Without a Trace

By Brian Brennan

While documenting and preserving the history of Youngstown State University, the archives staff in Maag Library has come across its share of campus mysteries. Here are five interesting examples.

1. In 1939, Youngstown College obtained its first live penguin mascot. Named Pete, the bird lived in Crandall Park when not on duty. One winter day, in pursuit of a fish, Pete dived through a hole in the ice in Crandall pond. Sadly, Pete could not relocate the opening and drowned. YSU President Howard Jones had him stuffed and placed on display in his office. One night soon thereafter, Pete was stolen from Jones’ office. The stuffed penguin was never seen again.

2. In 1955, Youngstown College became Youngstown University. The plaque on the marker stone in front of the main building (now Jones Hall) was updated to reflect this. In addition, the name “YOUNGSTOWN UNIVERSITY” was formed in bronze letters and placed along the east side of the building, facing Wick Avenue. Presented to YSU as a gift by the class of 1955, each letter was individually cast, set on a limestone base and illuminated from the rear against a low wall. According to archival records, the letters were stolen later that year. Their fate remains a mystery.

3. Pete III (YSU’s last live penguin mascot) died in 1971. The following year, as the acquisition of another live mascot was debated, the Bertolini Brothers Company — the largest marble contractor in the Mahoning Valley — offered to donate a penguin statue. Crafted in Italy and weighing about 500 pounds, the sculpture was 30 inches high and made of black and white marble. It was eventually erected on a pedestal and displayed in the lobby of the new Beeghly Physical Education Center. Today, however, the whereabouts of the penguin statue are unknown. Perhaps it was relocated during renovations.

4. On June 2, 1987, the YSU Peace Pole was dedicated on the campus core, with the Rev. Jim Ray of the Campus Cooperative Ministry hosting the event. Based on an idea originating in Japan, the pole was six feet tall and four-sided, with the phrase “May peace prevail upon Earth” inscribed in English, Spanish, Russian and Japanese. Weekly, a small group would gather around the pole, promoting global concord in silence. Unfortunately, the Peace Pole was stolen soon after its dedication. On November 10, 1987, a replacement was installed, but the original was never returned.

5. In the summer of 2004, YSU sponsored the “Parade of Penguins,” which consisted of 31 fiberglass penguins. Each five-foot sculpture was titled and decorated by a local artist before going on campus display. One of these, “Mosaic in Metal,” was discovered missing on the night of June 17, 2004. Many at the time could not understand how something that large and cumbersome could be moved without any notice. Even so, it has never turned up.

Human folly knows no bounds.

Persons having information regarding these mysteries are invited to contact me at [email protected]