Centofanti Foundation Awards $500K to Support Symposium

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Joe Centofanti recalls his late brother, James, as a “complex guy.”

On one hand, James Centofanti would share stories of saving money at fast-food restaurants by ordering meals to go, even though he ate them on site, to save on sales tax.

On the other, the late businessman, while being frugal in his personal life, would spend money on building athletic fields, weight rooms, school additions and houses for people less privileged, among other causes.

He enjoyed giving money away and not spending it on himself,” Joe Centofanti said.

The James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation, on whose distribution committee Joe Centofanti serves, announced its latest philanthropic gesture Monday, a $500,000 contribution to support the Centofanti Symposium at Youngstown State University.

The symposium’s mission is “to increase our community’s awareness of the many issues facing our society today,” especially its most vulnerable populations, said Mark Graham, vice president of Farmers National Bank and chairman of the Centofanti Foundation’s Distribution Committee.

James Centofanti, who owned Canfield Tractor Sales, died in 2010. His wife died in 1999.

Joe Centofanti said his brother left most of his money to charity, much to his family’s puzzlement, a term he conceded “might be an understatement.”

In 2012, the foundation made a $1 million pledge — $100,000 annually over 10 years – to YSU to establish the James and Coralie Centofanti Center of Health and Welfare for Vulnerable Populations at YSU’s Bitonte College of Health and Human Services. The center provides support for education initiatives, student scholarships, research and workforce development that promotes the well-being of individuals affected by illness, poverty, disability and discrimination.

The symposium has brought “an amazing array of nationally known speakers,” said YSU President Jim Tressel, including satirist W. Kamau Bell, retired brain surgeon and now U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem.

It has been a difference maker,” he said. “When we talk to a lot of our colleagues in the state, both public and private institutions, they marvel at our speakers that we’ve been able to attract to our campus through our various symposiums.”

To this point the Centofanti Symposium had been funded through the pledges for the existing endowment.

We’re about halfway through that pledge right now, and [the foundation trustees] recognize that the symposium has stood out as very notable,” Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation, said. In addition to the original $1 million pledge, the foundation will provide $50,000 per year for 10 years to fund the symposium.

The foundation trustees made the additional commitment to YSU because of the “outstanding job” Tressel and his team have done with the funds the foundation already has awarded, Centofanti said.

The additional funds will extend the life of the symposium through 2031, said Joseph L. Mosca, dean of the Bitonte College.

The Centofanti Symposium is a medium for brining nationally recognized speakers, with the goal of raising awareness and raising understanding of the difficulty and challenges facing multiple groups in our society,” Mosca said. Issues addressed to date include poverty, post-traumatic stress disorder, racial discrimination and injustice, women’s rights and, more broadly, human diversity, he said.

Jim Centofanti said he believes the symposium would fit his brother’s vision for how he wanted his money to be distributed.

It helps the underprivileged. It helps mold some people’s lives and gives you different insight to things,” he said. “I think he would have liked that very well.”

I believe Jim and Coralie would be very pleased with today’s event,” Graham affirmed.

Pictured: YSU President Jim Tressel, Bitonte College dean Dr. Joe Mosca, Centofanti Foundation trustee Mark Graham, Centofanti Foundation trustee David Centofanti, Centofanti Foundation trustee Carol Potter, Centofanti Foundation trustee Joe Centofanti.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.