Park Vista Dedicates Gelhaar Learning Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Peter Gelhaar’s parents would have had very different reactions to attending the dedication of the Gelhaar Center at the Park Vista of Youngstown campus, but both would have been proud, he said.

For his father, the late Richard Gelhaar, “The thought of being in the row of the dignitaries here with the pomp and circumstance, celebrating the opening of a center called the Gelhaar Center, would be enough for a one-way trip to Northside Hospital,” the Boston attorney joked.

For his mother, Charlotte, who died in 2014, the circumstance would be entirely different. “She would be elbowing me away from this podium to get up in front of you to tell you how incredibly happy she was,” he said.

Park Vista celebrated the dedication of the Gelhaar Center and the Mahoning Valley Lifelong Learning Institute its houses at a ceremony Thursday afternoon. The center is named for Charlotte Gelhaar, who was honorary chairwoman for the capital campaign to fund its creation.

The journey to Thursday’s ceremony began in 2009 and started with listening to Park Vista’s residents about their lifelong learning experiences elsewhere and visiting campuses in other communities, said Brian Kolenich, Park Vista’s executive director. That “gave us the baseline” for what eventually became the Mahoning Valley Lifelong Learning Institute.

The institute grew to offer more than 24 lectures per semester to residents and nonresidents of Park Vista, Kolenich said.

“Each year we have about 700-plus people come through for our programs,” said Morise Sahyoun, institute director. The programs fit under Park Vista’s four pillars: arts and culture, history and political science, wellness and rehabilitation, and religion and spirituality.

The Gelhaar Center, which was funded by donors through two capital campaign committees, is an 864-square-foot addition to the east side of Park Vista’s gathering room. It includes an atrium, office space and classroom equipped to aid individuals with vision and hearing difficulties. It also features a sculpture garden that will feature showcase works from local artists, the first of which was commissioned by residents Roger and Gloria Jones, founders of Fireline Inc.

More than $1 million was raised to fund the project, including $200,000 raised by the resident leadership committee, and a “very generous gift” to name the center after Charlotte Gelhaar.

“I cannot think of a better way to recognize her leadership of Park Vista over the many years,” Kolenich said.

“Charlotte possessed the personal core value of social responsibility,” he continued. “She believed in Park Vista, she believed in this project and she believed in the collaboration between the arts, the cultural events, the historical and the educational, and the fact hat this institute could bring them together in a more powerful way.”

Peter Gelhaar reflected that the center’s name wouldn’t have been important to his parents, who he described as without pretense and as private people, “although my mother had her moments,” he added.

“She was committed to this place not because it would be a monument to herself but because it offered something to the community,” he said.

“She saw Youngstown as the embodiment of people who work hard. They made things with their hands,” he said.

His father, an engineer by training, was “an insatiable learner,” he added. He recalled his father telling him – perhaps channeling another engineer, Albert Einstein – that life essentially ends when one stops learning.

As part of the capital campaign, Park Vista raised $400,000 to endow the lecture series.

“These endowments are key for the sustainability of the institute, now and into the future,” as well as to keep the lectures affordable, Kolenich said. The goal is to raise $1 million over five years for the lecture endowment.

Pictured: Peter Gelhaar, Brian Kolenich and Laurence Gumina, president and CEO of Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.