We See Tomorrow witnesses record donations in the Valley

By C. Aileen Blaine

On Sept. 23, Youngstown State University’s We See Tomorrow campaign concluded, raising a record $126 million with over 32,000 gifts from donors across the Mahoning Valley. A ceremony took place at Melnick Hall to celebrate.

With the help of 40 donations of at least $1 million each and more than 60 gifts of $100,000 or more, the campaign surpassed the initial goal of $100 million. This has been the largest-ever fundraising campaign in the university’s history and is thought to be one of the largest philanthropic efforts in the Valley. 

In a press release, campaign chair Jocelyne Kollay Linsalata said the generosity of the Mahoning Valley, YSU alumni and friends was overwhelming.

“We saw tomorrow, and now, tomorrow is here,” she said.

Led by the YSU Foundation, the campaign started in 2014. Over the seven-year period, some of the goals and objectives shifted to meet more immediate needs of the campus.  The initial goal was adjusted to $125 million when the original was met in early 2020.

Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation, said it was university President Jim Tressel’s idea to adjust the benchmark amount.

“We planned a seven-year campaign, and we hit the $100 million mark a year and a half early,” McFadden said. “I was thinking we were done, but President Tressel said, ‘No, we’re going to continue on and increase our goal by $25 million.’”

 Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign still raised over $32 million between the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

“It was quite a challenge, because most of our close friends had already made gifts,” McFadden said. “That last $25 million was quite a bit of work, but fortunately, our donors stepped up, and we were able to reach that goal.”

The funds will go toward several areas of campus improvement. Funds will also be used for campus beautification. This includes adding more student scholarships and work opportunities, increasing the number of endowed faculty chairs and professorships and improving campus technology to create “classrooms of the future.” Almost $11 million will go to the Paula and Anthony Rich Center for Autism and the Kohli Hall Excellence Training Center.

“Our donors want to impact our students, but they also want to impact the university,” McFadden said. 

According to the YSU Foundation’s website, in 1966, former president of Youngstown College Howard Jones sought out a way to convert the then-private college to a public university while also maintaining private endowments. Since its official start in 1983, the YSU Foundation remains autonomous and independent from the university while still supporting the campus and its community. 

A ceremony closed the campaign, celebrating its success. A coffee-table book was passed out to attendees and donors.

“We wanted to do something to recognize the end of the campaign,” McFadden said. “We created this book to highlight and celebrate the university and to celebrate the success of the campaign.”

As for future fundraising campaigns, We See Tomorrow serves as a catalyst for the next, and there’s a focus on building and broadening the donor base. 

“Success is shared. In this case, it certainly is shared,” McFadden said. “It had many, many faces in leadership, and that’s why it succeeded.”