4 YSU professors retire

By Christopher Gillett

Four Youngstown State University professors are retiring this semester. They have been at the university for many years and have been involved in the local community.

Thomas Leary, professor of applied history, has taught at YSU since fall 1999. During his time in graduate school, he became interested in seeing the historical sites he learned about, such as old textile mills in New England. This led to him focusing on museum work and curation. 

At YSU, he built a relationship between the university and the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor, unofficially known as the Steel Museum. His work in public history attracted students interested in the field and in public history development.

“I’d like to think that my legacy is going to continue a little bit in retirement. I hope to be able to keep the relationship that we’ve developed here with the Steel Museum as a kind of resident consultant,” he said.

He expressed his worry over the future of the applied history program after his retirement. With the recent budget cuts, he worries the university might neglect the program.

“I don’t know the extent to which YSU was going to continue investing in the faculty line or lines that are necessary to sustain that program. I hope they are. I think it’s a unique opportunity, that to some extent has been underpublicized,” he said. “In terms of YSU’s history department, [it] gives people a reason – not only for those who come from Youngstown, but those who come from other areas – to have a unique educational experience here.” 

After he leaves YSU, he hopes to continue working in the YHCIL helping with research and exhibitions.

John Sarkissian, professor of classical studies and foreign language specializing in ancient Greek, Latin and ancient history, is also retiring. He has been teaching for around 40 years and has been at YSU since fall 1988. Michigan State University fostered his interest in the subject. 

Alongside mentoring students, he also served as the chair of the department of world languages when it existed. 

“In addition to my teaching here, I did have those [17] years as chair of the department [of world languages]. Probably the most satisfying thing for me was building the department,” he said.

Mary LaVine is a professor and the program coordinator of health and physical education. She has been teaching for 44 years, 10 of which were at YSU. 

She is also the president-elect at the Ohio Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and has been heavily involved in the local and statewide health and physical education community for much of her career. She went into what she enjoyed about YSU and her legacy.

“I’ve met a lot of great colleagues that I’ve worked with, and I’ve had some pretty amazing students,” she said. “From my program’s standpoint, all these students that I’ve been able to have across my time and knowing that they have all gotten jobs out in the teaching world has been huge to me.”