YSU Celebrates Its New Williamson Innovation Park

CANFIELD, Ohio — Youngstown State University celebrated the life and legacy of Warren “Bud” Williamson III Saturday as it dedicated the new Williamson Innovation Park.

Williamson, who died in October, at age 92, was the son of Warren P. Williamson Jr., who founded the WKBN radio and television stations. As was his father, he was a pioneer in the telecommunications industry and had a passion for providing students, from kindergarten to college, opportunities for hands-on learning and scientific exploration.

The Williamson Innovation Park sits on 165 of the 243 acres Williamson donated last year to the Youngstown Foundation. The site, 8399 Tippecanoe Road, is meant to be an outdoor educational space for students interested in STEM-related fields. A $3 million endowment was also established by Williamson for educational purposes as well as to help maintain the property.

Hazel Marie, a distinguished professor in mechanical engineering at YSU, was named the first director of the Williamson Innovation Park. Marie (pictured above) said students have already used the space, and she hopes to collaborate with local and regional schools to get K-12 students involved.

“We envision a lot of things for the park,” Marie said. “One of the most important things is we want K-12 kids to interface with our college students: to participate with them, to learn from them, to have workshops with them in biology, chemistry, environmental science and engineering.”

Various YSU engineering teams, such as the Penguin Baja Racing Team, have used the site to gather data and test their innovations. The land at the Williamson Innovation Park has already paid off in terms of successful competitions.

YSU engineering competition teams attended the event and displayed the models they worked on at the Williamson Innovation Park.

“Our off-road vehicle Baja Team has a 1.25-mile track that they have used to get data and helped to propel them to second place internationally and first place team in the U.S. in engineering and design in the last couple weeks,” Marie said.

Also on the site is the runway where Williamson would fly remote-control model planes that he designed and constructed. Now, the YSU RC Design-Build-Fly team tests its own model planes on the same runway.

Williamson’s passion for innovation, STEM education, creativity and philanthropy inspired him to use his land to create what he envisioned as a “Geek Park, as his son, Warren Williamson IV, described it.

There are only a few rules for how he wanted the land to be used – no balls and no dogs. Williamson IV said his father wanted an outdoor space dedicated solely to young people who are more interested in science than sports.

“We hope that the changes here will bring about new ways to open the minds of science students and a place where science can get messy. A classroom that doesn’t have walls and where kids can learn with their hands and their eyes,” Williamson IV said.

Jim Tressel, who retired Feb. 1 as president of YSU, said Williamson Innovation Park will greatly benefit students and transform the region thanks to Williamson’s generosity.

“One thing we’ve learned about students – especially in this day and age – they want to be involved,” Tressel said. “As the sun is shining – that’s Bud smiling – this is going to be a transformational addition to our region.”

Above:Former YSU President Jim Tressel and the Williamson family unveil the official plaque for the Williamson Innovation Park. From left: Tressel, Lael Kilpatrick Williamson, Williamson’s widow; and his children Lynn Williamson, Warren Williamson IV and Susan Brownlee.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.