Journal Opinion: 126 Million Reasons to Celebrate

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – By any standard, 126,186,126 is an eye-popping figure. Stick a dollar sign in front of it and it’s absolutely astounding.

That nine-figure sum represents the total raised by Youngstown State University’s We See Tomorrow campaign, the largest such effort in the 113-year history of YSU and possibly the largest philanthropic effort the Mahoning Valley has ever seen.

Paul McFadden, president of the Youngstown State University Foundation, credits university

leadership, from YSU President Jim Tressel and his wife, Ellen, and Jocelyne Linsalata, campaign chairman, to deans, faculty, foundation staff and volunteers.  

“Leadership permeated every level. It was all-hands-on-deck,” McFadden told members of the Mahoning-Shenango Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals at its Sept. 30 meeting. “That’s why we succeeded.”

The campaign began with Tressel’s 2014 return to the YSU campus – where he coached the football team to four national titles – as the university president.

Told that $75 million would be an ideal goal for the fundraising effort, Tressel set the goal at $100 million – and subsequently raised it to $125 million, a mark that ultimately was surpassed.

Of the 32,581 gifts received by the campaign, 40 exceeded $1 million; these “Fabulous 40” donors were recognized Sept. 23. (See pages 20-21). Fifty-seven out-of-town donors also contributed $100,000 or more. Certainly, all donors recognize and value the essential – and expanding – role YSU plays in the economic and cultural vitality of the Valley.

While much of the money is earmarked for buildings such as the Excellence Training Center, endowing faculty chairs and campus beautification, $70.4 million – more than half of the funds raised – is earmarked for scholarships and student work opportunities.   

That’s also astounding!

While supporting faculty positions and structural upgrades and additions are important, nurturing the talent of tomorrow – and providing opportunities for students who might otherwise be unable to attend college – is critical to businesses in the Mahoning Valley and for developing the entrepreneurs of the future.

The success of the We See Tomorrow campaign is a testament to the generosity of the Mahoning Valley, and to those who attended YSU and went elsewhere to pursue their goals but remained mindful of the foundational role that the university played in their lives.

“It’s very gratifying to know how many people love this university,” Tressel said at the “Fabulous 40” reception.

“We are simply overwhelmed by the generosity of the Mahoning Valley and alumni and friends across the nation,” Linsalata added.

“We saw tomorrow, and now, tomorrow is here.”