$1.5M Gift Funds YSU Economics Research Position

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With a $1.5 million gift, the daughters of Paul J. Thomas have created a new research position in Youngstown State University’s department of economics, a move that will greatly help future students, the department chairman said.

“I think of this as a super-faculty. This is someone who’s going to have the role of a faculty member but because of this very generous gift, we’re going to be able to hire someone with even more experience and with a little higher salary than most,” said Tod Porter, chairman of the economics department. “What it does is up the level of the department and students will have access to someone who has already demonstrated their abilities at another level. So it really is a way of enhancing the department and a great opportunity for students to have access to that person.”

Joining Porter at the announcement Thursday were Gwen Watson and Janet Shanklin, Thomas’ daughters.

Thomas was a longtime businessman in the area before he passed away in 2003, having worked for what is now known as Packard Thomas as a certified public accountant. He also worked around the community in various nonprofit organizations and served in the U.S Navy, earning the role of lieutenant. He had “a business career of amazing distinction, with many vice president titles and nonprofit work,” Watson said

“His whole career was spent here. He got really involved in the community, the library and bank boards, Austintown School Board, and the YMCA,” she continued. “He was very fond of Youngstown. This was his home. I know what the university does here for Youngstown would’ve meant a lot to him, and he would’ve been very pleased.”

“He loved this city and at the dinner table I remember hearing about economics and his work in Youngstown all the time, so it made sense to donate to that field,” her sister agreed.


Porter said it’s expected to have a new faculty member hired for the start of the 2020 school year.

YSU President Jim Tressel said he is grateful for gifts like these that will continue to support the We See Tomorrow campaign that the college is currently running.

“One of the areas we target is academic excellence, so anytime you can enhance the faculty members opportunity to take part in teaching, research and service, it is a signal to the faculty that we believe in them and we are going out to find people who do the same,” Tressel said. “So often teachers are toiling in the background while we brag about our students, and we forget to mention who is behind that.”

Pictured: YSU department of economics chairman Tod Porter and President Jim Tressel, right, accepted a gift from Gwen Watson and Janet Shanklin Thursday. The women are the daughters of businessman Paul J. Thomas and their gift in his honor established a research position in the department.

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