YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Jim Tressel’s admirers and well-wishers are legion. They simply can’t get enough of him as evidenced yet again by the turnout Monday afternoon for his installation as the ninth president of Youngstown State University.
From Gov. John R. Kasich to the leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, George V. Murry, to the many leaders of the business community to the delegation of 40 representatives from other universities to a host of elected officials to YSU faculty (active and retired) and alumni and students, a who’s who in the Mahoning Valley filled Beeghly Center Gymnasium.
Their attire ranged from business professional to most of the students wearing T-shirts, shorts and running shoes.
Most stayed afterward for the reception upstairs, the receiving line extending two-thirds of the way to the back of the long room. The line moved slowly because so many well-wishers wanted to have their pictures taken with Tressel.
Kasich, invited to deliver the keynote address, used the opportunity to deliver a Reaganesque speech about the resurrection of Youngstown and deliver paean upon paean of praise to the most popular person in the Mahoning Valley. Kasich, a Republican, no doubt hoped some of Tressel’s popularity would transfer to him and his bid for re-election in this Democratic stronghold. Polls show him to be comfortably ahead of his Democratic challenger.
In the half hour before the installation ceremonies, a group of 17 quietly conducted a prayer vigil outside the entrance to Beeghly. They held hand-lettered placards that asked those passing by to pray for justice, leadership, staff, faculty, students, wisdom and Jim Tressel as they took turns leading prayers.
Inside about 100 full-time faculty, the 40 delegates from other universities, Kasich and YSU trustees were donning their academic regalia and lining up to march to their seats on the floor.
Five-hundred wooden folding chairs had been set up there for the most important guests.
Most of the 1,600 seats on each side of the basketball court were filled by students, retired faculty, mayors and county commissioners, judges, businessmen and alumni.
In addition to reporters from Valley-based media, a reporter and photographer from the Associated Press were on hand.
As 2 o’clock neared, the macebearer, biology professor Chet Cooper, also president of the academic senate, prepared to lead the robed academics inside. As he waited for Tressel to arrive – the YSU president would walk directly behind him – Cooper stated, “It really is an honor to be part of this historic occasion.”
In bantering with a reporter, Cooper, known for his ready laughter and sense of humor, couldn’t resist cracking, “I’m not allowed to raise this [the mace] above my shoulders or swing it.”
Tressel arrived and as they heard the Dana School Brass Quintet begin to play the processional, Susato’s ”Grand Pavane.” They entered the gymnasium, the YSU president keeping a poker face as he followed Cooper.
While the audience applauded Kasich’s remarks, Tressel received louder and stronger applause when he finished taking his oath of office. The applause grew in volume and he was accorded a 30-second standing ovation.
The audience gave him another standing ovation at the end of his remarks.
After the brass quintet -- all professors in the Dana School, Michael Crist, Daniel Honeycutt, Brian Kiser, Christopher Krummel and Stacie Mickens -- finished the recessional, Campra’s “Rigaudon,” they broke into “Hang on Sloopy.”
Comments from those in attendance sounded the themes of the energy they expect Tressel brings to his job and appreciation for all he’s done.
Bill Lawson, a YSU graduate and president of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, said, “You could feel the energy that was there [in Tressel’s speech and I think the students, faculty and alumni felt it.”
The man who succeeded Tressel as director of athletics, Ron Strollo, said, “You felt the energy today [in Tressel’s speech] and that impact will be felt by the students.”
Bruce R. Beeghly, retired president and CEO of Altronic Inc. (former YSU trustee and whose family’s generosity led the university to name the gym in their honor), said Tressel “brings a new spirit to YSU.”
Current YSU Trustee Jim Greene said, “The best is yet to come.”
Attorney Paul Dutton, a YSU alumnus and former trustee, said Tressel “brings a lot of inspiration to the university. I was impressed by the number of representatives from other universities [including] former Ohio State University President Karen Holbrook,” now a senior adviser to the president of the University of South Florida.
The president of Eastern Gateway Community College, Laura M. Meeks, related she’s held only “brief conversations so far [with Tressel]. I find Jim to be a very inspirational leader. He gets it.”
A retired history professor, Hugh G. Earnhart, says, “He’ll do a super job, but he needs a good provost and a good chief financial officer. If they’re as good as he is, YSU is a winner.”
The office of provost remains vacant as the search committee continues its work. Neil McNally is interim chief financial officer.
Pictured: Biology professor Chet Cooper, also president of the academic senate, carries the ceremonial mace as he leads Jim Tressel and Gov. John R. Kasich in the processional.
Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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