The idea turned into a plan, the plan turned into fundraising, fundraising turned into a building, and a building turned into a vision fulfilled – and a first in the state of Ohio.
When more than 200 people showed up on the lawn along Wick Avenue last month for the grand opening of the new YSU Veterans Resource Center, it was the culmination of five years of persistence, making YSU the only university in Ohio with a building solely dedicated for the use of its military and veteran students.
“This is a dream come true for many of us in the veteran community who have worked so hard for this day,” said Carl Nunziato, a 1961 graduate of Youngstown University, Army veteran of the Vietnam War and former vice president of National City Bank Trust.
Nunziato, along with Bernie Kosar Sr., a 1959 graduate of the YSU Rayen School of Engineering at YSU and a veteran of 15 years in the Army reserves, and former Ohio State Sen. Harry Meshel, a veteran of World War II, spearheaded the initiative to raise the funds and construct the Center, designed to expand and enhance services for military veterans and active military making the transition to student life at YSU.
The Center is being paid for entirely by private donations. So far, $1.02 million has been raised toward a $1.3 million goal. In all, nearly 200 donors have contributed, with the largest contribution of $200,000 from the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation. Nunziato said fundraising would continue, with plans to endow a scholarship to assist veterans.
“I’m happy to have been a part of this extraordinary fundraising effort,” said Meshel, who is also a member of the YSU Board of Trustees. “This building could never have been constructed without the support of some very selfless contributors from our community. The Board of Trustees views this as YSU’s educational monument to veterans.”
Kosar added, “The cause is noble, and no one has said ‘no’ to us.”
The two-story, 6,000-square foot building on Wick Avenue between the Pollock House and Melnick Hall will house the YSU Office of Veterans Affairs and includes a computer lab, community room/study lounge, a recreational lounge equipped with a 55-inch flat screen TV and gaming systems and kitchenette.
“We’ve always valued the service of our student veterans and had policies to help smooth their transition to YSU, but now we also have a building solely dedicated to their use and success,” said Rick Williams, coordinator of the Office of Veterans Affairs. “That’s a feature I can highlight as I make my rounds, speaking to various veterans groups and military organizations. We want this region to understand that YSU is committed to its veteran student population and their academic success.”