YSU Foundation Honors Navarros for Efforts to Help Students

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Prominent Mahoning Valley philanthropists Flor “Shorty” and Elba Navarro were recognized Thursday for their efforts to help students get an education.

As a special ceremony on campus, the Navarros were recognized for creating more than $1.5 million in endowed scholarships through the YSU Foundation. The lobby, hallway and receiving area outside the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships in Meshel Hall will now be known as Navarro Commons, in honor of the Navarros.

This academic year alone, more than 50 YSU students are receiving scholarship support from the Navarros. 

“We could not think of a more appropriate area on campus, the commons outside the Financial Aid offices, to honor the Navarros,” said Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation. “Their scholarships touch the lives of YSU students across the board. Every college and major on campus has students supported by Navarro scholarships.”  

Flor Navarro, the oldest of 11 children, was 14 years old when in 1951 he immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico. Upon arriving, he walked to a gas station on Wilson Avenue and asked the owner for a job. Accepting him as a new employee, the owner wrote “Shorty” on his work uniform, and the nickname stuck. 

As a student at East High School at age 16, with his father as a co-signer, Navarro purchased the gas station from his boss.

He joined the Marine Corps after high school. Upon his return, he began selling used cars – a job he held for 22 years until 1982 when he opened his own Lincoln Mercury dealership on Wick Avenue in Youngstown.

He later expanded his business to 11 franchises. In 2012, Navarro sold most of the dealerships, keeping only his Stadium GM Superstore in Salem, which employs more than 65 people.

Elba Navarro graduated from South High School in Youngstown and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish, reading and education from YSU. She is retired from Youngstown City Schools, where she taught at both Roosevelt Elementary and Chaney High School.

The Navarros, who have been married for 50 years, are among the leading philanthropists in the Mahoning Valley.

In 2010, Flor was named the Outstanding Philanthropist in the Mahoning Valley by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Veteran of the Year by the United Veterans Council of Greater Youngstown.

In addition to their scholarship support, the Navarros also contributed $100,000 toward the construction of the new Nunziato Veterans Resource Center at YSU.

Since 2020, Elba has been a member of the YSU Foundation Board of Trustees, serving on the audit and development committees. 

Flor has served as a board member of the Red Cross and Hospice of the Valley and volunteers his time in prison ministry at the federal penitentiary in Elkton. He was recently selected for inclusion in the Latino American Who’s Who list.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.