YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- From faculty bringing worldwide attention to Youngstown State University to students and graduates making achievements in their fields, YSU displays “extraordinary excellence,” says newly installed President Jim Tressel.
“Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of the excellence of our students, our faculty, our staff, our graduates and so forth,” Tressel said in his address following his formal installation as YSU president. “But we also have to remind ourselves that even though we’ve been champions, we have to raise the bar. We have to increase our excellence.”
Some 1,600 students, faculty and guests, including Gov. John Kasich, attended Monday’s ceremony in Beeghly Center where Tressel took the oath to serve as YSU’s ninth president. Tressel, who during the 1990s coached the school’s football team to four 1-AA national titles, began serving as president July 1.
Although the university faces challenging times, as other speakers alluded to during the ceremony, “If we raise our excellence, we’ll be able to handle those challenging times,” Tressel said.
“I know when we came here in the mid-‘80s, we talked to our young people about the fact that if we are going to do extraordinary things, things that have never been done before, we’re going to have to -- first and foremost -- dream a little bit, and set extraordinary goals,” such as winning a national championship or even getting fans to attend the games. “You’ve got to set goals and dreams way beyond what’s ever been done.”
Tressel told how his parents provided role models for he and his brothers, teaching them leadership wasn’t a position to be held “but it’s action you take to serve others.”
He reflected on the influence of a professor who, during his junior year as an education major, provided key guidance at a point when he questioned his path. As he bemoaned what the future might look like, “She said, ‘If you get really, really good at what you do and you put other people first, there’s going to be something for you,” he recalled.
For much of his address, Tressel focused on what YSU departments, students and graduates are accomplishing, drawing from “nine little things” he had requested from the university’s deans to remind students and reinforce with faculty and friends “the level of excellence that we do have” at YSU.
Among the accomplishments he noted are two recent geography graduates, one of whom works for the Federal Aviation Administration plotting flight paths out of Dulles International Airport and the other for the Central Intelligence Agency, writing briefs for the White House. He also cited a dual economics and math student who spent the summer with research economists at the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland; and political scientist Paul Sracic, who increased YSU’s “worldwide recognition” while serving as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Tokyo.
Others he mentioned included the 426 business students who completed 87 projects for the regional business community; a student who won first place in the Ohio-Penn business plan competition; and College of Creative Arts and Communication graduates such as jazz musician Sean Jones and a stunt performer who counts the films Fun Size and The Avengers among his credits. A chemistry graduate was named northeastern Ohio’s most prolific inventor, with more than 280 U.S. patents, he added.
Among programs that have strong prospects for near-term success are the health profession, which has “tremendous potential to continue to make a difference in our region,” Tressel said during a news conference before the ceremony. The various STEM disciplines -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- “are a tremendous need in our area,” he continued.
“An ongoing discussion on every college campus is, are we staying up with the new needs of the new world.”
Another discussion concerns new partnerships with the business community that focus on where innovation comes from and where the discovery of knowledge occurs. “Does it occur in the academic halls? Does it occur in the incubators of the world?” he remarked. “We all have to help one another.” YSU personnel are involved with work at the Youngstown Business incubator and America Makes, he noted,
“Not only does the business community need to feel as if we have great expertise that can assist them, the community in general has to feel strongly about the expertise in our faculty,” Tressel said.
In his keynote speech, Kasich, who said Tressel invited him to speak at the installation, reflected on the “amazing journey for a remarkable man.”
Although Tressel wasn’t born in the Mahoning Valley, he carries the same values of the people who live here and other blue-collar regions, the governor said.
While the Valley has seen hard times with the retrenchment of the steel industry in the 1970s, it’s on its way back, he said, citing companies such as Vallourec Star and Exterran, reflecting the “potential fantastic opportunities” in shale gas, as well as the performance of General Motors Lordstown.
“In a lot of ways the history of Youngstown is the story of Jim Tressel,” Kasich remarked. He cited the former football coach’s successes at YSU and later at Ohio State University, where he coached the Buckeyes to a national crown in 2002, becoming “a beloved figure in Columbus and across the state.”
The governor then appeared to allude to the memorabilia scandal that cost Tressel his head-coaching job at OSU. “We all know that victory has its challenges and Jim Tressel faced his,” Kasich said. “It must have been difficult that day in Columbus for Ellen and Jim and Ellen’s parents.”
Where such adversity might have caused most people to give up, Tressel went to the University of Akron, where he became an administrator and eventually a vice president, and provided “jolt of electricity” into that university, the governor said.
Kasich recited his own list of individuals, including former players, cheerleaders and colleagues, who Tressel influenced over the years.
“Youngstown: this can be a great moment because we’ve got somebody back here who’s a doer, who has integrity, who has energy, who has vision, who understands teamwork -- no room for turf, no room for fighting,” he advised. “The sun is coming up in Youngstown again but it’s not reached its zenith. It’s not in the midday sky. It’s rising.”
Business and community leaders, alumni and students were encouraged by what they heard during the program, in particular the optimism speakers voiced about the Mahoning Valley’s future.
“Every place Jim has ever gone, he has raised the bar,” remarked Gregg Strollo, president of Strollo Architects, Youngstown. “That’s what I’m most encouraged about.” Tressel brings “an inspirational character” to the Mahoning Valley.
“I appreciated the love of Youngstown and also the acknowledgement that we are on the,” said Denise Glinatsis Bayer, an attorney with Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, Youngstown. A 1999 YSU graduate, she hopes that Tressel’s presidency will being “a sense of cohesiveness” back to YSU and the downtown area, and that it provides students with “a sense of hopefulness in realizing they can achieve their goals” by attending YSU.
Many of the speakers echoed the sentiments of YSU students, “that it’s a great opportunity to have Tressel here and we’re all really excited,” remarked Jordan Edgell of Port Allegheny, Pa. A junior, she is studying forensic science and chemistry at YSU.
Megan Guliano, a second-year accounting student from Warren, said she found the event promising and interesting.
“You can tell everyone here was excited,” Guliano said. “A lot of business professionals came out and there’s a lot of energy. They were pulling for Jim Tressel to be president so I’m assuming that will bring a lot of excitement from the community and a lot of support.”
Pictured: Jim Tressel takes the oath of office administered by Franklin Bennett, secretary of YSU's board of trustees.
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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