Top Ten: YSU’s Longest Working Professors

By Taylor Dressel 

Youngstown State University employs hundreds of faculty with a variety of backgrounds. The Jambar reached out to the 10 who have been here the longest.

  1.  Dan O’Neill, Department of Communication, CCAC – 48 years
  2. Philip Munro, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, STEM – 42 years
  3. Fred Owens, Department of Communication, CCAC – 40 years
  4. Stephen Rodabaugh, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, STEM – 38 years
  5. William Vendamia, Department of Management, WCBA – 34 years
  6. Eric Wingler, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, STEM – 34 years
  7. Pamela Schuster, Department of Nursing, BCHHS – 33 years
  8. Hojjat Mehri, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, STEM – 33 years
  9. Dennis Petruska, Department of Economics, CLASS – 33 years
  10. Jalal Jalali (Chair) Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, STEM – 32 years
  11. Tod Porter, Department of Economics, CLASS – 32 years

We were able to interview a few of the professors. Here are there responses:

Philip Munro:

Q: What do you love the most about YSU?

Munro: To correctly answer all three of your questions, I need to tell you some of the important things about my life. My mother used to say I had a good way of explaining things, and her comment influenced my interest in teaching. That would be my greatest “love” for YSU, the opportunity to teach and help our students.

Q: When did you get hired and why did you decide to take the job?

Munro: This question requires a more detailed answer. During the transition between my senior year and the beginning of my studies at age 21, I was challenged to figure out what I believed about who I was and what the universe was all about. I met someone who challenged me to consider the system of truth contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and after some time looking into that, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. So that meant that he became the one in charge of my life.

That is still my situation to this day, and it meant in 1974 that my wife and I sought his guidance as to where we would go for a job. In 1974, I had my PhD and as God was leading us, we looked for a university teaching job. There were not many such jobs available at that particular time, but one of several was an opening at YSU.  After several interviews at a few places, YSU offered me an assistant professor of electrical engineering position, and the Lord led us to accept it. That is why we came to YSU in the fall (August) of 1974.

Q: What made you want to continue working at YSU all these years?

Munro: Because I had given my life to God, he owned me and therefore I looked to him to lead my life. Could there be anyone better than God to be the leader of my life? I don’t think so. And so my Lord has never (yet) directed us away from YSU.

Part of my continuing to work in our department of electrical and computer engineering has been the department’s fine faculty and how we work together and take care of our students. Certainly the YSU situation has had its ups and downs, but hopefully my presence at YSU has been positive for the university. So I am still here for a little longer.

William Vendamia:

Q: What do you love the most about YSU?

Vendamia: The best thing about YSU (and why I am still enthused after all these years) is the ability to know the students and enjoy their success. The university is large enough to offer a wide range of programs but small enough that a professor can really get to know their students. While I have taught a variety of courses over the years, including some in the MBA program, for the past 20 years I have worked with Exploring Business, the freshman course in our college. While many faculty prefer to teach upper division courses, I have enjoyed the opportunity to interact with students in their first semester.

Q: When did you get hired and why did you decide to take the job?

Vendamia: I began my career at YSU in the fall quarter of 1982 (yes we were in quarters then). At the time I applied for the position, my then fiancé, Maureen, was just completing her second year in the Dental Hygiene program. She encouraged me to apply. I can’t imagine how things could have turned out better. She retired last year after completing 35 years at YSU, I am starting my 35th year, and we just celebrated our 34th anniversary. In addition, we have seen our two children grow up around YSU and both graduate as Penguins.

Q: What made you want to continue working at YSU after all these years?

Vendamia: It is amazing to see these same students as they progress through their academic careers.  And, the greatest joy is seeing the same students on graduation day.

Eric Wingler: 

Q: What do you love the most about YSU

Wingler: I have never really thought much about this, but I suppose it would be the mathematics department. I also love the beautiful campus. The flowers and trees give it a very inviting atmosphere.

Q. When did you get hired and why did you decide to take the job?

Wingler: I was hired in 1982. After more than 35 years, it is hard to remember why I decided to take the job, but I think that at the time jobs were hard to come by. Youngstown is situated in a beautiful location. The climate is fairly nice, and there are hills and trees. This is in contrast to my original location in east central Illinois, where the land is almost completely flat and filled with corn and bean fields.

Q: What made you want to continue working at YSU all these years?

Wingler: I like mathematics.  I like interacting with both students and faculty when we are learning mathematics. (Yes, even those of us with Ph.D.s continue to learn new things.)  The department of mathematics & statistics is a very friendly department — probably the friendliest on campus, but I may be biased. There is frequent collaboration amongst faculty doing research and also frequent discussion of issues related to the teaching of mathematics.

Hojjat Mehri: 

Q: What do you love the most about YSU?

