Becker Family Gives $1 Million to YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Daniel H. Becker returned from serving as a paratrooper sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1961, he came home to the family’s funeral business.

But the man who had left to join the military without finishing high school now needed a two-year college program to become a funeral director before he could attend a specialized mortuary school in Pittsburgh. It was Youngstown State University that welcomed him.

“YSU was a foundation for me as it has been for so many others,” said Becker at an event celebrating a $1 million donation from him and his family to YSU and dedicating the area outside the Kilcawley Center as the Daniel H. Becker Family Fountain Commons.

The fountain area, which dates to 1966, sits in the core of the YSU campus and is the place where students gather, listen to the bubbling sounds of the fountain and enjoy some tranquility between classes. Now, it will have a fund for its upkeep, part of the $1 million gift.

YSU President Jim Tressel pointed out when the university does replace the Kilcawley Center, which opened in 1974, the Daniel H. Becker Family Fountain Commons area will remain at the heart of campus and be improved and cared for perpetually through the donation of the Becker family.

For example, Tressel said students have expressed interest in placing solar powered tables in the area, which can be used to charge laptops and other electronic devices.

“This is the place where our students remember meeting people,” Tressel said, “studying for their big exams. It’s amazing the number of activities that happen right here.”

Additionally, through the donation, the YSU Foundation is establishing the Daniel H. Becker Family Scholarship, providing an annual scholarship of $30,000 to assist a full-time student. The scholarship will be offered to someone with a minimum 2.5 grade point average, who shows initiative to volunteer and give back to his own community, preferably from Struthers, Becker’s hometown.

Tressel said he hopes students will take a moment to learn about Becker and his family, now commemorated on several signs in the commons area, and become aware that they epitomize service to the university and the Mahoning Valley.

Becker has been giving back to the local community since before he attended YSU. Tressel notes Becker not only served his country and his family, but many organizations, including as a scoutmaster for Troop 16 of the Boy Scouts. And the family’s funeral business is committed to helping people during some of their times of greatest needs.

As a teenager, Becker helped his father, Hazen, in the funeral profession, which had been part of the family since 1896. Today, the business has four locations. Becker also founded Gold Cross Ambulance and Medical Service in 1967 and ran the company until he sold it in 1995.

He has served as president of the Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana Funeral Directors Association and as a member of both the Ohio and the National Funeral Directors Associations. He is currently the president of the Ohio Embalmers Association, another organization in which he has been a longtime member.

Becker has served on the boards of Aqua Ohio, the former Western Reserve Bank, the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, the Better Business Bureau, the Struthers Fire Department and the Dyslexia Learning Center of the Youngstown Scottish Rite. He is a former vice president of the Ohio American Heart Association.

Although Becker said he wished his time as a student at YSU had been longer, he returned and served as an adjunct faculty member from 1974 to 1978, teaching first aid and personal safety. He served on the Struthers City Board of Education, and was founding member of the Struthers School Foundation for Educational Excellence.

He is a 33rd degree Mason, a member of the Struthers Rotary, a graduate of Leadership Mahoning Valley and serves in several leadership roles at the Struthers Parkside Church.

Becker was married to the former Margaret Trucksis for nearly 54 years before her death in July 2009. Many in his family and his partner of 11 years, Dottie Melody, were at the ceremony. Melody is a graduate of YSU, as are Becker’s daughters Kim Horyn, Kelly Becker and Kate Becker, as well as a grandson, Robert Rumberg.

Pictured at top: Becker Family gathers with YSU President Jim Tressel (left) and YSU Foundation President Paul McFadden (far right). Family are, front from left, Sheri Goetz,  Kandace Becker-Hagendorn, Kim Horyn, Dottie Melody, Daniel H. Becker, Kate Becker, Kelly Becker, Fred Horvath. Back: Fritz Rumberg, Robert Rumberg and Scot Melody.