YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Last week, former Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel sat down with WKBN anchor/reporter Stan Boney for a one-on-one interview. They discussed Tressel’s life after Ohio State University and how he had been approached by two small colleges to be their president.
“The thought of me being president sounded OK to them. I wasn’t sure it was OK with me because I wouldn’t know where square one was,” Tressel said.
Instead, he became a vice president at the University of Akron. It was two years of intense study on how to be a president.
“Yeah, without those two years, there’s no way I could have come here and been effective at all,” Tressel said.
In May 2014, Tressel signed to become YSU’s president, and the first thing he did was listen.
“The students wanted certain things. They wanted their roads fixed, they wanted better places to live, they wanted more amenities,” he said.
So, Tressel fixed the roads and helped build apartments all around campus.
“Creating a transformational change in the physical part of the campus, I think, was good for everybody from just a self-image standpoint,” he said.
Tressel was also proud of what he called the “measurables.”
“Our graduation rate went up significantly. Our retention rate, up very, very much. Our fundraising numbers went way up. Our honors college quadrupled,” he said.
Tressel also created a Division of Workforce Education and Innovation and cut the ribbon on a new Excellence Training Center.
“I really think in the long run is really going to help us in efforts to repopulate — you keep hearing about that. To meet the job needs, the workforce needs, to give more opportunities,” he said.
One thing he did not accomplish was creating what he called a “culture of community,” which he did as a football coach.
“With 100 guys and a dozen coaches, creating that culture of community was a lot easier than 1,500 employees and 12,000 students,” he said.
The Tressels moved out of the Pollock House on Dec. 21 and are now living in Medina in a house they bought when he was at Akron.
Tressel seemed at peace with resigning, but don’t call it retirement.
“Throughout my life, the schedule has been built around the schedule at the university I worked. Now’s the time to build the schedule around the family and still help the universities that I’ve worked at,” he said.