Tressel, YSU Look to the Future

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Jim Tressel opened the YSU Board of Trustees meeting Thursday by shining the spotlight away from himself and on to what mattered most during his time as president of the university – the students and the Mahoning Valley.

“I marvel at the progress being made,” he said. “The constant focus on what is important: our students, and the impact [YSU] can make on this region is amazing. It is an honor to be a part of it.”

Tressel announced his retirement, effective Feb. 1, Wednesday evening in a letter to the YSU community. At the board meeting Thursday morning, he said trustees are working toward taking charge of the future at Youngstown State University.

Tressel has served as YSU president for nearly nine years. During his time as a football coach and president, he helped bring millions of dollars to the university and national attention to the Mahoning Valley.

“He hit the ground running when he came to this university,” said John R. Jakubek, board chairman. “The effects that he has had on this university and on the community will be here for many years to come.”

When the trustees meeting adjourned, Tressel met with reporters.

“We have got to do our part to repopulate this area,” he said. “Which means we’ve got to turn out people who can do the jobs so that people live here, work here, have families here and send their children to Youngstown State. That’s what YSU has been all about. We were created because there were people here who needed higher education.”

Tressel said YSU is at a turning point when it must decide what size university it wants to be in the next 20 years, and how it can continue to shape the workforce of the Mahoning Valley.

“Our biggest responsibility is to stay on the cutting edge,” he said. “There is going to be so much opportunity for this state and this region. Our job is to make sure we are providing the workforce, families and citizens who will make this a great region.”

Senior Elsa Khan, the YSU student trustee, said she “could tell President Tressel is really passionate about YSU, the community and making YSU a better place. He will definitely be missed.”

Joy Polkalba Byers, YSU associate vice president, said she has no doubt that the next seven months before Tressel steps down will be busy.

“Jim will always be doing things for the heart of the students. In every decision that is made, he is constantly thinking about the impact on students,” she said. 

Added Dr. Chet Cooper, chair of the academic senate and professor of microbiology at YSU, “It’s been a pleasure having Tressel as the leader of our institution. I have great respect for President Tressel. He has left many positive marks on the institution in the academic enterprise.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, tweeted that Tressel is “an Ohio legend in every sense of the word,” and thanked Tressel for his “unwavering commitment and dedication to our students at YSU, the Valley, and beyond.”

Susan Clutter, president of the YSU-OEA, called Tressel “the best fundraiser and spokesperson that YSU has had” and called on the Youngstown Foundation “to find a spot” for Tressel and his wife Ellen “so they can continue to promote the value of YSU.”

The faculty union president also urged the board of trustees and administration “to conduct a national search and appoint a hiring committee made up of all the unions on campus for the hiring process.”

In retirement, Tressel said he plans to spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

He said he doesn’t think there is any way he could “do nothing” and he doesn’t think his wife would want him to do nothing.

“Like everyone else, you have to figure out where you can be helpful, but you don’t want to distract and get in the way. This university and this region is very important to me. But we have a board of trustees, and we’ll have a new administration,” he said.

The new administration will have to decide where he can be of help, he said, and he hopes to have a role in the university for the rest of his life.

“My problem,” he said, “is that work is more fun than fun… but I’ll  have a little more free time than I used to, that I can promise you,” he said.

Pictured at top: YSU President Jim Tressel.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.