YOUNGSTOWN — With just under seven months to go before Jim Tressel officially steps down as the ninth president of Youngstown State University, he’s quick to say he wants to be part of a lot of the work that remains to be done. TO DO.
“While I’m still here, we have to work on everything,” Tressel said at a Thursday news conference following the quarterly YSU board meeting at the university.
Tressel, 69, who was named YSU president in July 2014, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down after eight years in the position, effective Feb. 1, 2023.
Specifically, the former YSU and Ohio State University head football coach said greater efforts must be made to “repopulate the (Mahoning) Valley”, i.e. encourage more people to live and work in the area and send their children to YSU.
It also intends to work daily to provide what it believes to be in the best interests of students and the needs of the community as part of ongoing efforts to create a strong, dynamic and competitive workforce, a added Tressel. To that end, he touted the university’s partnership with Ultium Cells in Lordstown to build a $2.3 billion battery cell factory that promises to employ around 1,500 workers.
Even if he steps down as president of YSU early next year, Tressel has no intention of breaking away from the university. Although he gave few details, Tressel said he would lean on the board to find out how he could be helpful to the university, and he hopes to “play a role in YSU for the rest of my life”.
After stepping down, Tressel also plans to spend more time with his four children and grandchildren, he added.
Tressel also joked that at his recent 50-year-old high school reunion, which was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was voted out of high school as the least likely to be. university president.
During the press conference, John R. Jakubek, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, praised Tressel for a list of accomplishments under the President’s tenure, including the sharp increase in graduation rates and more graduates. . Additionally, the university has seen a dramatic increase in student and private housing on and near campus, as well as higher overall student grade point averages, he noted.
Other accomplishments under his leadership include philanthropic efforts such as the seven-year “We See Tomorrow” fundraising campaign, which last year far exceeded its goal of $100 million. The Jim and Ellen Tressel Student Opportunity Work Endowment Fund, which began with a donation of $1 million, was also established.
Additionally, Wick and Fifth Avenues have undergone numerous improvements and upgrades, Jakubek noted. He added that one of Tressel’s top priorities continues to be student retention.
“We need someone with the same characteristics as him to take this university forward,” he said of Tressel’s successor.
Nonetheless, the university continues to face daunting challenges, such as the likely drop in enrollment numbers in September, the need to make changes to accommodate an uncertain correct size of YSU, and the need to review the university’s budget in the context of projected revenue losses.
Part of the reason there are fewer students on campus is that more of them are studying online, Jakubek pointed out.
As a result, YSU officials will need to determine what kind of changes will be implemented to maintain the sustainability of the university and better address these challenges, he continued.
YSU-OEA, the union for YSU faculty, responded to Tressel’s retirement announcement in an emailed statement.
“We wish Jim and Ellen the best of luck in their future endeavours, and thank them for their service to YSU. Jim Tressel as President has raised YSU’s public profile, and he has worked tirelessly to improve the campus as well as our surrounding community,” said Susan Clutter, President of YSU-OEA. “Jim Tressel is the best fundraiser and spokesperson YSU has had, and we hope the YSU Foundation finds a place for the Tressels so they can continue to promote the value of YSU.”
The statement also noted that the union urges the YSU board and administration to conduct a national search and appoint a hiring committee comprised of all unions on campus for the hiring process.
“We have big shoes to fill, and the hiring of the next president will be of paramount importance to all of us at YSU. Faculty look forward to working toward a smooth transition of our leadership and continuing the good work of President Tressel. “said Clutter.
In his report at the directors’ meeting, Tressel offered an optimistic view of YSU’s continued growth. Nonetheless, these efforts remain a work in progress, he said.
“We have seven months of work to do, from my point of view,” added Tressel.
Also at the session, Laura Lyden and Julie Centofanti were sworn in as new trustees, with two-year terms taking effect this month.
Additionally, Administrator James E. “Ted” Roberts will step down this summer as his nine-year term expired, university spokesman Ron Cole said. Cole was unable to provide a date.
Roberts is senior counsel with the law firm Youngstown Roth, Blair, Roberts, Strasfeld & Lodge.