Editor’s note: Bud Williamson is a former chairman of WKBN Broadcasting.
BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown State University announced Wednesday that the Williamson family has donated hundreds of acres and a substantial endowment to the school.
It’s all to realize one of Bud Williamson’s long-time dreams.
The Williamson family and YSU are now working together on a new project to benefit students: the Williamson Innovation Park.
Bud Williamson’s daughter, Lynn, said Bud originally bought his farm on Tippecanoe Road just so he could be outdoors. But he’s held on to the land for decades with the dream of creating an outdoor space for students to learn and problem-solve.
Bud originally dubbed the concept the “Geek Park” and wanted a way for kids — all the way from kindergarten to college — to get introduced to the sciences. It is something Lynn said he wished he had as a child as he was bored by the traditional classroom.
In addition, there’s also a pond and a runway for remote-controlled planes — one of Bud’s passions.
Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation, said they have many ideas for the property and even space for a garden for the university’s food pantry.
Lynn said she also expects local, regional and national businesses to eventually play a role in mentoring students involved in the unique educational model of the Innovation Park.
“Successful schools of this kind have robust connections and give students a career trajectory they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Williamson said.
Williamson said when businesses work with programs like the Innovation Park, they benefit by having direct input into the future workforce.
Those types of business partnerships are something that the Williamson family envisions for the program, but it’s not clear if the university will implement the strategy.
Bud donated all 276 acres to the university, and about 76 of those will be sold. The money from the sale will go into the over $3 million endowment for educational purposes.
Additional funds will help maintain the property and keep it in good order.
McFadden hopes the university will start holding classes and activities in the space by next spring.
YSU said it is working on ways to involve elementary and secondary school students in the park.