Graduate Contributes 3 Sculptures to YSU Campus

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Visitors to the Youngstown State University campus can now see a set of three bronze sculptures, each depicting the theme of children and education.

The sculptures, placed at three sites on campus, were donated by YSU graduate and Youngstown native John Irving, in honor of his late wife, his parents and his in-laws.

“I personally see YSU as a gem of the city and a lot of good things are coming out of Youngstown State that’s going to help the rest of the community,” Irving said. “I just wanted to do something aesthetic – I like aesthetics, I like art – just something that hopefully would enhance anybody’s walk through the campus, and I hope this accomplishes that.”

The three sculptures, produced by the Large Art Co. in Baltimore, were installed on campus earlier this spring. Greg Moring, chairman of the YSU art department, helped select the sculptures.

“I had no idea whatsoever if YSU would be receptive [or] unreceptive,” said Irving, who served as executive director of a community mental health center before entering the insurance business. “They couldn’t have been kinder. They couldn’t have been more receptive.”

Irving, an executive with Nationwide Insurance 23 years, is “one of the university’s most loyal graduates, supporters [and] visionaries,” YSU President Jim Tressel said at a ceremony Wednesday morning to announce the gift.

“We thank John for this extraordinary gift to our passion to continue to make the most beautiful campus in America even more beautiful,” Tressel said. “This certainly has done that.”

At the ceremonies, Tressel and Irving unveiled one of the three sculptures, “Girl on Bench Reading with Cat,” near Tod Hall. The work is dedicated to Irving’s wife of 43 years, Daneen Julio Irving, who died in 2013.

“She loved this place, and she was very involved,” he said. Before graduating in 1965, she was the first freshman elected to student council. She also co-hosted the YSU radio show and wrote for The Jambar, the student newspaper.

Upon graduation, she was awarded the prestigious YU pin, presented to the student in a graduating class with the top combination of academic and extracurricular activities, “which I was so proud of,” he said, briefly overcome with emotion as he recalled Daneen.

Irving, who graduated in 1966, acknowledged his own college pursuits sometimes were less than scholarly. “While she was doing all these wonderful things on campus, my main goal was running up and down Market Street trying to find beer and women,” he remarked, to laughter from the family and friends.

Despite their two “different outlooks” regarding their college careers, they met, fell in love were married 43 years, were together 45 years overall, “the best years of my life,” he reflected.
Along with YSU, Daneen Julio Irving also loved animals – the couple had six cats and two dogs, Irving said. His wife “had a very big heart,” he said. “There wasn’t an animal that came into the neighborhood that didn’t ultimately end up in our house.”

The sculpture unveiled Wednesday reflected her affection for animals, a large cat sitting on the bench where the child is reading.

“I thought it was a dog because it was so big,” he said of the feline.

The second sculpture, “Break Time,” is in McKay Court near the Beeghly College of Education. It was donated in memory of Irving’s parents, Edward and Ruth Irving. Like many parents of their generation, they didn’t go to college but instilled in their children “the importance of getting as much education as we possibly could,” he said.

Though “far from being “a wonderful student,” as he alluded to earlier, “somehow the light bulb went off in college,” he recalled. He won a Community Chest scholarship he used to pursue the first of two master’s degrees he earned.

The final sculpture is dedicated to Daniel and Josephine Julio, his wife’s parents. “Two Children on a Bench,” is near Fedor Hall and the Rich Center for Autism.

Daneen Julio Irving’s father, a sharpshooter instructor, volunteered for service at age 37 in World War II and was killed during the Battle of Britain.

“Daneen never knew her father. He was a true hero,” Irving said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.