YSU Board of Trustees Bids Farewell to Tressel

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees bid farewell to President Jim Tressel and the decades of commitment and service he gave to the university and the Mahoning Valley.

During his last trustees meeting Friday morning, Tressel read off a list of the accomplishments his faculty and staff worked to achieve during his eight and a half years at the helm of the university.

“I just can’t thank this team enough because they’ve worked – believe me, they worked. They’ve rolled their sleeves up and they wanted to make a difference for our students, and they put the time in and the effort in and I can’t thank them enough,” Tressel said in his last report for the board.

Increased graduation and retention rates, the growth of the Honor’s College, receiving the Higher Learning Commission accreditation, a growing endowment and several other accomplishments were on Tressel’s long list of feats he credited to other key players of the university.

Throughout several challenges, including declining enrollment and financial strain, Tressel has worked to move the university forward because of its value to the area, he said.

“Everyone asks, ‘What’s so special about workingat YSU?’ What’s so special is that it’s so important. It’s so important to this region, and it’s so important to our community partners,” Tressel said. “It’s critical, and our people have done an amazing job, and we’ve really put our foot on the gas pedal in terms of trying to make a difference with our regional partnerships, especially in business and industry.”

While Tressel remained humble and recognized the work of others, the board honored him and his wife, Ellen, for the work they’ve done for the university and the Mahoning Valley even before his presidency. The board passed a resolution of appreciation for significant and distinctive contributions for the Tressels.

“The board of trustees hereby express their thanks and appreciation to Jim and Ellen Tressel for their steadfast commitment, dedication and efforts to promote the welfare and best interests of the students, faculty and staff of Youngstown State University and the community which it serves,” the resolution read.

For decades, the Tressels have represented Youngstown on the state, national and world stages. Tressel came to YSU in 1986 and served as the head football coach for 15 years, leading the Penguins to four national championships and 10 playoff appearances. Having a winning team brought together a community that was still hurting from the fall of the steel mills, board Chair John Jakubek said.

“We were still feeling the effects of the closing of the steel mills, and what he did with the football team in the ’90s – going to six national championship games and winning four of them – it really brought the community together,” he said. “We needed a shot in the arm, and seeing 20,000 people in Stambaugh Stadium during the playoffs and during the regular season games, I mean, that was amazing.”

In 2001, Tressel headed to The Ohio State University where he gained nationwide fame as the Buckeyes’ head football coach. He left the team in 2011 and worked for the University of Akron before returning to YSU in 2014. He announced his retirement in June and will serve his last day Jan. 31.

The work Tressel accomplished at YSU was always focused on the students, and Jakubek thinks that will be his legacy.

“One of the main things is the imprint that he’s left on the thousands of students who have left here and the foundation that he has set forth. Some of these goals that he’s accomplished, going forward, are still going to be in play for the next several years and, hopefully, decades. It’s just a matter of everybody appreciating that going forward,” he said. “Somebody who’s been here for 25 years, between being a football coach and president, his legacy will go on forever.”

Pictured at top: Front row, from left: Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel and Trustees Molly Seals and Anita Hackstedde. Back row, from left: Student Trustee Elsa Khan, Trustees Laura Lyden, Michael Peterson and Charles George, Chairman John Jakubek, Trustees Allen Ryan and Dr. Sergul Erzurum, Student Trustee Julie Centofanti and national/global Trustee Eric Spiegel.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.