The 10-ton boulder is a symbol of strength for YSU.
YOUNGSTOWN — Just about everyone on Youngstown State University’s campus knows about the painted rock that rests next to Kilcawley Center.
It’s a student billboard, painted and repainted hundreds of times to mark various events on campus, and it’s been a part of the campus core scene since 1965 when it was excavated during the construction of Kilcawley.
But there’s another, perhaps lesser noticed, rock at YSU that came first.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the University Marker — a 10–ton granite boulder that sits in front of Jones Hall on the corner of Lincoln and Wick avenues. The boulder was given to what was then Youngstown College by the class of 1949, which received it as a gift from Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. The class paid $500 to transport and place the boulder on campus and to purchase and install a bronze marker tablet.
“It was a big thing because we never before had a marker of any kind on campus,” said Harry Meshel, who was president of student council and vice president of the class of 1949.
Before the boulder’s placement, the small campus core was not exactly a bragging point, “and everything just looked very bland,” said Meshel, who went on to a successful political career, including state senator and head of the Ohio Democratic Party. He is now a member of the YSU Board of Trustees.
Brian Brennan, certified archivist at Maag Library, said the rock played a big role in creating an identity for the college.
“It was the first thing you would see driving up Wick to the college,” he said. “When you spotted it, you knew you’d arrived.” With the boulder came a visible connection between the Youngstown community and the university, and the students recognized that important connection, he said.
“No one would dare vandalize this rock,” Brennan said.
“Everyone has respected that rock for obvious reasons,” Meshel added. “The name and the history of the college are displayed on that rock. Students know the difference.”
The original plaque on the rock carried this inscription, “Youngstown College—1908. Presented by the class of 1949.” Over the years, the plaque was changed to reflect YSU’s name changes to Youngstown University in 1955 and Youngstown State University in 1967. The new plaque now bears the YSU seal and lists the name changes as “Youngstown State University 1967,” “Youngstown University 1955” and “Youngstown College 1908.” The class of 1949 is no longer mentioned.
More than half a century after its arrival on campus, the boulder remains a steady marker for the university and a valued symbol of tradition and welcome.
“Some of us viewed it as an ideal monument because it showed the strength of the college and how it was growing,” Meshel said. “It was our mark. We planted a stone.”
He said he would like to see the plaque changed to again show that the rock was a gift of the class of 1949.