YSU Names Lafferty as Interim President

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Helen K. Lafferty will take office as interim president of Youngstown State University following President Jim Tressel’s departure on Feb. 1.

The YSU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment at a special meeting Monday evening on campus. Final terms of the appointment will be approved at the board’s next meeting in December.

Lafferty, long-time professor and administrator at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, was among a handful of candidates for the role, board chair John Jakubek said. Lafferty was appointed as a national/global member of the YSU Board of Trustees in 2020 and will resign her position come Feb. 1.

Lafferty is a native of Youngstown and a graduate of Ursuline High School. She earned her baccalaureate and master’s degrees from YSU and a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, followed by post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and the National University of Ireland-Galway.

The board selected Lafferty because of her local roots and her experience as an administrator. Jakubek said she fits the profile of the candidate the board was looking for, and he has faith she will be able to lead the university in the same direction as Tressel.

“She is very vibrant, very outgoing, very easy to communicate with, and very articulate,” Jakubek said. “From that standpoint, we really feel that she’s got the repertoire and the caliber to continue the momentum that we’ve had going on here for the last eight years under the leadership of President Jim Tressel.”

The board wanted to appoint an interim president that has an understanding of the issues YSU faces, particularly the dwindling enrollment as demographic challenges continue to present hurdles for the university.

“She was a national/global trustee for the last couple of years – this made us even more comfortable, but I think that transition will be a quick transition. She knows what the issues that we’re facing are and so forth,” Jakubek said.

Lafferty has made it clear to the board that she will only serve as president while the national search for a permanent replacement is ongoing.

“She’s pretty much made clear that when that interposition is done, she’s going to be going back to Villanova University,” Jakubek said. “We appreciate Villanova University allowing us to have her for the time being. But no, she mentioned that she will be going back after the interim presidency is over.”

A transition period will start in the next few weeks before Tressel hands the reins over to Lafferty. Tressel, president of YSU since 2014, announced his departure in June.

Jakubek predicts the national search for the next president will start in early 2023.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.