By Bob Jackson
Donna Mehalco enjoyed coming back to Youngstown State University for an alumni event Sunday because she got to spend the afternoon with one of her favorite people — her daughter, Kelly.
“It’s awesome,” said Donna, 53, of sharing alumni status with her daughter. “I love it here, and all three of my kids are now YSU graduates.”
Donna received an associate degree in business in 1980, while Kelly, 22, graduated from YSU in May with a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising. The women, who live in Hubbard, were among some 50 YSU alumni who were at the university’s Alumni House for a special reception, and then attended a performance of “Rent” by the university’s theater department.
Jackie LeViseur, YSU alumni and events management director, said the university frequently sponsors such events to bring back graduates and show them what’s new on campus.
“Whether they haven’t been on campus for a week or a decade, things are always happening and changing around here,” LeViseur said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to welcome our alumni back.”
She said Sunday’s event largely was planned and coordinated by her assistant, Molly Hartrup, who used social media instead of traditional paper invitations to spread the word. Social media has become a valuable tool for keeping in touch with the university’s 90,000 graduates all over the world, LeViseur said, noting that YSU has alumni chapters throughout the United States.
“What’s amazing about YSU is that people stay loyal,” said Donna Mehalco, a branch administrator for ComDoc on Belmont Avenue. “It stays with you, and there’s an excitement about being on campus. I love it here, and I have a passion for this university.”
She returned to school a few years ago to pursue her bachelor’s degree, also in business, and is now a senior.
“I always wanted to come back,” she said. “I just decided that the time was right, and I was ready to do it.”
Kelly, who hopes to one day move to New York City and pursue work in her chosen field, said she hopes to remain close to the university throughout life as well.
Donna said her sons, Bill and Mark, graduated from YSU in 2005 and 2009, respectively. Bill works as a hotel manager in New York City, and Mark is a project manager in Ellwood City, Pa.
Jim Olsvavsky, 61, of Salem, said he participates in as many alumni events as possible because, like Donna, he feels so closely connected to the university.
“It goes back to when I was in school here,” said Olsavsky, who grew up in Youngstown and graduated from Chaney High School. “A lot of people used to call this Wick High School because they didn’t really consider this a college.”
But during his studies in the civil-engineering program, he and other YSU students visited engineering students from other more well-known colleges such as Carnegie Mellon University and Case Western Reserve University.
“In talking with them, I realized that this university gave us as good of an education as those other schools gave,” said Olsavsky, who graduated from YSU in 1974. “It was not a second-class college. We got a very good education here.”
Nicholas Dubos, 48, grew up in Campbell and graduated from YSU in 1988, with bachelor’s degrees in history and political science. He has lived in Pittsburgh for the past 13 years, where he works in student life at Duquesne University. Like the others, he returns to YSU as often as he can.
Dubos said he’s a proud alumnus. “I live and die for Youngstown State sports, and just for Youngstown State in general, and for the entire area. I would love to move back here someday and become even more involved in things around here,” he said
Dubos said he is impressed by the university’s growth over the years and is encouraged about the prospects for growth and progress in Youngs-town.
“Some people complain about it and want to get away, but I think it’s a very good area, and I really want to make a difference,” he said. “A lot of the tools and amenities for growth are already in place. We just need some leadership in the right direction.”
Prior to the performance of “Rent,” Dr. Scott Irelan, chair of the theater department, spoke to alumni and their guests about the background of the musical, and answered questions about the show.