The Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging is founded and supported by a grant from the Orris C. Hirtzel and Beatrice Dewey Hirtzel Memorial Foundation to Mercyhurst University. The Institute is located at the Mercyhurst North East campus within a block of where the benefactor's son, Phillip, had lived before the time of his death at ninety-one years of age. This gift represents the largest the foundation has given a college or university for undergraduate education in its 46-year history.

The Institute is housed in the School of Health Professions and Public Health focusing most of its work with the university's McAuley College of Associate Degree Studies at the North East campus. This College is an opportunity career college offering students “Success in Two Years or Less” fulfilling the mission of the Sisters of Mercy and Mother Catherine McAuley who believed that education should be available to all students. The college offers nationally and regionally accredited associate degree and certificates in a wide array of professions along with nursing bridge programs that lead to a BSN and certificate program in Practical Nursing. The Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging is especially focused on working with the College's nursing programs and allied health programs. 


Dr. Linda Rhodes is the Director of the Hirtzel Institute on Health Education and Aging. She is an Erie native, a Distinguished Alumna of the Year award winner of Mercyhurst University, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging and author of three books one of which received a Silver National  Mature Media Award, for her nationally selling book, "The Essential Guide To Caring for Aging Parents," published by Penguin Books.  Rhodes also wrote, "Breast Cancer: Covered or Not? An Insurance Guide that was underwritten by the Centers for Disease Control on behalf of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. The book navigates women through the insurance maze of health care when diagnosed with breast cancer and is available through their breast cancer web site. Rhodes is an expert on caregiving issues among families and older people and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Newsweek, Family Circle, More magazine and is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. She also consults state governments in health care and education policy throughout the country.  Dr. Rhodes hosts her own web site on caregiving resources at www.lindarhodescaregiving.com and wrote a weekly award winning (National Mature Media Award) news paper column for Pennsylvania's third largest paper for over a decade at The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She has received numerous awards for her work in public service and health care, one of which is an Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Drexel University. Dr. Rhodes received her doctorate in Applied Human Development specializing in Gerontology from Teachers College, Columbia University.