YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — As the date of Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel’s retirement draws nearer, he took some time to look back on his career at the Friday board of trustees meeting.

Fellow trustees shook Tressel’s hand after their final meeting of the year and the last of his career.

“This has been a special ride. As you know, this region is special. Good people, and that’s what life’s all about,” Tressel said.

Tressel’s eight and a half years as president comes to an end Jan. 31, but his impact started in 1986 when he took over as head football coach.

“We were still feeling the effects of the closing of the steel mills,” said John Jakubec, chairman of the YSU Board of Trustees. “What he did with the football team in the ’90s — going to six national championship games, winning four of them — it really brought the community together.”

Tressel said he’s been blessed with a wonderful board — though the job has it challenges he and his team are driven to make a positive impact on students and the area.

“The students have so much potential and if they’ll listen closely to their faculty — if they’ll build those work ethic skills and the listening skills and the communication skills — the world will be their oyster,” Tressel said.

At the end of themeeting, the trustees unanimously voted to approve a measure thanking Tressel for his service

But for Jakubec, a “thank you” to Tressel and his wife Ellen almost seems insufficient.

“I think it’s the best we can offer today to them — A true ‘thank you,'” Jakubec said.

Tressel said he and his wife won’t disappear from YSU, but they are looking forward to catching up with family, friends and former players.

Jakubec said it’ll be impossible to forget someone like Tressel.

“Between being a football coach and a president, his legacy will go on forever,” Jakubec said.

Youngstown native Helen Lafferty will be taking over as interim president, effective Feb. 1. Jakubec said she could hold the position for more than a year as the board looks for a permanent replacement.

Lafferty has worked at Villanova University for more than 40 years and is taking a sabbatical while serving as interim.