YSU’s ‘We See Tomorrow’ Campaign Ends with $126M, 32K Donors

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The campus of Youngstown State University has changed substantially over the past seven years. The corridors around campus have been upgraded, buildings – both academic halls and apartment complexes – have gone up and new technology has been introduced to classrooms. 

Many of the changes are the result of the YSU Foundation’s We See Tomorrow campaign, which raised $126,186,126 to support the university – setting a new high-water mark in fundraising efforts at the university. 

“As you drive around campus, you can see the visible, tangible changes like new buildings, new streets, improved grounds,” said Paul McFadden, president of the foundation. “But the things you don’t see are just as impressive: our scholarships, the increase in faculty chairs and professorships, the naming of our honors college. They’re not immediately apparent, but those are just as dramatic and just as impactful.”

McFadden was joined by We See Tomorrow chairwoman Jocelyne Linsalata, YSU President Jim Tressel and dozens of donors on Thursday to celebrate the conclusion of the campaign. In total, the campaign had 32,581 donors – 10,000 more people than will fit in Stambaugh Stadium. The tally included 40 donations of $1 million or more and 57 gifts worth $100,000 or more from out-of-town donors.

“I heard it in every meeting with a potential donor: if it wasn’t for YSU, they aren’t sure their lives would be the same. They wanted to do something to feel good about making that statement,” Tressel said. “Whether it was $100 or $1 million, that was the thought behind it. That number is mind-boggling – 32,000 people.”

The campaign started in 2014, the same year Tressel first arrived on campus as president. In early meetings, a planning consultant told the leadership group that $75 million was an ideal goal.

“President Tressel’s a bit competitive, so he said it was going to be $100 million,” McFadden said with a laugh. “And he was the one who said we should increase it,” to the goal of $125 million, a number that was eventually surpassed as well.

Many of the talks focused on how the university could better support students and play a role in creating a thriving workforce for the mahoning Valley. In the end, the We See Tomorrow campaign raised $70.4 million for scholarships and student work opportunities, $13.1 million for the endowment of faculty chair position and professorships, $6.8 million for the Excellence Training Center at Kohli Hall, $4.4 million for campus beautification, $4.1 for the Paul and Anthony Rich Center for Autism and $3.8 million to create high-tech classrooms. The campaign also brought in $22.2 million for YSU’s annual fund.

“It was kind of a blur. We put our heads down and worked and worked and worked. You wake up and all of a sudden, here we are,” Tressel said, reflecting on the past seven years. “This is really the chance to think back to all the wonderful people, all the reasons they want the university to be successful. It’s just very gratifying to know how many people love this university.”

Among those people were Bruce and Nancy Beeghly, who in 2017 donated $1.5 million to create scholarships and two fellowships: the R. Thornton Beeghly Graduate Fellowship in Business Administration and the Bruce R. Beeghly Graduate Fellowship in Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

“Youngstown State is such a big part of the area and the future of the area. They had a very ambitious goal and we knew that it’d make a big difference for the school going forward,” Bruce Beeghly said. “It’ll help produce the educated workforce that we need to attract the employers that we really need in the future to make this a prosperous area.”

Joining the Beeghlys in the “Fantastic 40” – as Tressel dubbed the group that donated $1 million or more – were Richard and Susan Sokolov, whose gift established a community fellowship program in YSU’s Honors College, which was named in their honor.

“We think YSU is central to the success of this community. We wanted to provide more resources to help those students achieve better outcomes. We were happy to be able to do it and grateful that we had the resources to help like this,” Richard Sokolov said. “There’s an entire portfolio of scholarships and fellowships and programs available to support them. We want to make it easier to achieve their goals.”

Even in the two months since the We See Tomorrow campaign officially concluded, donors have come forward to offer more support, McFadden said. 

“The needs of our students never go away,” he said. “ We’ll continue our efforts. We’re always working to improve the lives of our students and improve their opportunities.”

And from the university’s standpoint, Tressel said the next phase of work will be more “college-centric” and focus on meeting “the goals and needs of each college.”

Pictured: YSU President Jim Tressel talks to supporters at the celebration of the We See Tomorrow fundraising campaign.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.