Former students think of old times

By Bob Jackson

One visitor to the campus recalled a time when classes were held in military barracks.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State University campus was unusually busy Saturday, packed with hundreds of students and their families who’d come for a walk around the university’s buildings and grounds.

But most of them weren’t currently enrolled; they were students from years gone by who had come back to YSU for its All Alumni Reunion. And while many of them still live nearby, most had not had a chance in years to come back and visit the university in such an inviting atmosphere.

“I come back a lot for football games, but I hadn’t been inside these buildings in a long time,” said Jim Olsavsky of Salem. He attended YSU from 1969-1974, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. “There are actually a lot more buildings now than when I went to school here.”

Olsavsky was like so many other visitors who talked about how much the downtown campus has grown since they strolled the quad as college kids.

Carol Queen of Canfield said she was a student in the 1940s, when the school was known as Youngstown College.

“This is such a beautiful campus now. I can remember when we used to have Army barracks that we used to have classes in,” said said, laughing. Queen, who visited the campus with her husband, Dale, said YSU has grown to the point that she couldn’t even recognize where the former classroom buildings and barracks from her college days once stood.

Mrs. Queen said she studied education at Youngstown College but didn’t graduate.

“I got married instead,” she said, laughing again. “I got a Mrs. degree instead of a B.A. degree.”

Likewise, Jean Jonas of Poland said she enrolled at Youngstown College in 1937, right after her graduation from Youngstown South High School.

“I can’t believe how much it’s grown,” Jonas said of the campus. “There were only two buildings here when I went to school.”

Jonas grew up on the South Side, but moved away from the area after she graduated college. After living in St. Louis, Mo., and New Jersey for many years, she and her daughter, Margaret Ann Jonas, moved back to this area some four years ago.

“I love the cultural diversity here on the campus,” Margaret Ann said. “I think this is one of the economic mainstays of the city and people should truly embrace it.”

Germaine Bennett, a YSU Alumni Association board member, said some 500 former students had registered to come to the campus for the first-time event, which was in conjunction with the university’s ongoing centennial anniversary celebration.

Other alumni officials said former students were expected to return to campus from as far away as Colorado, Texas, Florida, and even Asia.

“The response has been wonderful,” Bennett said.

Bennett manned an alumni table outside Debartolo Hall, which houses the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Each of the university’s six colleges offered programs and tours throughout the day to welcome back visitors.

Brad Borngraber said he came back from New York, where he works in technical support for a computer company.

“I wanted to see campus again,” he said. “I wanted to see some old faces, just hang out a little while and show my fiancee my old haunts.”

Borngraber was amazed and impressed with the Andrews Wellness Center, which opened a couple of years ago.

“It looks a lot nicer, a lot more convenient than using the old gym up at Stambaugh [Stadium],” he said. “That was a pain.”

Borngraber, who studied anthropology and graduated in 1999, said he fondly recalls being a student when YSU won two of its national championships in football.

“That was really cool,” he said.

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