By Sean Barron
Nearly every day for the past 30 years, Jim Tressel, president of Youngstown State University, had read a saying he keeps on his dresser that also acts as one of his mantras.
It says: “The Hall of Fame is only as good as long as time shall be, but keep in mind that God’s Hall of Fame is for eternity.”
That sentence goes a long way toward helping the former YSU and Ohio State University head football coach keep his roles in perspective. Being able to do so is an essential and effective leadership quality, he said during Thursday’s administrators’ conference at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, 7300 N. Palmyra Road.
“Leadership is more than a title; it’s actions you take to serve others,” Tressel told an estimated 250 school administrators from Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Portage counties about what he contends are sound leadership practices for getting the most from their students and co-workers.
Hosting the annual gathering was the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.
Other key components are maintaining good connectivity, establishing autonomy and feeling good about oneself, Tressel noted.
“We all need to be needed and set goals for that game plan,” he said, adding that getting proper rest, eating well and exercising also improve a person’s energy, focus and ability to work as a team member to achieve goals.
In addition, those attributes go a long way toward helping others reach their optimum performance and productivity, he continued.
Citing the nation’s estimated $1.2 trillion in student debt and its impact on the economy, Tressel said YSU and other institutions of higher learning need to look more heavily at what they can do to attract a greater number of students and place less emphasis on budgetary matters.
It’s YSU’s job to find the right fit for students to ensure their success while making sure they graduate without being saddled with overwhelming debt, Tressel said.
“What can we do so that these young people aren’t going out and starting from behind?” he added.
Tressel, who’s been in the education field about 40 years, told his audience that he derives inspiration from Andy Andrews, one of his favorite writers who also is a New York Times best-selling author.
Both of Andrews’ parents died when he was 19, which led to a life of drugs, homelessness and crime. Nevertheless, someone talked him into reading about successful people, and he has read more than 200 such biographies, a decision that changed his life and allowed him to overcome tremendous adversities.
“He has had a big impact on me,” Tressel said, noting that Andrews has written a lot about selflessness, patriotism and the importance of one generation teaching another such virtues.
When asked after his 45-minute presentation if he would step in during protracted negotiations on behalf of YSU’s Association of Classified Employees union, Tressel said he was forbidden by law pertaining to collective bargaining.