Youngstown State University cut the ribbon today on a new, $1.3 million Veterans Resource Center designed to expand and enhance services for military veterans and active military making the transition to student life at YSU.
The two-story, 6,000-square foot building was designed by architect Summer Barker, and the general contractor was Adolph Johnson & Son. The center is located on Wick Avenue between the Pollock House and Melnick Hall.
“We are proud to say that YSU is the only university in Ohio with a building solely dedicated for the use of its military and veteran students,” said James P. Tressel, YSU president. “I think that fact demonstrates how much we care for and respect the veterans who have served with honor, and how committed we are to welcoming and supporting them as they return to civilian life.”
The Veterans Resource Center is being paid for entirely by private donations through an ongoing fundraising campaign. Catherine Cala, director of University Development, said the building campaign has raised $1.02 million toward its $1.3 million goal. The largest contribution, a $200,000 gift, came from the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation, and three other donors also contributed at or above the $100,000 level.
In all, Cala said, nearly 200 donors have contributed to the project so far, including many veterans and others who made gifts in memory of loved ones who have served. The fundraising campaign will continue, with plans to endow a scholarship trust to assist veterans, in addition to the building fund.
Three YSU alumni who are also military veterans – Carl Nunziato, Bernie Kosar Sr. and former state Senator Harry Meshel – spearheaded the project and have remained involved throughout the building process. They are part of a 17-member cabinet that has been coordinating the fundraising drive.
“This is a dream come true for many of us in the veteran community who have worked so hard for this day,” Nunziato commented. “I believe the center will be very useful to our young veterans who are adjusting to student life after serving their country. It will have programs and services that will help them succeed as students and help build a foundation for their future.”
Meshel credited Jim Olive, YSU’s founding coordinator of Veterans Affairs, for creating a program to benefit veterans at YSU and appointing a committee that originated the idea for a veterans center. Meshel and Nunziato served on that first committee; Olive is now retired.
“As a World War II veteran with a lifelong relationship with YSU, 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, and the board of trustees deserves enormous commendation for providing the land. The board views this as YSU’s educational monument to veterans.”
Kosar said the Veterans Resource Center campaign has been especially satisfying for the cabinet members because donors have been so receptive. “The cause is noble, and no one has said ‘no’ to us,” he said. “But it’s an ongoing process. We want to get the building paid for, and then we’re going to continue to raise money to create an endowed scholarship fund that will live on forever. We want to be able to give scholarships to veterans who may not be eligible for government funds or whose benefits have expired.”
Rick Williams, coordinator of YSU’s Office of Veterans Affairs, said he and his staff will be headquartered in the new building, which includes a computer lab, community room/study lounge, a recreational lounge equipped with a 55-inch flat screen TV and gaming systems and kitchenette.
“The opening of this facility raises YSU several rungs higher on the ‘Veteran Friendly’ ladder,” Williams said. “ 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. 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.”
Williams expects to relocate the Office of Veterans Affairs to its new quarters immediately and to begin servicing YSU’s veteran student population there by Monday morning, Sept. 29. Eventually, the office will offer monthly programming and services to student veterans and active military students covering topics such as resume writing, job interview techniques, mental health care and veterans’ benefits.