Fok Estate Donates $500K To Tyler Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The second phase of the campaign to establish and equip the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center is at nearly 60% of its $1.5 million goal with a recent $500,000 donation.

A ceremonial check from the estate of Dr. Maria Fok on behalf of her husband, Thomas, was presented April 8 to representatives of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society. Maria Fok died in December and her husband died in 2013.

The Foks came to the Mahoning Valley in the 1960s and established their careers here, said Dave Bakalar, managing partner at Thomas Fok & Associates, Austintown. “So this Valley meant a lot to them,” he added.

The historical society raised $5 million during the first phase of the campaign for capital needs, building renovations and early programming at the Tyler Center, said Cheryl Lewis, campaign director.

The campaign is going “really well,” Lewis reported. “In fact, this donation from Dr. Fok was actually the big impetus when we kicked off Phase 2,” she said. Gifts and pledges for Phase 2 stand at $858,643, or 57% of the campaign phase’s goal.

The $500,000 pledge was announced in November. The center’s main exhibition area, which is being underwritten by the donation, will be known as the Drs. Thomas and Maria Fok Exhibit Gallery.

“It’s really the catalyst that we needed to push ourselves to our goal, $6.5 million raised for the Tyler History Center,” said Bill Lawson, executive director of the historical society, which operates the center. “With these funds in place we’ll be able to do much more in terms of getting the Tyler History Center fully operational, which we will be working on the rest of 2015, and hope to have permanent exhibits installed in the early part of 2016.”

So far the archives collection is located in the center, two first-floor galleries are open, a regular series of events is taking place in the second-floor ballroom and limited educational programming is under way on the third floor.

“With these funds and whatever else we’re going to pull together to finish this campaign we’ll have a fully operational education center on the third floor, we’ll have permanent exhibits on the first floor and in the gallery on the third floor, and that will make our dream come true, which is to create a community center in downtown Youngstown that is themed on the history of our region and the people who’ve lived here for centuries.”

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