gannon University

Bishop Persico blesses the space inside I-HACK at Gannon University

Gannon University formally opened its 100,000-square-foot Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge during a Dedication and Blessing Ceremony today. 

The ceremony marked the culmination of phase one of the University’s transformation of a former call center at 131 Ninth St. into I-HACK, a home where students in Gannon’s academic programs can work with leaders in business to design, integrate and protect cybernetic intelligence and data systems worldwide. 

“We are proud to be here today to mark the completion of phase one of I-HACK construction,” said Walter Iwanenko, Ph.D., Gannon’s provost and vice president for student experience. “This $13 million investment has quickly transformed this former Verizon call center into a cornerstone of Erie’s renaissance as a regional technology center.” 

The University first unveiled plans to develop I-HACK and rolled out new degrees in cybersecurity and cyber engineering in November 2018 as a call to meet the increasing industry demand for highly skilled cyber professionals.

Gannon’s $13 million investment into phase one of the project has since led to the development of the exterior of the facility, first-floor lobby, and the second-floor Pierre McCormick Cyber Learning Center while also supporting growth in academic offerings and student enrollment. 

As part of the new construction, the facility’s first-floor lobby has been expanded and now features a glass-enclosed student gathering space and a nine-screen TV wall display that previews the type of technology outfitted throughout the building.

An iconic steel-framed staircase leads to the second-floor Pierre McCormick Cyber Learning Center – also known as the academic heart of I-HACK. This educational space houses classrooms, open collaborative spaces, faculty offices and new-cutting edge laboratories where students will learn to design technology and deploy tactics to prevent and protect against cyberattacks. These are known as the Cyber Defense Lab, Cyber Attack Lab and Cyber Innovation Lab.

The Pierre McCormick Cyber Learning Center is focused on advancing educational training and technology development to enhance cyber defense across the fields of cybersecurity, cyber engineering, health care, computer-based applications, business management and criminal justice.

The facility was designed with a cyber network infrastructure that boasts equipment from leading industry brands. Its isolated network provides a secure, digital teaching environment that protects confidential information while students study real-world scenarios of network and cybersecurity threats. 

The University has already welcomed students to begin using I-HACK’s new facilities and resources through a number of innovative academic programs. Its cyber-related academic offerings have also expanded this semester to now include stackable online graduate certificates in cybersecurity essentials and information systems security, as well as a master’s degree in information assurance and cybersecurity. 

As of Spring 2021, Gannon’s undergraduate and graduate cyber programs currently enroll 39 students, with 200 projected to be enrolled by 2025.

While initially designed to support cyber education, I-HACK also provides cross-disciplinary and educational opportunities for students in computing and engineering. In total, more than 80 students are participating in seven different courses through multiple programs within I-HACK. 

“The hands-on application and real-world education that will happen within this facility is truly needed now more than ever before to prepare the next generation of leaders in the cyber industry,” said Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D. “We are eagerly looking forward to the great work we know our students and faculty will develop in I-HACK as they engineer solutions that will protect our digital lives.”

Gannon’s investments into I-HACK’s development and venture to advance cyber education is thanks to the generosity of many community and individual donors who have shown tremendous support for the University. Among those contributions recognized at today’s ceremony was the $1 million gift from Pierre McCormick ’79 and his wife, Kathy – whose family has helped build Erie for decades. Their generous donation developed the second-floor academic space – the Pierre McCormick Cyber Learning Center, their namesake that was blessed during today’s event. 

Looking ahead, Gannon University will continue to develop the third-floor Hatchery that is expected to open in Fall 2021. This dedicated collaborative innovation space will integrate industry and professional development with academic creativity and learning.

The University has already welcomed two industry-leading partners to be housed in the Hatchery – including Extreme Networks, a leading provider of network infrastructure equipment and services for global enterprises, data centers and services providers, as well as Erie Insurance, our region’s largest employer. 

The partnerships will elevate the delivery of Gannon’s programs, bring new professional training opportunities to the region, equip I-HACK with state-of-the-art technology, and provide education, research and industry experiences for specific workforce development and student employment during their academic years and even following graduation.

Students are already experiencing the impact of these business partnerships, particularly through a certification training that is embedded into Gannon’s program curriculum through Extreme Networks.

The University will also continue development of I-HACK’s upper floors to welcome additional business partners and create commercial space and data storage capabilities that will create new jobs and regional workforce and business development opportunities.

In total, Gannon anticipates renovations to I-HACK to cost $28 million.

“Gannon and I-HACK are uniquely positioned within downtown Erie. We are called by our responsibility as part of its economic network to create positive impact on the region,” Iwanenko said. “We are proud now to contribute the resources available through I-HACK to the region’s business and entrepreneurial community – further filling the gap in workforce development, job creation, cutting-edge technology, and commercial real estate opportunities to recruit new businesses and new jobs into our home in Erie, Pa.”

Watch a recording of the livestreamed Dedication and Blessing Ceremony at Gannon’s Facebook page:

For more information about I-HACK and to watch a virtual tour, visit:

All media inquiries can be made by contacting Doug Oathout, Chief of Staff and Director of Marketing and Communications, at (814) 871-7470 or