YSU receives land donation from Williamson family

By Dylan Lux

Youngstown State University held an event May 20 to celebrate the life and impact of Warren “Bud” Williamson III and unveil the new Williamson Innovation Park.

Williamson III, who passed away at the age of 92 in October of 2022, worked in radio and television in many capacities. He served as chairman for local news station WKBN, which his father, Warren P. Williamson II, founded in 1953.

One of Williamson III’s dreams was to create a space where students could learn outdoors and better their problem-solving abilities, and with the newly unveiled park, his dream came to fruition.

The Williamson Innovation Park resides on 165 acres, which was part of Williamson III’s donation to the YSU Foundation last year. The park will be located at 8399 Tippecanoe Road in Canfield with the intent for an educational area for students in STEM-related fields.

The donation from the Williamson family also featured a $3 million endowment in order to maintain the property. 

Hazel Marie, the director of the Williamson Innovation Park and longest-tenured professor in YSU’s engineering program, spoke on what it means to fulfill Williamson III’s dream. 

“It is a dream come true. It is an incredibly generous gift that the family will find will go on for generations,” Marie said. “I want my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, to come here and explore science and STEM.”

Multiple YSU engineering competition teams have already utilized the Williamson Innovation Park to gather data and test their inventions. The Baja Racing team was present at the event, and they already have a race track at the park.

“Our off-road vehicle Baja Team has a 1.25-mile track that they have used to get data and helped to propel them to second place internationally and first place team in the U.S. in engineering and design,” Marie said.

Also present at the event was Brookfield High School’s “The Fuel” drone racing team, who placed fifth at the national championships in Denver, Colorado. Marie said she hopes K-12 students can utilize the park and learn from college students, including Brookfield’s drone team.

Other teams also visited the park, such as the Concrete Canoe and Robotics teams. The YSU RC Design-Fly-Build teams utilized the same runways Williamson III flew his own remote control planes on. 

Williamson III often referred to his dream as a “Geek Park,” as he envisioned kids of all ages testing their knowledge with no walls or lectures.

Jim Tressel, former president of YSU, said this park aids in establishing a place for both students and people in the region.

“This is what kids need. This is something that we need to do,” Tressel said. “Our mission at Youngstown State University is obviously to serve our students and their experiences … but we need to serve the people of the region. So, we have to do this.”

YSU Foundation President Paul McFadden spoke on the foundation’s plans with the newly unveiled park. 

“We’re turning over the property over to the university … and it will be the Williamson Innovation Park for STEM activities,” McFadden said. 

According to McFadden, minimal work has been done on the property, but the university plans on erecting an outdoor classroom for not only college students but K-12 students.

“To know that we’re fulfilling his dream, and it’s a great responsibility for us to fulfill … because now we have to deliver, but we look forward to doing so,” McFadden said.