YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – “When you are in a position of responsibility and in the public eye, you have an opportunity to step up to the plate. And that’s what Jim and I have always tried to do,” Ellen Tressel says in a reflective mood.
“Jim,” of course, is Jim Tressel, the president of Youngstown State University since 2014, whom she married in 1999.
Ellen Tressel grew up in Canfield and graduated from YSU, where she studied business and education. She went to work for her father, the late Frank Watson, who was president of Youngstown Welding and Engineering Co. and served on the YSU Board of Trustees. She later worked for the former Butler Wick & Co. The couple left the area when Jim Tressel accepted the head coaching position at The Ohio State University in 2001, a position he held for a decade.
Since they returned to the Mahoning Valley, Tressel has been active with local nonprofits. Letters supporting her National Philanthropy Day recognition note her preference is to work out of the spotlight.
Among the local organizations with which she has been involved is Beatitude House. She has served on its board for six years.
“She has been a very active board member ever since,” Teresa Boyce says. Boyce, government program administrator at Beatitude House, nominated Tressel for recognition at the National Philanthropy Day event.
Tressel serves on the Beatitude House finance committee, where her background in finance has helped to determine what kinds of investments are good for the organization, Boyce says. She also co-chaired the Beatitude House Raising Hope campaign, securing the first lead gift for the effort. The campaign raised $3.7 million, exceeding the $3.4 million goal.
She also serves on the boards of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and the Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation. She recently competed a term on the Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens board.
“I’ve always wanted to be a person who made a difference,” Tressel says. “When I wanted to go on different boards, it was because I believed in their philosophy; I believe in their mission. I wanted to help as much as I could – and that’s been the driving force behind my philanthropy.”
Tressel also points to the example her parents set. Her father, she says, was chairman of the fundraising campaign that built Stambaugh Stadium at YSU.
“He always felt that giving back to your community was priority No. 1 and Mom did the same. She felt the same conviction, ” she says.
Pictured: Ellen Tressel works behind the scenes to support nonprofits in need of help.