DePizzos’ $1.65M Gift Creates YSU Gerontology Chairman Position

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A $1.65 million gift to Youngstown State University will not only attract quality faculty and better student education, but will also help improve end-of-life care.

YSU announced Tuesday that Daniel Van Dussen, professor of gerontology, would be the inaugural YSU DePizzo Endowed Chair in Gerontology. Van Dussen joined the YSU faculty in 2006 and founded the university’s gerontology major and master’s degree programs. 

John “Jack” and Nuggie DePizzo, who owned and operated more than 30 senior care centers in the Youngstown area and now operate centers in southwestern Florida, provided funding for the endowment. John DePizzo graduated from YSU in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. 

“As my father has always said, when he needed his education, YSU was there for him, and now he is there for YSU,” said Tracy D’Andrea, a registered nurse and nursing home administrator for Continuing Health Care at the Ridge in Mineral Ridge and Jack DePizzo’s daughter. 

He took his first accounting courses at YSU, which he attributed to him acquiring his first senior care center, she said. 

The endowment will help with YSU’s research, specifically in areas dealing with end-of-life issues and palliative medicine, but also work being done on fracture prevention, reduction in hospitalizations because of fractures and other health issues that can be addressed early, Van Dussen said. 

“The best way to keep someone healthy is to prevent them from getting sick or sicker in the first place,” he said, adding that the gerontology program also attempts to include students in research projects as “a development tool for them and as a means to attract talent to the area.”

When YSU began its We See Tomorrow fundraising campaign six years ago, President Jim Tressel and campaign chairwoman Jocelyne Linsalata stressed faculty would be a “prominent component.” With the new gerontology chair, YSU now has 16 endowed positions, compared with three at the start of the campaign. 

“There’s nothing that raises the status of faculty or an academic enterprise of your institution than having endowed faculty,” Tressel said. “They’re the difference makers with our students.”    

Brien Smith, YSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, said he often hears people say there can’t be a university without students. He asserts that there can’t be a good university without great faculty, and funding for faculty often is more difficult to raise than for student scholarships. 

“We need to make sure that students can get a great education and we get that through great faculty,” he said. 

“It really brings a great deal to the university,” agreed Jeffrey Allen, dean of YSU’s Bitonte College of Health and Human Services. “If you look at just the retention and recruitment of faculty members, not just being placed in that chair position but faculty for a department – in this case gerontology – the retention rates of those faculty are really boosted.

“It does obviously a great deal for the university reputation and enriching the academic environment for students for many years to come,” he added. “As opposed to a brick-and-mortar award, the bestowing of an endowed professorship really endures as long as the institution or university itself.” 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.