Mehri: What I like most about this institution, is the students. I teach a wide variety of students, and I am happy to be able to help them take the next step in their professional careers. Some of my students have been the first in their families to go to college, and it is exciting to watch them acquire new skills and perspectives and get their first professional jobs. Most of my graduate students are mid-career professionals taking Engineering Management courses to improve their job performance. It is fun to bring real-world challenges to the class and develop solutions for them. All of my courses require students to work on real-world projects that come directly from the business world, so students are enthusiastic about learning practical things that they can use on the job. It is very rewarding when they graduate and let me know how they are doing in their careers. I have enjoyed being a part of a system that produces graduates who are practice-oriented and are educated about their future work environments.

Q: When did you get hired and why did you decide to take the job?

Mehri: I joined YSU in August 1983 after working in the oil and steel industries for about 10 years. I earned my M.S. and Ph.D degrees while working full time as an engineer in the steel industry. I had an excellent undergraduate engineering education with professors from all over the world, so from early on I became interested in the teaching profession. I started teaching part-time after working as a practicing engineer for some time, and I realized that my real-world experience was an excellent foundation for teaching. I enjoyed teaching very much, and ultimately decided to seek a full-time teaching position. When YSU offered me a position, I eagerly accepted, and I have never regretted that decision.

Q: What made you want to continue working at YSU all these years?

Mehri: I have been fortunate to be able to maintain my enthusiasm for teaching at YSU for over 30 years. Throughout the course of my career, I have been able to maintain my involvement in professional activities that enhance my teaching and my understanding of the changing requirements for today’s engineers. YSU has also given me opportunities to develop new courses and methods of instruction, especially in new areas that did not even exist in the past. I am always learning something new as I prepare my courses. YSU is ready and flexible enough to adopt changes initiated by faculty so that we can meet the needs of current and future employers.  There are always new challenges and opportunities available, and that has kept me energized all these years.

Dennis Petruska: 

Q: What do you love the most about YSU?

Petruska: The only reason that I am still teaching at YSU is because I enjoy teaching classes for the good students who attend class, work hard, and have a desire to learn. Fortunately, most of our students are good students. Over 100 years before I started teaching, students that did not attend class or work hard were flunking out of college, this is still true, and it will continue to be true for the next 100 years. This is one thing that never changes.

Q: When did you get hired and why did you decide to take the job?

Petruska: I thought that teaching economics at YSU would be a good fit for me since it had, and still has, a master degree, or M.A., program in economics. Much of my time during my first 25 years at YSU was spent teaching courses in this program. I am very proud of the quality of the students that this program has produced. Two of my current colleagues and all of the adjunct faculty that our department hires are graduates of this program. Several of our M.A. graduates have gone on to earn a Ph.D.in economics. I expect three of my recent M.A. students to earn a Ph.D. within the next year. For over 20 years I was virtually the only member of our department teaching courses in financial economics. Now we offer a M.A. in Financial Economics.

Another reason that I thought that YSU would be a good fit for me since I was raised in Levittown, Pennsylvania, which is which is a blue collar community much like Youngstown. I was not born with a so-called silver spoon in my mouth. I paid for my tuition and room and board while I was an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh by working at the US Steel Fairless Works, which was located a few miles from my parents’ home. So the Steel Valley reminded me of my hometown. Also, unlike most people I like the weather around here. I have never had the desire to live where it is excessively hot.

Q: What made you want to continue working at YSU all these years?

Petruska: When I initially started teaching at YSU, I was not sure how long I would stay. I liked the students and the other faculty members, so I am still here over 30 years later. Years ago when our department was attempting to hire a new faculty member, I would tell the applicant that at YSU the teaching load is high and the salaries are low but it is pleasant place to work. Now I could only tell an applicant that at YSU the teaching load is high and the salaries are low, since the faculty are no longer treated with respect by the Board of Trustees and the administration.

Jalal Jalali: 

Q: What do you love most about YSU?

Jalali: First and foremost, I love Youngstown State University as a midsize campus with its diverse students and faculty. The campus continues to grow and makes a difference in the community and beyond. YSU has offered me the opportunities to teach, conduct research, lead design projects and mentor students in the electrical engineering department. I love the opportunity I have to assist these students who work hard and enthusiastically continue their education to acquire a degree, and successfully grow in their field.

Q. When did you get hired and why did you decide to take this job?

Jalali: I joined YSU in Fall 1984. I did not like the institution that I worked for before joining YSU, but I was well received the first time I came to YSU for an interview, and I realized that the YSU’s campus community is friendly and has an excellent reputation in the mid-Atlantic region. At YSU, I am able to teach and conduct research, and also have the opportunities to help students of diverse backgrounds and cultures to successfully acquire their educational goals.

Q. What made you want to continue working at YSU all these years?

Jalali: Over the past 32 years I have worked enthusiastically with students and faculty, and taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate classes, and conducted research, led student design projects, and interacted with the community, other institutions, and industry.

My strong interest in the success of students and YSU has kept me motivated and has energized me to work harder and never stop. Especially, during my leadership roles in the department as the department chairperson, I have found myself to be very effective helping my department students and faculty. When I observe the university is growing and all students who I have helped become successful in their profession, it spurs my interest and motivates me to continue my profession at YSU and continue to help more enthusiastic and hardworking students to successfully graduate.

All photos are courtesy of YSU Marketing.