Family, $1.3M Gift Honored as YSU Names College

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A $1.3 million gift to Youngstown State University was celebrated Sunday as leaders of the YSU community joined the family of the late Earle Wayne Cliffe Jr. to announce the naming of the College of Creative Arts and Communication in memory of Cliffe’s parents, Dr. Earle W. and Ida Cliffe.

Cliffe Sr., who had served in the medical corps during World War I, was a prominent area physician who died in 1939. His wife was a nurse.

Cliffe Jr., who served as an Army medic during World War II, went to college on the G.I. Bill and went to California, where he became personnel director for Hughes Aircraft and later worked in real estate. He died last year at age 94.

“He spoke about his mother and father as if he talked to them yesterday,” said Paul McFadden, president of the Youngstown State University Foundation. That’s why the arts and communication college was named for Cliffe’s parents and not for Cliffe himself, he said.

The gift is part of the $100 million “We See Tomorrow” fundraising campaign, the largest in YSU history.

One of the landmarks for institutions as they progress and their brands grow is their “elite colleges” take on names, as with YSU’s Williamson College of Business Administration and Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, said YSU President Jim Tressel. 

“It’s another indicator of people who have come through here, gone and done extraordinary things worldwide, and wanted to send a message back that if it weren’t for Youngstown State, many of those good things in their lives would not have happened,” Tressel remarked. “Someone wanting their name affiliated forever with the university to me is a stamp of approval.”

Although members of the Cliffe family hadn’t lived in Youngstown for several years, he always identified himself as being from Youngstown, McFadden said.

“He was a Youngstown-ite,” affirmed Charles Cliffe Sr., Wayne’s brother. “Even away from Youngstown, Youngstown was in his thoughts. So this was something that he had thought about, planned and set up, and I congratulate him for it.”  

McFadden, who at least once a year met with Cliffe in California, recalled that those trips always involved a visit to some venue or event, including the Laguna Beach Arts Festival, San Diego Zoo and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

One such visit coincided with a football game between Ohio State University and the University of Southern California at the Coliseum, so McFadden asked “a special friend of our university, who happened to be the head football coach at Ohio State University” – Tressel – to get him tickets.

“It wasn’t a great day for the Buckeyes that day,” he joked. “We got to watch the Buckeyes lose to USC.”      

Cliffe Jr. was “an amazing communicator” and he and his parents were “very active supporters of the arts,” said Dr. Barbara Anne Cliffe-Miller, Wayne Cliffe’s niece and Charles Cliffe’s daughter. “It’s most appropriate that this Cliffe legacy will be in support and perpetuation of a Youngstown State department that includes music, arts, dance and communication,” she continued.

The college, based in Bliss Hall, offers seven degrees in nearly 40 fields of study via the Dana School of Music and the departments of art, communication and theater/dance. It hosts on more than 400 events annually, including musical concerts, art exhibits, major theatrical productions, dance ensembles and the upcoming Summer Festival of the Arts,.

“The college plays a key role in enriching educational and cultural opportunities in our region,” said Dr. Phyllis Paul, dean.

The gift will create an endowment to provide discretionary funds for special programs. The college, in consultation with department heads and faculty, will use the funds can best used to enrich students, faculty and the broader community as well as to honor the Cliffe family’s legacy, Paul said.

“We will look into bringing guest artists, guest lecturers, performing acts to campus,.” she said. “The university and the community will benefit in perpetuity from Wayne’s great generosity.”

Cliffe-Miller shared memories of stories about her grandfather, who died before she and her brothers were born, as well as tales about the man she and her brothers knew as “Uncle Wayne.”

“To my brothers and me, Uncle Wayne was just a big kid with an impish spirit,” she continued.

During one visit, she recalled, her mother wanted to take her and her siblings to church. “We really wanted to do something else,” she said, but her mother was insistent, even when their uncle lobbied on the kids’ behalf.

Cliffe went off to water the hedges, and as the family walked to the car to head to church, they were “accidentally” sprayed with the hose.

“We never made it to church, making Uncle Wayne’s niece and nephews very happy,” she said. “Every kid should have an Uncle Wayne.”

Pictured at top: YSU President Jim Tressel, Cliffe College Dean Phyllis Paul, Charles Cliffe Sr. Charles Cliffe Jr., David Cliffe, Elijah Cliffe and Barbara Anne Cliffe-Miller.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.